Yi Buah

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Preparation info

  • Makes

    10 pieces

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Chinese Heritage Cooking

Chinese Heritage Cooking

By Christopher Tan and Amy Van

Published 2018

  • About

This traditional Hainanese sweetmeat is made and enjoyed on happy occasions such as birthdays and baby’s first month celebrations. Like many Chinese snacks destined for auspicious events, it is decorated with a red dot. Yi buah are made in a few different shapes—round, squarish and pyramidal. There is also a related confection called art buah for which discs of plain dough are steamed or poached and then rolled in the filling mixture. Like yi buah and many other traditional Hainanese cakes, art buah is rarely available commercially today.


  • Banana leaves as needed
  • Red food colouring as needed


  • Ginger 70 g ( oz)
  • Water 2 Tbsp
  • Finely chopped palm sugar (gula melaka) or brown sugar 140 g (5 oz)
  • Castor sugar 2 Tbsp
  • Grated skinned coconut 250 g (9 oz)
  • Toasted white sesame seeds 1 Tbsp Chopped roasted peanuts 2 Tbsp


  • Glutinous rice flour 225 g (8 oz)
  • Tapioca starch 20 g ( oz) + more for shaping
  • Rice flour 15 g (½ oz)
  • Sugar 2 tsp
  • Fine salt ¼ tsp
  • Boiling water 200 ml ( fl oz / cup)
  • Cooking oil 2 tsp
  • Cold water 2 Tbsp


  1. Prepare filling. Peel and finely grate ginger, then squeeze to obtain about 50 ml (1⅔ fl oz) juice. Combine ginger juice, water, palm sugar or brown sugar and castor sugar in a pan and stir over medium heat until sugars dissolve. Strain mixture into a bowl.
  2. Return syrup to a clean pan and stir in grated coconut. Cook for 7–8 minutes, stirring, until coconut has absorbed all the syrup and formed moist clumps and there is no free liquid visible. Transfer filling to a bowl and let cool completely, before stirring in the sesame seeds and peanuts. Keep covered until needed.
  3. Prepare dough. Sift glutinous rice flour, tapioca starch and rice flour into a bowl, and whisk until well mixed. Stir sugar and salt into boiling water to dissolve, then pour water into flour mixture. Stir with a spatula until it comes together into a dough. Pour oil and cold water over dough and knead them in with wet hands until dough is smooth. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let dough stand for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, blanch or steam banana leaves until soft and flexible. Cut out 10 circles from leaves, each about 8-cm (3-in) in diameter. Brush circles with oil and tuck each one into a small metal tart tin or muffin cup. (Use individual stand-alone tins, not trays of joined tins.)
  5. Divide dough into 10 portions, roughly 45 g ( oz) each. Lightly dust your hands with tapioca starch and pat each dough portion into a flat round. Top with about 1 Tbsp filling and bring the sides up to enclose. Pinch to seal, as if you were making a round bun or pau. Place yi buah in prepared tart tins or cups, seam down.
  6. Dip the tip of a round chopstick in colouring and make a dot in the middle of each yi buah.
  7. Steam over high heat for 11–14 minutes until cooked through. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then brush yi buah very lightly with oil to gloss the surface. Once cooled, store refrigerated until serving time. Let come to room temperature before serving. Yi buah are best eaten the same day they are made.