Putu piring with a tablespoonful of love

Ramlah (left) preparing the putu piring with the help of Muhammad Amirul (centre) and Rozita at Gerai Tok Kaya.

WHEN I was young lad, one of my favourite desserts was putu piring, a fragrant palm-sized round dessert made from rice flour, melted palm sugar (gula enau melaka) and freshly grated coconut, and pressed onto a small piece of banana leaf.

On weekends, I would wait for my father to bring home this soft treat, packed in a plastic sheet and brown paper, from Mak Timah’s stall in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur in the early 1970s.

Today, it is not easy to find putu piring sellers who use gula enau melaka.

In 2005, I found a stall in Jalan Raya Timur in south Klang, where a couple sold this well-loved dessert.

People from around Klang, Shah Alam and even Petaling Jaya would drive down to enjoy the dessert made by husband-and-wife team Jumali Mansor and Ramlah Ya, both now 58.

Today, Ramlah, who still runs the stall with Jumali, is assisted by their youngest son Muhammad Amirul Syahid, 25, and relative Rozita Abdullah.

Previously known as Ann’s (Ramlah’s nickname) putu piring stall, it is now called Gerai Tok Kaya.

The freshly steamed putu piring is priced at 50sen each.
The freshly steamed putu piring is priced at 50sen each.

According to Ramlah, the putu piring at her stall is made from rice flour, freshly grated coconut and pandan water that lends the fragrant aroma. However, she does not use gula enau melaka.

“We use premium brown sugar,” she said.

I must agree that the putu piring at this stall has the right balance of brown sugar, salt water and flour that gives it a fluffy texture, and a generous portion of coconut is used.

However, the taste of Mak Timah’s putu piring from my younger days is hard to forget.

Other places well-known for putu piring is Tanjung Keling, Melaka and along the old trunk road from Alor Gajah to Melaka.

A dessert loved by Malaysians of all races, some claim that putu piring originated from the Indian Muslims who emigrated to Melaka and settled in Tanjung Keling, while others say it is a version of the Ceylonese delicacy, putu kolah.

At Gerai Tok Kaya, Ramlah uses tiny metal containers that resemble flat plates where the rice flour and brown sugar are steamed on a specially built steamer.

“White muslin cloth is placed between the plates and the conical steamers. We put conical lids on each small plate and let it steam for three minutes.

“We then add grated coconut and press the putu piring with a small piece of banana leaf to add flavour,” she said.

Asked what was their trade secret, Jumali quipped that a tablespoon of “love” was added to their putu piring.

Ramlah’s putu piring, which is priced at 50sen each, goes perfectly well with teh-O without sugar.

Gerai Tok Kaya is located along Jalan Raya Timur, Kawasan 1, Klang (next to the Petronas station).

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