THE Indians call it adhirasam while the Malays refer to it as denderam, peniaram or cucur peneram. This sweetmeat originated from South India and is widely eaten during celebrations such as weddings and Deepavali.
How the Malays adopted adhirasam and changed the name to denderam, however, remains a mystery. Despite its unique back story, denderam is a must in many homes during the Hari Raya celebration.
This traditional kuih has now been commercialised, like many others, and can be found at R&R stops, pasar malam and shops all year round. And now there is a ready-made adhirasam mix, a foolproof method to get your dish right.
The main difference between adhirasam and denderam is that the Indian version uses dried ginger and cardamom powder with rice flour and brown sugar while denderam is much simpler as only rice flour and gula melaka or palm sugar are used.
Entrepreneur Jayriessa Akmaz Nadia Azmi, 25, from Rembau, Negri Sembilan makes the sweet treat for a living.
On normal days, Nadia as she prefers to be known, can sell 100 pieces of denderam a day but during the fasting month and nearing Hari Raya, she can sell up to 3,000 mid-sized containers of denderam, or 21,000 pieces in total.
Each container is sold for RM12.
Nadia’s denderam, which uses palm sugar, is marketed under the brand name Puteri N.
Her grandmother Saadiah Sail passed down the secret recipe to Nadia’s mother Zaleha Ahmad, 48, several years ago.
“My mother has three other sisters but she was the only one able to make denderam like my grandmother. And now, she has passed it on to me,” said Nadia, a Hotel Management graduate who runs her business from her family house at Lot 1697, Kampung Pulau Mampat, Chengkau in Rembau.
Nadia started her business with a small capital of RM150 and was just trying her luck with denderam but struck gold within six months.
She does not use brown sugar for the denderam as it is not sweet enough.
“The best denderam should be crispy on the outside but soft inside. The secret is in the palm sugar. Once the palm sugar melts, you should pour it slowly into the rice flour. The dough should be kept aside for four hours. If you use brown sugar, the denderam is hard and brittle,” said Nadia, whose denderam is also available in Qatar, Brunei, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia.
Nadia’s mother taught her that the rice should be soaked for at least two hours.
It should then be drained and spread on a tray for half-an-hour before being fried on a low flame, but not for too long or else the denderam will taste like rubber.
The rice should then be ground fine but it must not be too coarse or fine. It should then be put through a sieve and kept aside. Next, pour in the syrup made of grated gula Melaka and water, mix well and allow it to settle.
“Go easy on the syrup otherwise the dough will stick to your palm. Take a golf ball size of dough and flatten it by hand, it should not be too thick or too thin. Make a hole in the middle with a chopstick, gently put the ball into the hot oil and deep fry until golden brown,” said Nadia, who has been using the traditional method for sometime now.
However, because of the huge number of orders, Nadia does at times, use ready-made rice flour from Thailand for her product.
The shelf life of denderam is about two to three weeks and Nadia sells her wares at several pasar tani in Negri Sembilan, namely in Ampangan, Port Dickson, Tampin, Rembau and Paroi.
Nadia aspires to expand her business to include other traditional specialities such as rempeyek, kuih tiram (lidah jin), apam Johol and spicy kuih bakar.
“I am a little disappointed that Negri Sembilan is not known for its traditional cookies compared to other states like Johor, Malacca, Kedah and Selangor. We have not done enough to promote them.
“The spicy kuih bakar and apam Johol are unique because you can’t get them in any other state as only Negri Sembilan folk know how to make them,” said Nadia.