Kue – A Traditional Indonesian Dessert


Kue is an Indonesian bite-sized snack or dessert food. The name Kue is used to describe a wide variety of snacks in Indonesia; cakes, cookies, fritters, pies, scones, and patisserie. Kue are popular snacks in Indonesia, which has the largest variety of kue. Because of the countries’ historical colonial ties, kue is also popular in the Netherlands.

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Indonesian kue demonstrate local native delicacies, Chinese and Indian influences, as well as European cake and pastry influences. For example, bakpia and kue ku are Chinese Peranakan origin, kue putu is derived from Indian puttu, while kue bugis, klepon, nagasari, getuk, lupis and wajik are native origin, on the other hand lapis legit, kue cubit, kastengel, risoles and pastel are European influenced. In Java, traditional kues are categorized under jajan pasar (lit: “market buys” or “market munchies”). The well-set and nicely decorated colourful assorted jajan pasar usually served as food gift, parcel or to accompany tumpeng (the main dish) during Javanese traditional ceremonies.


The term “kue” is derived from Hokkien: 粿 koé. It is also spelled as kuih in Malaysian, and kueh in Singapore. Kue are more often steamed than baked, and are thus very different in texture, flavour and appearance from Western cakes or puff pastries. Many kue are sweet, but some are savoury.

Kue kering via Pinterest

Indonesian kues are usually categorized according to its moisture. Roughly divided under two groups, kue basah (lit: “wet kue”) and kue kering (lit: “dry kue”). In fact, the word kue in Indonesian language is used to refer to not only these kinds of traditional snack, but also all types of cake and some types of pastries. Most kue kering are technically pastries and many Western cakes can be considered as kue basah.

Kue basah

Most of traditional Indonesian kues are kue basah (wet kue). Most are moist and soft in texture, steamed or fried instead of baked. Kue basah usually have rich coconut milk, sugar and rice flour content, and rather moist; as the result it can not last for more than a day or two, especially in hot and humid Indonesian tropical climate, in contrast to kue kering that might last longer.

Kue ape via The Jakarta Post

The examples of kue basah are:

  • Kue ape, thin wheat flour batter pancake with thicker part on the middle, colloquially called kue tetek (breast cake).
  • Kue apem, similar to Malay apam which ultimately derived from Indian appam. It is made of cassava tapai, coconut water, coconut sugar, rice flour, coconut milk, all mixed as a dough mixture and steamed until fluffy and cooked. Served with grated coconut.
  • Kue bakpia, bean-filled Chinese pastry originally introduced by Fujianese immigrants. Today associated with Yogyakarta city.
  • Kue bika Ambon, yellow porous cake made from tapioca and sago flour, eggs, sugar and coconut milk. Bika Ambon generally sold in pandan flavour, although now available also other flavors like banana, durian, cheese, chocolate.

Kue kering

In Indonesian language kue kering (dried kue) is identical to cookies, both traditional or western derived. Some variant, especially kaasstengels clearly demonstrate Dutch origin (kaas is Dutch word for cheese). Because it is dried, it last longer than kue basah. Kue kering often served during annual holidays and important festivities, popular to be offered for visiting guests during Lebaran and Natal.

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