Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sweet Potato In Pandan And Ginger Flavoured Syrup 蕃薯糖水 - "Malaysian Monday 90"

This popular dessert of southern Chinese origin belongs to the 糖水 tong sui (literelly means sugar water in Cantonese, tang shui in Mandarin) or sweet soup family. Like all other sweet soups, it has taken on a local identity with the added pandan leaves (coconut milk is sometimes added to some) here in Malaysia. It adds the beautiful grassy perfume to the already aromatic tong sui  making it one of the most popular sweet snacks around.

Further north, Chinese immigrants also introduced sweet soups to Thailand. Like their Malaysian cousins, they have also added local ingredients to them over the years. This is known as man thate tom nam tan sai khing (sweet potatoes simmered in syrup with ginger) in Thai. With waning popularity among the younger generation, It is getting more difficult to come across tom nam tan vendors in the kingdom except in towns and cities with large Chinese population. When you do find one you are likely to find other popular offerings such as khao niu daeng tom nam tan (red sticky rice cooked in syrup) or luk dueay tom nam tan (job's tears cooked in syrup) among a dozen other sweet soups on offer. On the other hand the future is much brighter in Malaysia, trendy sweet soup joints are popping up all over the country thanks to the renewed enthusiasm on "foods with flavour of the past" (known as 古早味, gu cao wei in Mandarin).

My aunt who experienced the brutal Japanese occupation in Malaya rarely eats sweet potatoes when the occupation ended. She and her family survived mainly on sweet potato porridge, sweet potato vines and wild greens as food was scarce and difficult to come by. When sugar was available on the very rare occasions, a small pot of this sweet soup was sometimes prepared to cheer up the little ones in the family. Till these days she continues to remind us of the brutal living conditions of those dark years whenever she prepares this particular dish for us.

P.S It has been a rather lean month for MMM entries, remember to join us for our monthly roundup on all things Malaysian. I will put up the roundup on Monday, 1st Oct, so please send in your entries before that.

serves 4 as a sweet snack
you'll need;
2 medium size sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
5 cm piece of ginger, sliced or bashed
2 pandan leaves, knotted
2 l of water
1/2 cup of  rock sugar or brown sugar

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into manageable pieces.

Slice or bash the ginger with a blunt object.

Place all ingredients in a pot and simmer until the sweet potato is tender. Check for sweetness, add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter dish.

Serve hot as a afternoon snack. It is equally delicious served chilled on hot summer days.

The infamous Japanese issued ten dollars note (1942-45) popularly known as the banana money due to the banana plant motif on the front of the note. According to my aunt one would need a whole sack of this just to buy a kati (11/3 lb or 604.7g) of sugar. My late grandfather like many others kept boxes of this valueless notes after the occupation hoping one day they can be exchanged to the local currency but to no avail.... now they serve a reminder of the dark days many experienced during the brutal occupation.

I am the host for the September event so please send all your entries to me at sureshchong@yahoo.com. To find out more about the event and on how to enter please click HERE.


  1. Hi tummy!!! eh? tak pernah lah makan dessert mcm niii, mesti sedap n bagus utk buang angin :D sbb biasanya kan guna santan mesti lagi baik utk kesihatan :-))

  2. Hi, another humgry tummy here..

  3. I love sweet potato soup! My dad has kept those banana monies as a reminder too.

  4. This is my fvrt dessert.senang & simple plus so yummy:).....

    Jika nak menabung untuk masa depan please avoid cash... stock up for silver and gold( hehe pesanan dari makcikmanggis:)

  5. I love sweet potatoes done this way too...such a comfort food. My parents survived the Japanese Occupation of Malaysia & Singapore too. My late mother would never eat tapioca after the war wither because that's what they ate during those terrible dark days of their youth.


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