Kuih Pinjaram (a.k.a. penyaram, penjaram, cucur jawa)

Kuih Pinjaram, the UFO Cake of Sabah

Kuih pinjaram (or Penyaram, Penjaram, Cucur Jawa) is nicknamed “UFO cake” because of its flying saucer shape. Though pinjaram is a traditional snack of the Bajau and Bruneian Malay people in the state of Sabah (Malaysia), it has become one of the favourite snacks of Sabahans to go with their tea time or coffee break.

Three flavors of Kuih Pinjaram
Three flavours of Kuih Pinjaram: original (yellow), pandan (green) and brown sugar (dark brown)

Pinjaram is a sweet and round cake with soft and chewy texture. Its edge is crispy, but fluffy and springy toward middle. As pinjaram is made of rice flour, cornflour, sugar, and coconut milk, gobbling up a few delicious pinjaram as your breakfast boosts your energy and mood.

Coffee and tea time with kuih pinjaram
Kuih pinjaram goes well with tea and coffee. The colourful baskets are Serdang, made of nypa palm leaves, and the bright-colored table runner has Bajau motif on it.

Pinjaram is available in three flavours (and colours), i.e. original (yellow), pandan (green) and brown sugar (dark brown). Some sellers use pandan syrup or palm sugar instead of regular sugar to create a more tantalizing aroma.

Pandan-flavored Kuih Pinjaram (Penyaram)
Many love Pandan-flavored Kuih Pinjaram because of its refreshing pandan aroma

Some cooks get creative and invent special flavours of pinjaram, for example, sweet potato, corn, chocolate, yam and durian flavors. If you are interested, you can order or see more at the Facebook of Pinjaram D’telisz (Whatsapp / Tel: +60 17-3015620, E-mail: theresaejum7@gmail.com).

Special flavors of Kuih Penyaram
Special flavours of Kuih Pinjaram. Photo credit: Pinjaram D’telisz @ Facebook

Pinjaram also has big and small versions. The big one is about 50% larger and can be found at Friday tamu (open-air native market) of Donggongon town (near Kota Kinabalu City). The small ones seem to be more common and one of the places to buy them is at tamu of Kota Belud town on Sunday. Big pinjaram is great as a stomach filler, and the small one is a wonderful tasty snack.

Lines of Kuih Pinjaram (Penyaram) on banana leaf
Which flavour of pinjaram is your favourite?

Besides festive and wedding parties, pinjaram is also served in local markets. FYI, 3 small Pinjaram costs only RM1.00. Five big pinjaram is sold for RM4.00 at Donggongon tamu. Anyway the prices vary in different towns.

Tour package to Semporna
Seller cooks kuih pinjaram on the spot
Seller cooks kuih pinjaram on the spot (taken at tamu of Kota Belud)

The cooking of pinjaram is fun to watch. I like to see the sellers cook it on the spot (and pinjaram tastes best while it’s hot). First, the cooking oil is heated in a small wok. The batter is then poured in slowly to the hot oil from a small cap.

The batter swells, sizzles and turns from an unidentified frying object into an UFO cake. The pinjaram is flipped every few seconds to ensure that it is evenly cooked. The perfect pinjaram is said to be fluffy with a tinge of brown surrounding it, to give it a slightly crusty feel on the thin edges.

Kuih Pinjaram (Penyaram) in flower arrangement
Pinjaram for breakfast, anyone?

There is a viral post about pinjaram because of its beautiful shape, which is fondly known as Kuih Penyaram ‘Ngah Apoi’.

Kuih Penyaram Ngah Apoi
Kuih Penyaram ‘Ngah Apoi’ has perfect shape. Photo credit: Facebook of Asiah Asong

Its special recipe (credit: Melissa Mahli) is shared online too, so I translate it to English here for you to try.

Ingredients (for making 35 to 45 Pinjaram)

  • 1 Kg of Wheat flour
  • 1 Kg of Palm Sugar (Gula Apong in Malay language)
  • Baking powder (1 table spoon)
  • Salt water (mix 1 tea spoon)
  • Plain water (approximately 750ml)
  • Cooking oil
The making of kuih pinjaram
The making of kuih pinjaram

Cooking Steps

  1. Pour plain and salt water into the flour
  2. Add baking powder
  3. Add the palm sugar
  4. Mix well until foam appears on the surface of the mixture
  5. Let the batter settled for a few minutes
  6. Heat up moderate amount of cooking oil (not overly hot) in a wok
  7. Pour about a small ladle of the batter to the hot cooking oil slowly to fry it
  8. Use a spatula to turn and flip the pinjaram until it’s cooked evenly and thoroughly
  9. Transfer the pinjaram to an oil drain rack

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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