Saturday, 12 July 2014

Wajik still a popular snack

WAJIK is a traditional sweet dish made of steamed sticky glutinous rice, flavoured with palm sugar, coconut milk and a few knotted pandan leaves.

The Indonesians call it wajik ketan and it can be found in most traditional markets. Ketan means glutinous rice in Indonesia. The Javanese regard wajik as a symbol of harmony. So whenever there is a wedding, wajik is the main snack.

In the Philippines, there is a dessert called biko, which is quite similar to wajik but uses additional ingredients such as ground peanuts and condensed milk. Biko is often cooked in an oven.

The word wajik is derived from the snack’s diamond-shape, hence the name potong wajik. Though wajik is equally popular among Malays and Indians, its origins can be traced to Indonesia.

Veeraselvi showing how she tirs the glutinous rice until it becomes sticky.
Veeraselvi James Clark showing how she stirs the glutinous rice until it becomes sticky.

Housewife Veeraselvi James Clark is so good at making wajik that she even gets orders from her Malay customers.

She started making wajik 14 years ago and learned the method from her aunt.

“My aunty mastered the skill of preparing wajik from her Malay neighbour during her teens. I think she makes the best wajik I have ever tasted. It was difficult to make wajik as good as hers. It was only after much trial and error that I managed to produce wajik comparable to hers,” said Veeraselvi.

Over the years, she has experimented with different ways of making wajik and now prepares it the way her customers like it, soft and sweet.

“The ingredients used are the same, which are glutinous rice, santan, gula melaka, sugar and pandan leaves. It is the technique that is different,” said Veeraselvi, who also makes fruit cakes and candy bars by the jars.

Making wajik is easy if you know the technique. The two most important ingredient of wajik - the palm sugar and glutinous rice.
Making wajik is easy if you know the technique. The two most important ingredients in the dish are palm sugar and glutinous rice.

She also gets orders for weddings, parties and Hari Raya.

Wajik is actually very simple to make. The key is in how you balance the caramelised palm sugar and coconut milk. And you have to keep on stirring, otherwise you won’t get the right texture and there will be a burnt smell,” said the homemaker.

Once in a while, Veeraselvi would add durian to the dessert.

“Sometime you just cannot resist having sweet caramelised wajik laced with durian.

“The milky taste from the thick santan and durian will tantalise your taste buds. It is not very healthy, but there is no harm in indulging once in a while,” said the mother of four, who has been cooking since she was 12.

Wajik Sirat is a specialty and only few people can make it now.
Wajik Sirat is a specialty and only few people make it now.

For Rohaya Ali from Kuala Pilah, making wajik is easy.

“It’s very simple to make, you just steam the glutinous rice first. Then boil the palm sugar and add the santan. Slowly pour the glutinous rice over the mixture and stir it until it you see caramelised sugar forming on the wajik,” said the 50-year-old housewife, who has been making the snack for 10 years.

First, soak the glutinous rice in water overnight. Then drain the water, steam it for 15 minutes until half cooked. The texture will be dry and sticky. Do not add more water, because it will be overcooked and the texture will be too moist.

“Just like dodol, the palm sugar used will determine the taste of wajik. Boil the palm sugar with some water and let it dissolve completely. Strain the sugar to remove foreign matters. Boil the sugar again with pandan leaves, add a pinch of salt and continue to stir.

“Add the coconut water slowly and stir constantly until the syrup becomes thick. Lastly, add the steamed glutinous rice and mix well. If the result is moist, sticky, lumpy and shiny on top, then your wajik is ready,” she said.

Rohaya will allow the wajik to cool completely in a huge tray covered with banana leaves before cutting them into diamond shapes.

Since wajik can be really sweet, Rohaya normally reduces the amount of gula melaka used.

Wajik sirat is a rare specialty. Not many people know how to make this traditional dish these days.
Wajik sirat is a rare specialty. Not many people know how to make this traditional dish these days.

The soft-spoken housewife is also an expert in making wajik sirat.

“The method of making wajik sirat is similar to making wajik, except that instead of pouring in the glutinous rice, you have to pour in roasted and coarse glutinous rice. Wajik sirat has a sandy texture,” said Rohaya, who picked up the skill from her in-laws.

Wajik sirat is also known as kasirat or rasian, a Javanese word.

“Most of the younger generation have not come across wajik sirat because they have not heard of it or seen it. Older people are the ones who love to eat wajik sirat because it is an acquired taste,” said Rohaya, who makes around 100kg of wajik sirat for Hari Raya.

Rohaya says that although she has been making wajik sirat for years, at times, she herself cannot produce the right texture.

“The ingredients have to be poured into the wok at precisely the right time. Timing is very important and you have to be really focused when cooking this,” she added.

Another rare traditional dessert that is often made during festive seasond is the halwa maskat, a dish that originates from Turkey. Rohaya remembers fondly how her grandparents used to make it back in the day.

“These days, it is almost unheard of, people making halwa maskat. This dish looks like a cross between Turkish delight and nougat. It is yellow and orange in colour and the cooking method is quite similar to making dodol except for the ingredients used,” she said.

The main ingredient is wheat flour, sugar mixed with lots of ghee, cashew nuts and raisins.

“The flour needs to be fried over a small fire. You have to add lots of sugar and cook the mixture in a huge brass cooking pot on a man-made stove using bricks.

“Chopped wood is used for the fire because it gives the desired degree of heat. You need to stir the mixed flour with the ghee consistently until it is cooked. It will take about eight hours to cook halwa maskat.”

Tags / Keywords: Wajik


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