In the late 1930s, a group of Chinese immigrants to Singapore adapted a plain, rice flour cake called song gao (鬆糕)—a street snack in China—to a small, round cake, hence birthing the local kueh tutu. Eventually, fillings such as crushed peanuts and grated coconut were introduced. While the peanut filling is usually sweetened with white sugar, the grated coconut filling is fried with gula melaka and pandan leaves.
The word “tutu” is said to have been derived from the sound the charcoal-heated steamers used to make when steaming the kueh. Today, kueh tutu is made in small metal flower-shaped moulds with a five-cent imprint in the middle. To make the kueh tutu, a layer of sieved rice flour lightly seasoned with sugar is first placed into the mould, before a small spoonful of filling is layered on. This is then covered with another layer of rice flour, before the mould is inverted onto a piece of muslin cloth and the kueh tutu left to steam for a few minutes. Each kueh tutu is served on a small square of pandan leaf, which adds a welcome fragrance to this sweet snack.