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AROMA RASA: Heavenly putu piring

Diterbitkan: Isnin 24 Sept, 2007

(Foto The Star)

IT is magical how her hands fly over the hot steamer with cylindrical spouts and constantly covering them up with a tiny muslin cloth filled with a concoction of rice flour and palm sugar.

Like clockwork, Rosnani Mohd Nor, deftly pulls out the muslin cloth after five minutes and fills up the spouts again.

If you haven’t guessed, this is another must-have traditional kuih during the holy month of Ramadan – putu piring or its slender version, putu bamboo.

The little cakes are easy on the eye as well as the tummy.

It is known as putu piring because of its saucer-like shape. In the more conventional method, it is stuffed into wooden cylindrical casings of some 8cm long and steamed before it is softly knocked out of the covers, and this is known as putu bamboo for its bamboo-like shape.

In any shape at all, it is a cake that proves to be out of this world. At first glance, it seems easy to make, but on closer observation, it is difficult to juggle between the quantities of rice flour and palm sugar to make a good putu piring.

And this is one of the reasons why Rosnani has her hands full when she sets up her stall at the USJ 4 Subang Jaya Ramadan bazaar as no fewer than five people would be in queue, each ordering in numbers exceeding 10.

As she helps her daughter out making the heavenly cakes, Rosnani explains that she set out to make putu piring some 12 years ago to supplement her family income.

“I travel with a pasar malam on circuit in Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam daily but only during Ramadan, I am stationary at this bazaar,” she says.

A very shy and quiet woman, she was coaxed by her children, who were helping out at the stall, to allow Sunday Metro to feature her.

Despite the lack of publicity, Rosnani says she has been very successful in the business. She also takes catering orders, usually up to 500 pieces but there have been many orders which went into the thousands.

“It is hard work but I am truly happy that people enjoy my putu piring,” she says.

Her tasks start from home when she steams the rice flour for approximately one hour and 15 minutes before she packs it to be taken to the stall.

Then there is the painstaking task of cutting up the palm sugar into tiny pieces to fit into the cakes.

Because of her delicious putu piring, it is not a wonder that most customers make a beeline for them, with some actually crossing the heavy evening traffic to buy only the putu piring here.

Sold at RM2 for five pieces, the cakes are also enhanced with a dish of coconut before they are placed on a banana leaf square each and packed.

While it is best eaten hot, the putu piring tastes good too when cooled as the sweetness of the palm sugar makes up for the great taste.

It was interesting watching this petite woman do her stuff. 

With a constant shy smile on her face, she spreads some rice flour, enough to just cover the flat aluminium saucer base that has a 10cm holder at the bottom, and then adds the palm sugar, which she spreads evenly and generously around the base before topping it with some more rice flour.

Rosnani then takes a banana leaf square, laminated with a thick plastic, and shaves off the excess rice flour and at the same time shapes the top of the cake into a perfect and smooth mound.

The cake is then wrapped with a damp muslin cloth and put on one of the steaming spouts to cook for about five minutes before it is taken out and some grated coconut is placed at the bottom of the cake and kept in place with a banana leaf square.

Although it can be a long wait at Rosnani’s stall, sometimes for about half an hour, it is actually worth the wait for this great tasting morsel that is devoid of spicy flavours but something that appeals in taste and appearance to all and sundry.

In The Star Guide to Malaysian Street Food, several recommendations are made where putu piring can be had. 

In the Klang Valley, there are the kuih stalls across the Giant Hypermarket in Jalan SS6/4 in Kelana Jaya and a stall outside the TMC Supermarket in Lorong Ara Kiri 1, in Lucky Gardens, Bangsar.

In Malacca, this delicious kuih can be bought at the stall next to the Sports Toto shop in Jalan Tengkera.

The putu bamboo is easily available at a stall at the entrance of the Chow Kit Market in Lorong Raja Bot, opposite Wisma Sufian in Kuala Lumpur. This stall is open between 2pm and midnight daily. 

Rosnani Mohd Nor’s putu piring stall at the USJ 4 Subang Jaya Ramadan bazaar draws quite a crowd during the fasting month.