When was the last time you ate this?
Usually eaten for breakfast, putu mayam is made of rice flour strands that have a soft, fluffy texture, and pairs well with freshly grated coconut and red sugar.
It originated from South India, where it is known as Idiyappam and is usually eaten with curries. The dish has been around in Singapore as early as the 1920s when street hawkers wrapped the dish in newspaper and carried it in a basket balanced on their heads. It used to be served with gula melaka cut into small blocks instead of the granulated sugar we see today.
Today, freshly-made putu mayam is not commonly found. Even though the dish looks simple, only a handful of stalls make it from scratch as it is a tedious process. The process starts in the wee hours of the morning. Rice flour is carefully roasted with pandan before water is added to form a smooth, sticky dough. The dough is then set aside to rest. Upon order, the dough is filled into a hand wooden press with holes.
This is when elbow grease comes in – a lot of strength is required to force the dough through the holes for the thin strands to form. Finally, the strands are placed on greased rattan trays or pandan leaves and steamed for 30 seconds.
Dishes like putu mayam made their way to our shores as our forefathers settled in Singapore. They have evolved over time to suit our tastes and have become uniquely Singaporean foods. As we dig into our putu mayam, we are reminded of the efforts hawkers make to provide delicious and affordable food, and the part they play in preserving the intangible heritage that represents our culture and history. Where do you get your putu mayam fix #FoodForThought #OurHawkerCulture
References: Singapore Infopedia (NLB), Makansutra, HungryGoWhere, World Street Food Congress