Black Sesame String Hoppers
Oh how badly did I want this to work!
I mean, it’s my favourite Asian dessert ingredient – black sesame – in my favourite childhood breakfast dish – putu mayam (also called putu mayang, idiyappam, or string hoppers). On paper, it seemed like combination destined for greatness.
Alas, fate isn’t always so kind. While the grey strings of putu mayam sure look as cool and edgy as Marilyn Manson in his prime, its flavour fell short of my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad per se. The strings of the putu mayam turned out real nice and tender, and the nuttiness of the toasted black sesame came through nicely, even if there was a hint of bitterness to it. But it just wasn’t as table-banging-ly good as a few of my previous experiments.
To be honest though, I think that for most of us putu-mayam-adorers, our love for the dish isn’t so much tied to the string hoppers themselves, but rather to the delectable condiments of freshly grated coconut and dark, molasses-y brown palm sugar that comes with it. So maybe the flavour of black sesame clashes with the already solid combination of coconut and sugar. Or maybe the original, base taste of plain putu mayam is so tied to my childhood memories that I can’t accept anything but. Or maybe, just maybe, my expectations for this frankensteinian experiment were just too unreasonable high (also what my friends tell me about my dating life).
So if I were to be truly objective, would I have black-sesame-flavoured putu mayam over the tried-and-true, plain putu mayam of old? Meh, I don’t know. And would I really rather make my own putu mayams instead of buying it from the Indian uncle in USJ2, whom I’ve been buying them from since 20 years ago? Probably not.
Then again, there is a chance that I might revisit this recipe months or years later and be absolutely smitten by it. After all, food and flavour are fluid af. (Wow, what a phrase. And that quad-alliteration. ❤️ Maybe I should make that my tagline. 😂)
All in all though, this was an interesting experiment, and despite all that’s been said, I still had a satisfactory nostalgic breakfast from the resulting putu mayams.
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Black Sesame String Hoppers (Putu Mayam/Idiyappam)
Makes 12-15 string hoppers
Note: You’ll need a string hopper extruder/maker for this recipe (use the disc-mould with the smallest holes)
50g black sesame, just remove this if you want it plain
50ml coconut milk, optional, can be substituted with water.
2 tablespoons (30g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5g) salt
150g rice flour
1 large banana leaf
150g freshly shaved coconut
100g dark brown sugar
a sprinkle of sesame seeds, optional
Toast the black sesame in an oven at 170°C for 20 minutes, until fragrant. You can also toast it in a pan, but put in some white sesame too so you’ll know when it’s browned enough.
Put the toasted black sesame and water into a blender, and blend until fine, with barely any bits of sesame remaining. Pass this sesame liquid through a sieve into a saucepan or small pot, and discard the solids. To this, add the coconut milk, sugar and salt, and bring to a boil.
Pour the boiling liquid onto the rice flour very gradually, stirring the flour as you pour to incorporate the liquid into it. You should end up with a dough-like paste the consistency of peanut butter.
Cut the banana leaf into 4-inch wide squares, then brush each piece with a layer of oil on the top-side, to ensure that the string hoppers don’t stick. Transfer some of the dough into the extruder, and press it out onto the banana leaf, going in circles as you push the dough out so that it looks like a nest. I like my string hoppers thin, so I go around 5 rounds and then move on to the next banana leaf. Repeat this for the rest of the dough.
Place the string hoppers in a steamer basket set over a rolling boil, and steam for 5 minutes. (Depending on the size of your steamer, you might need to do this in several batches; don’t overcrowd the steamer.) The string hoppers should be soft and yielding when they’re done. Remove them from the steamer and let it cool, then serve with lotsa shaved coconut and dark brown sugar!