My office had a little party this afternoon, and there was plenty of food to go around.
Under normal circumstances, the Japanese in my office are quite adventurous and would eat anything in our diverse local cuisine.
Everything, except this.
I found many hovering around the tray containing these little brightly colored chewies wondering what they were, and refusing to even touch it.
I liken these to our local version of a mochi, but of course, in Japan, nothing is remotely as colorful as this. They’re like poison arrow frogs: brightly colored, but also potentially dangerous.
No no, it’s nothing like that.
These little chewy nuggets are called lapis sagu, or rainbow kueh, or jiu ceng gao (九层糕). It is a sweet Peranakan dessert that I thoroughly enjoyed as a child because of the entertainment it gave me. It’s made of tapioca flour, sago flour, mung bean flour, rice flour, thick coconut milk, sugar, water, pandan leaves, and coloring. You make these babies layer by layer, and when you eat it, you peel it layer by layer so that you can enjoy and savor the sugar rush it gives you.
To me, the texture is very close to a Japanese mochi, so I call this the rainbow mochi to help make it more appetizing.
That totally didn’t work, because of course, real Japanese mochi does not have weird, bright colors. The colors are natural, light, and look like they were derived from actual food. Like green tea powder.
So naturally many of my colleagues avoided this poor, misunderstood nonya kueh like the plague. There was plenty of leftovers to take home and enjoy.
It’s a shame though. They were really good.