For a very long time, I was not a big fan of kuehs, which are Malay or Perankan desserts made from glutinous rice or tapioca, unique to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. They come in a hue of colors derived from plants and flowers, mostly coated in grated coconut and sweetened with gula melaka (palm sugar).
It was only until I discovered I am sensitive to wheat that I have to refrain from cakes and pastries, which forced me to relook at kuehs for sweet treats.
To be honest, kuehs are not as ubiquitous as cakes, bread or pastries in Singapore. Sure there is the mass market Bengawan Solo, which has many outlets. But compared to the countless bakeries, kuehs have lost its standing as the go-to dessert, as majority of the people gravitate to western bakeries. Other than those at BS, you can only get kuehs at a few Malay stalls or Peranakan shops, and quality is a mixed bag.
So it was a wonderful surprise when I found out that Rainbow Lapis has pretty good kuehs. I probably have walked past the temporary kiosk countless time at Raffles Xchange and didn’t take notice of it. Those were the days when I was only interested in cakes and pastries. However, when I had to look for alternatives, I decided to give it a try. The kuehs are in delicate small sizes, and three pieces cost S$2.50.
I brought the kuehs home, thinking I would have it after dinner but I didn’t. So my husband kept them in the fridge when I told him I would have them at work the next day. But I forgot about it. During dinner the next night, I decided I had to have them since they cannot be kept for more than a couple of days. But they were gone! I asked my husband, thinking he threw them away. Instead he pointed to his tummy, and said, “they are pretty good!”
I went back to the kiosk the next day, determined I had to try them. Since then, I have been a regular customer.
One of the kuehs I like is ondeh ondeh, a ball-like green kueh made from tapioca, filled with gula melaka and covered with grated coconut (those in clear plastic casing in above picture). But it is difficult to find one with a good balance of the tapioca skin thickness and the amount of palm sugar filling. Most times, the skin is too thick and the filling meagre. Any one who likes Ondeh Ondeh will tell you the test of a good one is when you bite into it, the palm sugar oozes out. These little balls of sweetness from Rainbow Lapis strike the right note.
Here is a plate of some of my favourites (clockwise from top): triangle tapioca kueh with Gula Melaka (there is also a version in solely orange color), savoury glutinous rice with spicy dried shrimp sambal (aka hae bee hiam) called Pulut Panggang, and the pyramid-like kueh with grated coconut atop a mound of glutinous rice called Pulut Iti (the blue dye in the rice is derived from the blue pea flower).
The kiosk also offer kaya (coconut-based spread), pineapple tarts as well as traditional favourites like Pandan cake and Gula Melaka cake. There are snacks like berlinjal, fish and prawn crackers. You can also get Mee Siam, Mee Rebus or savoury glutinous rice with dried shrimps in the early morning for breakfast.
So, if you are in the vicinity of Raffles Place, do check out Rainbow Lapis for a wonderful local sweet delight.