Both kueh tutu and putu piring are steamed rice flour cakes. Putu piring is the Malay version where disc shaped steamed rice flour cakes have a filling of gula melaka, and are served with pandan leaves and shredded coconut. Kueh tutu, on the other hand, sports a floral shape from the mould it’s pressed in. The fillings for kueh tutu range from the traditional (coconut and peanut) to inventive flavours like chocolate and strawberry.
These old school snacks were once commonplace, served at pasar malams and via pushcarts that roamed the streets. Nowadays, a handful of stalls serve these and are still committed to preparing them the traditional way–by hand, and with optimum ingredients. With a regular and consistent fan following these kueh sellers have been able to expand to multiple outlets. Thus ensuring that the legacy of Singapore’s traditional foods do not fade away. Here is where to find the island’s best putu piring and kueh tutu.
1. Traditional Haig Road Putu Piring
Photo: Priyanka C. Agarwal
From a single outlet at the Haig Road Market, to a mini-empire that spans several outlets and even a catering arm, Traditional Haig Road Putu Piring is a family-owned business that is still committed to doing things the traditional, artisanal way.
Quality is consistent at all of these outlets, which use gula melaka (prized for its distinct flavour) imported from Java. As this dessert can only be made by hand, you will always see a flurry of activity as workers ensure that just the right amount of rice flour and palm sugar are used. Each piece is hand-shaped and placed into special steamers for a precise amount of time.
The result is a snack with a fluffy texture and a molten, sweet-smoky interior. At no more than $3 for a packet of five pieces, this is an indulgent treat that is worth much more than it costs. Best when eaten warm, fresh and with the gula melaka threatening to ooze out.
Where: #01-4200 Block 728 Ang Mo Kio Ave 6; #01-02 Alwadi Coffeeshop at Hotel 81 — Tristar (1 Onan Road); #01-07 Haig Road Cooked Food Centre (14 Haig Road); #01-210 Mr Teh Tarik Coffeeshop at Blk 1 Geylang Serai Market
2. Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake
Photo: Priyanka C. Agarwal
This business is still under the founding family’s ownership, and is possibly Singapore’s most iconic kueh tutu stall. Its two outlets at Havelock Road and Clementi Ave 3 are run by family members and everything is made by hand, on-site.
If you arrive a few minutes prior to opening time, you will notice a massive rice grinder in action, used to pound kilos of rice into finely-milled flour for the kueh. And thanks to this process, the texture of the kueh is unparalleled. It binds easily into a pillowy bite, without that annoying flour coating that fills the mouth. Kueh fillings include coconut or peanut, but there’s even a plain variety which surprisingly has many takers. To appeal to children and a younger audience, there’s a chocolate version on offer. Prices begin at $3.50 for five bite-sized pieces.
Where: 22B Havelock Road #01-25, Havelock Cooked Food Centre; 449 Clementi Ave 3, #01-211
3. Chinatown Tan’s Coconut Cake
Photo: Priyanka C. Agarwal
Making this snack all the more accessible with stalls located within the food courts of several city malls is Chinatown Tan’s Tutu Cake. Stall locations include ION Orchard and Wisma Atria in the Orchard area, Westgate in Jurong, and Parkway Parade in the east. Quality is consistent across all outlets and the kueh are steamed to order in custom-built, pushcart-style stalls. Densely packed with fillings of coconut or peanut, and with a chewy bite; this snack is priced at just $0.70 a piece.
Where: Food Opera at ION Orchard; and Food Republics at Wisma Atria, Parkway Parade, Westgate, and VivoCity
4. Queensway Lau Tan’s Kueh Tutu
Photo: Queensway Lau Tan’s Kueh Tutu
This stall serves kueh tutu with a dazzling array of fillings. The original outlet at Queensway Shopping Centre still draws in the crowds, and aside from the usual peanut and coconut fillings, you can choose from others, like chocolate and red bean. There are also seasonal flavours like a pink-tinged rose kueh.
Where: #02-47 Queensway Shopping Centre (1 Queensway Road); #B2-44 Chinatown Point (133 North Bridge Road)
5. Kia Xiang Du Du Nyonya Kueh
Photo: Kia Xiang Du Du Nyonya Kueh
This busy stall at Beo Crescent Market & Food Centre has a glass counter lined with a variety of colourful kueh, but the most popular offerings are the steamed kueh in two sizes. The dainty “small” kueh ($2 for four) are the typical flower-shaped options, while the “big” size ($0.80 each) are akin to the disc-like putu piring. The small options come with peanut or coconut fillings, but you are given the choice of mixing the fillings for the larger sizes. The coconut is a best seller with its orange-hues and mild sweetness that reminds us of the coconut sugar served with appam. The kueh itself has a chewy, soft texture and the filling is wet when warm. Whatever your choice, we recommended that you devour it immediately, as they are best when cooked to order.
Where: Blk 38A, #01-88 Beo Crescent Market (38A Beo Crescent)
6. The Malayan Council
Photo: The Malayan Council
It’s about time that someone made a hipster version of this old-school dessert. At The Malayan Council, which is a Muslim-owned eatery, you’ll find a sinfully good Putu Piring Cake ($8.50 per slice). The vanilla cake has gula melaka layers and a drizzle of coconut, mimicking all the flavours of a typical putu piring. Each slice is served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. You can take an entire cake home, but this has to be ordered in advance, and costs $70 for a 1.2kg cake. The Malayan Council also makes cake versions of other traditional sweets like ondeh ondeh and durian pengat.
Where: 22 Dunlop Street; 71 Bussorah Street