Biji Salak is a classic Indonesian treat that will indulge every sugar craving! This gluten-free and vegan dessert consists of soft and chewy sweet potato balls served in palm sugar syrup and drizzled with savory coconut milk.
If you enjoy bubble tea with chewy tapioca boba or Taiwanese taro and sweet potato balls, you will absolutely love these Indonesian sweet potato balls. They have the same texture, soft and chewy since they are made with tapioca starch.
Here in Indonesia, these sweet potato balls are served in palm sugar syrup. Savory coconut milk is drizzled in to balance the sweetness of the syrup. The dessert is usually served warm or at room temperature, but can also be served cold if preferred.
About Biji Salak
Biji Salak is a classic Indonesian dessert that originates from Betawi, the native to the city of Jakarta and its outskirts. It consists of sweet potato-tapioca balls served with palm sugar syrup and coconut milk.
The name “biji salak” literally means “snake fruit seed” in Bahasa Indonesia. Snake fruit is native to Indonesia. The dessert is named so because the shape and the color of the sweet potato balls bear some resemblance to the snake fruit seed.
Biji Salak is A Popular Desert During Ramadan
Indonesia has a Muslim-majority population. The most significant Muslim holidays are Ramadan. During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims are obligated to fast every day from dawn to sunset. In Indonesia, people usually break the fast with sweet foods, to replenish energy and increase blood sugar levels after fasting all day.
Biji Salak is one of the popular opening dishes during Ramadan because of its super-sweet taste. During the fasting month, you can find it everywhere from restaurants or street food vendors.
Sweet Potato Balls Variations
Biji Salak is traditionally made from sweet potatoes, but these days you can also find other flavors like purple sweet potato, taro, pumpkin, and cassava. You will need to adjust the ratio of tapioca starch though because each root has different water content.
How to Make Biji Salak
- Make palm sugar syrup by boiling palm sugar syrup, salt, water, and pandan leaves. Make a slurry by mixing tapioca starch with water. Add the slurry to the boiling palm sugar mixture while stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture thickens and boils. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into chunks. Steam for 15-20 minutes until tender.
- Mash the sweet potatoes when still hot. Add salt and tapioca starch. Knead with your hand until well incorporated.
- Shape the dough into 1-inch/2.5 cm diameter balls.
- Boil the sweet potato balls until they float up.
- Strain the sweet potato balls and transfer them to the palm sugar syrup. Set aside.
- Make coconut milk drizzle by cooking thick coconut milk, salt, and pandan leaves until simmering. Make sure you stir the mixture constantly to prevent the coconut milk from curdling during cooking.
- When ready to serve, ladle the sweet potato balls and palm sugar syrup into serving bowls. Drizzle coconut milk on top.
- Keep your sweet potatoes hot. Hot sweet potatoes are easier to mash than cold ones. You want to start getting busy with them as soon as possible after they have been steamed.
- Palm sugar block substitute. You can consider substituting the palm sugar block with gula Melaka, coconut sugar, or dark brown sugar.
- How to prevent the coconut milk from curdling. Coconut milk will curdle and turn grainy if you do not cook it right. To minimize the risk of curdling, cook the coconut milk just until it begins to simmer, do not boil. Aside from that, keep stirring the coconut milk frequently during cooking to break up bonds between the protein molecules even as they form.
- Make them soft and chewy again. If you keep the leftovers in the fridge, you will notice that the sweet potato balls turn hard when cold. You can make them soft and chewy again by boiling them again.
How to Store
Biji Salak is best consumed on the day they are cooked but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. The sweet potato balls will harden when stored in the refrigerator. However, you can make them soft and chewy again by boiling them again.
You can also freeze the uncooked sweet potato balls right after you make them. Only cook the amount you plan on eating each time. To do so, arrange the balls into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat, not touching each other. Place them in the freezer for 1 hour. Transfer them to Ziploc bags and you can freeze the balls for up to 3 months. When ready to use, do not thaw and just boil them until they float up.