Popular in Indonesia (especially in Java where the sweet holds great cultural significance), Malaysia and Brunei, kue wajik / kuih wajik / kuih wajid is a traditional chewy sweet rice cake made with glutinous rice (also known as sticky rice), palm sugar, thick coconut milk and pandan.
The cake is believed to have originated in Indonesia. It is particularly popular in Java, where wajik is held as a symbol of harmony and thus is often served at weddings.
In Indonesia it is known as “wajik ketan” (“ketan” means “glutinous rice” in Indonesian), “kue wajik” or just “wajik” (“kue” means “cake” in Indonesian), in Malaysia it is known as “kuih wajik” or just “wajik” (“kuih” means “cake in Malay) and in Brunei it is known as “kuih wajid” or just “wajid”.
In all three countries, the sweet is made with exactly the same ingredients – glutinous rice, coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan leaves. In all three countries, there are no fixed recipes for this sweet rice cake, with different families having their own variations to the preparation method passed down from generation to generation. Ingredient quantities were also rarely strictly measured out and instead involved guesswork and estimations.
While the ingredients are the same, the manner of serving the cake differs – in Indonesia and Malaysia it is usually served cut into diamonds (in connection with the name of the cake – “wajik” means “diamond” in Indonesian) whereas in Brunei individual bite-sized pieces of the sweet cake are painstakingly enveloped in rectangular banana leaf packets.
In Brunei, wajid is traditionally made with a Javanese variety of rice known as “beras Jawa” (“beras” means “rice” in Indonesian and Malay) and the resulting wajid is referred to as “wajid Jawa”.
Fresh, good quality ingredients are paramount for a quality outcome. While canned, UHT, powdered coconut milk can be used, freshly squeezed coconut milk yields a considerably superior result. Palm sugar (known as “gula jawa” in Indonesia and “gula melaka” in Malaysia) contributes a distinct flavor and color to the sweet which refined sugar or brown sugar cannot match. Palm sugar, being unrefined by nature is considered to be healthier than refined sugar thus making this sweet a relatively healthy treat to enjoy.
- 1 cup glutinous rice
- 5-6 tablespoons hot water
- 1/3 – 1 cup palm sugar
- 1/2 cup thin coconut milk
- 4 pandan leaves – tied to a knot
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup thick coconut milk
- Banana leaves
Wash glutinous rice.
Soak glutinous rice overnight.
Drain water from soaked glutinous rice.
Steam glutinous rice with 2 pandan leaves.
When glutinous rice is about 3/4 cooked, add about 5-6 tablespoons of hot water and let steam again until the glutinous rice is cooked and soft.
Once glutinous rice is cooked stop heat.
Grease a tin or baking tray.
In a heavy-bottom pot, boil thin coconut milk and palm sugar until the palm sugar is completely dissolved.
Strain this palm sugar syrup to remove any impurities.
Return palm sugar syrup to heavy-bottom pot, add salt and the remaining two pandan leaves.
Cook for a while, stirring continuously until it bubbles.
Add coconut milk slowly and stir continuously.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring continuously until mixture thickens.
Transfer cooked glutinous rice into the mixture.
Cook, stirring frequently until the liquid evaporates and the mixture is a glossy, thick, pliable mass.
Immediately pour the mixture into the tin / baking tray.
Using a banana leaf, press down the cake.
Cover the cake with banana leaves.
Set aside at room temperature to cool.
Cut into diamonds.