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Nyonya Kuih in Different Colour.jpg
Colourful kuih
Alternative namesKue (Indonesia), Kueh (Singapore, Hokkien and Teochew)
Region or stateSoutheast Asia and China
Associated national cuisineBrunei, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia (Kue)
Main ingredientsVarious traditional snacks
Similar dishesKueh, Mont, Khanom, Bánh, Kakanin

Kuih (Indonesian: kue; derived from the Hokkien and Teochew kueh粿) are bite-sized snack or dessert foods commonly found in Southeast Asia and China. It is a fairly broad term which may include items that would be called cakes, cookies, dumplings, pudding, biscuits, or pastries in English and are usually made from rice or glutinous rice.[1] In China, where the term originates from, kueh or koé (粿) in the Min Nan languages (known as "guo" in Mandarin) refers to snacks which are typically made from rice but can occasionally be made from other grains such as wheat. The term kuih is widely used in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, kueh is used in Singapore and Indonesia, kue is used in Indonesia only,[1] all three refer to sweet or savoury desserts.

Though called by other names, one is likely to find various similar versions of kuih in neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. For example, the colourful steamed kue lapis and the rich kuih bingka ubi are also available in Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. In the Philippines, kuih are referred to in Tagalog as kakanin.

Kuihs are not confined to a certain meal but can be eaten throughout the day. They are an integral part of Malaysian, Indonesian, Bruneian and Singaporean festivities such as Hari Raya and Chinese New Year. Many kuih are sweet, but some are savoury.[2] In the northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Perak, and Kelantan, kuih (kuih-muih in Malay) are usually sweet. In the Southeast Peninsular states of Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Selangor, savoury kuih can be found. Kuih are more often steamed than baked, and are thus very different in texture, flavour and appearance from Western cakes or puff pastries.


In almost all Malay kuih, the most common flavouring ingredients are grated coconut (plain or flavoured), coconut cream (thick or thin), pandan (screwpine) leaves and gula melaka (palm sugar, fresh or aged). While those make the flavour of kuih, their base and texture are built on a group of starches: rice flour, glutinous rice flour, glutinous rice and tapioca. Two other common ingredients are tapioca flour and green bean (mung bean) flour (sometimes called "green pea flour" in certain recipes). They play the most important part in giving kuihs their distinctive soft, almost pudding-like, yet firm texture. Wheat flour is rarely used in Southeast Asian cakes and pastries.

For most kuih there is no single "original" or "authentic" recipe. Traditionally, making kuih was the domain of elderly grandmothers, aunts and other women-folk, for whom the only (and best) method for cooking was by "agak-agak" (approximation). They would take handfuls of ingredients and mix them without any measurements or any need of weighing scales. The end product is judged by its look and feel, the consistency of the batter and how it feels to the touch. Each family holds its own traditional recipe as well as each region and state.

Nyonya Kuih Akaka handmade original in Melaka
Nyonya Kuih Akaka handmade original in Melaka

Nyonya (Peranakan) kuih are sometimes represented as distinct from Malay and Indonesian kuih, but many Nyonya kuih are fundamentally the same as Malay or Indonesian kuih. For some Nyonya kuih, there are minor changes to Malay kuih to suit Peranakan eating habits and tastes.[3]

Malay and Peranakan kuih

Borasa, a traditional kuih for the Bugis community in Tawau Division of the Malaysian state of Sabah
Borasa, a traditional kuih for the Bugis community in Tawau Division of the Malaysian state of Sabah

Chinese kuih

See also


  1. ^ a b Claire (27 March 2020). "All About Kueh Guide". Nyonya Cooking. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  2. ^ Opalyn Mok (27 March 2016). "Malaysian kuih: A marriage of flavours and cultures". The Malay Mail. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  3. ^ Kamaruzaman, Ab Karim, Che Ishak, Arshad (15 June 2020). "The diversity of traditional Malay kuih in Malaysia and its potentials". Journal of Ethnic Foods. 7. doi:10.1186/s42779-020-00056-2. S2CID 219771338. Retrieved 2 July 2021.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Farah Eliani (4 May 2020). "Resipi Kuih Cara manis sukatan cawan sedap!". Sinar Plus. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  5. ^ Mr Larry Sait Muling. "Geographical Indications – What is new in the Asia-Pacific Region? Malaysia Perspective" (PDF). World Intellectual Property Organization. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  6. ^ Rahimy Rahim (8 June 2017). "Traditional kuih makmur gets a makeover". The Star. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  7. ^ Gainseng Tan (24 January 2012). "Buat Kuih E Pua". Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2016 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ "The Asia Rice Foundation: Malaysia Rice Articles". Retrieved 29 September 2016.