Hainanese Kueh Yi Bua

By The Weekly  

November 24, 2017

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Yi bua is a glutinous rice flour kueh filled with a coconut, ginger, sesame and peanut filling that has been sweetened with gula melaka. It's usually enjoyed on special occasions such as housewarming parties and weddings.

  • Yields: 30 Pieces


Coconut Filling

350 g gula melaka (palm sugar), coarsely chopped

150 ml water

3 to 4 pandan leaves, washed and knotted together

150 g ginger, peeled and grated medium-fine

10 g orange zest

500 g grated fresh coconut

1½ tbsps plain flour

100 g white sesame seeds

150 g peanuts, coarsely ground

7 large banana leaves, scalded, cleaned and cut into 30 strips, each 5 cm by 24 cm long

Peanut oil, to brush on the banana leaves

Peanut oil, cooked in a pan on medium heat for one minute then cooled, to brush on the steamed yi bua

Red food colouring, for decoration

Rice Flour Dough (Dough A)

400 ml water

100 ml peanut oil

100 g rice flour

Glutinous Rice Flour Dough (Dough B)

600 g glutinous rice flour

400 ml water

180 ml peanut oil


1To make the filling: Put the chopped gula melaka and water in a pan on medium-low heat. Add the pandan leaves.

2Cook until the gula melaka dissolves and forms a syrup. Remove the pandan leaves and take the pan off the heat. Strain the liquid and pour it back into the pan.

3With the heat still on medium-low, add the ginger and orange zest. Stir until the mixture thickens. To test if it is thick enough, prepare a bowl of water. Add a drop of the syrup to the water. If it sinks to the bottom of the bowl, the syrup is ready.

4Once the gula melaka syrup is thick enough, turn the heat to low. Add the grated coconut and plain flour. Mix until well combined. Cook until the coconut absorbs the gula melaka syrup. The filling should be only slightly moist.

5Add sesame seeds and ground peanuts. Mix well. Take it off the heat and pour it into a clean and dry bowl. Set aside.

6Next, make the dough: To make the rice flour dough (Dough A), pour the water, peanut oil and rice flour into a pan on medium heat.

7Stir continuously until clumps of dough start to form. Set aside.

8To make the glutinous rice flour dough (Dough B), add the glutinous rice flour, followed by the water and peanut oil, into a mixing bowl. Using a spatula or your hand, mix until a dough begins to form.

9Add Dough A into the mixing bowl. Knead until both types of dough are well combined. Set aside.

10Brush the banana leaves with peanut oil. Take 30 g of the dough and flatten it into a round disc about 4 to 5 mm thick. It does not have to be perfect.

11Place the flattened dough in the palm of your hand and spoon 30 g or about two heaped dessert spoonfuls of the coconut filling onto the dough. Wrap the filling in the dough until it forms a ball.

12Wrap a banana leaf strip around the ball or yi bua. Tightly tuck in the excess banana leaf at the base, like how you would wrap a present, to cover the section where the ball of dough has been sealed. There is no need to secure the banana leaf as the weight of the yi bua will hold the leaf in place during the steaming process. Next, flatten the yi bua slightly and roughly shape it into a square. It should resemble a small box without a lid. Place the yi bua on a steaming rack.

13Repeat to make the rest of the yi bua. (Any leftover dough can be used to make art bua – flatten 30 g pieces of dough and boil them in water until they float. Toss these in the same coconut filling to serve).

14Steam the yi bua over boiling water for 7 mins.

15Remove from heat. Brush each yi bua with cooked peanut oil. After about five to 10 mins, use the base of a bamboo skewer dipped in red food colouring to dot the centre of each yi bua.

Recipe: Mdm Ho Soo Pong / Photo: The Straits Times