Updated: May 16, 2021
When I smell Pandan or coconut , I instantly think about home in Malaysia. Ondeh Ondeh is the favourites of every child who grew up in my home country. This dessert is actually really easy to make although it can seem daunting to find all the ingredients in a western country. The best place to find all you need is any Asian grocery.
Pandan leaves in Australia are usually frozen (sadly) and because desiccated coconuts are hard to be found fresh here, the best way to go about it is by soaking the desiccated coconuts in some coconut milk or cream and steam them until they soften.
Note that this dessert is only best when consumed on the same day that they are prepared, so don't stock up! You can always prepare the shaved palm sugar and desiccated coconut ahead of time. The dough seriously takes only a matter of minutes to prepare! If left overnight, they dough part of the dessert can go hard and become unappetizing.
What is onde onde (Ondeh - Ondeh)?
Onde onde or Ondeh ondeh is a traditional Malaysian dessert made from glutinous rice flour infused with pandan juice and is filled with shaved palm sugar that will melt when boiled. The ondeh ondeh is then tossed in freshly grated coconut before serving.
The idea is that you pop them in to your mouth and as you chew on it, the palm sugar gives that burst of sweetness to your palette!
What is pandan leaves and what does it taste like?
Pandan leaves also called the "Screw pine plant" is a tropical plant from the Pandanus genus. Although, pandan leaves do not taste like anything, it is more of the aroma that it gives. The leaves does have a natural sweetness to it with the aroma that some says resembles the combination of almond, vanilla, and coconut.
In Southeast Asia, panda leaves are widely use from making desserts to infusing rice!
What does Pandan goes well with?
Coconut being the obvious pairing buddy to pandan leaves, there is actually a wide variety of ingredients that goes with pandan. To name a few, they are mango, palm sugar, lemon grass, sticky rice, white chocolate, ginger and turmeric.
Where can I get Pandan leave if I am not from southeast Asia area?
Most Asian grocery would have pandan leaves in the frozen section although some Asian market do sell them fresh as well!
What is Gula Melaka and what does it taste like?
Gula melaka is a Malaysian/Indonesian name for palm sugar. Some says Gula Melaka taste like caramel or butterscotch, very similar to brown sugar.
What if I cannot find Gula Melaka?
You can definitely substitute the Gula Melaka with brown sugar but brown sugar has a stickiness to it that Gula Melaka doesn't. The best place to find Gula Melaka is either in the Asian aisle or from Asian groceries.
What is the shelf life of onde-onde and how do I store them?
Onde onde is recommended to be eaten the same day that it is made. Unfortunately the shelf life is short and anything more than 1 day the skin will start to harden.
If you intend to keep them, it is best to make the glutinous rice ball filled with the sugar and then lightly dusted with glutinous rice flour, wrap in an airtight container and store in the fridge. Simply boil the onde onde and toss them in the coconut on the day you want to eat them. Uncooked onde onde will last 3 days in the fridge and 4 months in the freezer. Defrost the onde onde before boiling though.
As for the soaked desiccated coconuts, you can wrap the steamed coconut in the fridge for 2 days or make them fresh on the day as they do not really last for long before they start to turn sour. Nevertheless, onde onde is so delicious it is hard to get by with any leftovers!
Boling some of the dough in hot boiling water
When making dessert that uses glutinous rice flour or tapioca flour, it is essential that some form of heat are present for a process called "gelatinisation" to take place. Gelatinisation is important as it aids the flour to come together into a smooth dough, otherwise the mixture will either be extremely brittle or becomes a liquid plaster. By boiling a small part of the dough into hot boiling water, it helps the starch granules in the flour to swell and explode, allowing it to cling on to the liquid and thickens. When gelatinisation occurred, the natural property of the starch is conclusive and is non reversible, meaning it cannot come back to it original form before it was heated. Once this small piece of dough comes in to a stable mass of dough, it is then added into the rest of the dough and kneaded together until smooth.
Of course, you may be wondering, why not boil the whole dough? Boiling the whole dough makes perfect sense but it can also cause it to absorb more liquid than is needed and can cause the dough to be too soft to handle. Therefore, only boiling a small piece will suffice.
Some Asian dessert recipes that use glutinous rice flour will call for boiling liquid to be added into the whole dough mixture and this is assumed that the quantity of liquid in the recipe has been reduced in order to achieve a pliable and easy to handle dough.
Note: It is recommended that you only boil the onde onde that you will eat on the day and reserve the rest in the fridge or freezer. Steamed or fresh desiccated coconuts last only for 2 to 3 days so it is best to prepare them on the same day as well, or store in the fridge for up to 5 days shelf life.
230 ml Coconut Milk (Kara)
12 Pandan Leaves
125 g Glutinous Rice Flour
110 g Pandan Juice
50 g Fresh Grated Coconut
Pinch Fine Salt
50 -60 g Grated Palm Sugar (Gula Melaka)
Note: If you cannot find freshly grated coconut, simply use 50 g of fine desiccated coconut and mix with 20 ml of coconut milk (I prefer Kara brand, but any brand will do just fine), mix to combine then put it over a steamer for 10 minutes. Remove from the steamer, then with the help of a fork, loosen up any clumps. Leave to completely cool and put aside until ready to use.
1. Place the coconut milk and pandan leaves cut in to small pieces in a blender and blend until the pandan leaves are in tiny pieces and the coconut milk turn light green in colour.
2. Pass the juice through a fine strainer and weight out 110 g of the juice, reserving the rest if there is extra.
3. In a bowl, mix the 110 g pandan juice with the glutinous rice flour and mix until it forms in to a dough. Cover the dough with a wet cloth.
Meanwhile, fill a small pot with water and bring it over the stove to boil. Take out 30 g of the dough and place it over a boiling water. Once that piece of dough rises to the top, spoon it out and strain, then add it back in to the glutinous dough and mix until well combines again.