How to Make Tapai, Malaysia’s Classic Fermented Dessert

Some people love it and some hate it but fermented foods are the norm in many cultures all over the world, including Malaysia. After all, before the invention of freezers and canned foods, the fermentation process was a means to preserve and prolong the shelf life of all sorts of produce. Here, one of the most popular and beloved of fermented dishes is called tapai. Whether it is in the form of glutinous rice or plantains, tapai is often served at gatherings including birthdays and weddings. We love tapai!

Tapai is Good for the Gut, Brain and Body

If we are going back to the basics, the fermentation process basically means that the food is left to sit until the natural bacteria feeds on the carbohydrate and sugar. It then creates an environment allowing essential bacterium boosting agents such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria to flourish.

What do these bacteria do? Well, it creates a protective lining in your intestines and protects it against pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and E-coli. It can also make your skin brighter and your day a little happier! We love when delicious food is good for you!

Expand Your Tastebuds with Tapai

As a nation of food enthusiasts, most of us in Malaysia love tapai! While nutritious, tapai is not consumed for health reasons, but rather for the pure enjoyment of its outstanding flavour. Whether it is in the form of fermented cassava, plantains, white rice or glutinous rice, we love how it comes neatly wrapped within a banana leaf, taro leaf or rubber tree leaf.

If you’ve never had tapai, we suggest that you expand your culinary repertoire and give it a go. It will add breadth and depth to your palate, which will be an exciting experience for some and, perhaps, overwhelming for others. Without further ado, here’s a step by step process on how to make glutinous rice tapai!



  • 400 g of glutinous rice
  • 20 g tapai yeast
  • 75 g sugar
  • 1 liter of water


  1. Rinse and soak the glutinous rice in the water for at least an hour to let it soften.
  2. Line a double layered Asian style steamer with parchment paper or grease-free cheesecloth. Place your rice on top and begin the steaming process by bringing the water to boil.
  3. Once water has reached a boiling point, turn down the heat to medium. Spread the carbohydrate evenly and gently steam until it is cooked. This should take about 45 minutes.
  4. Transfer the rice to a mixing bowl and let it cool down to room temperature.
  5. Using a mortar and pestle, gently crush the yeast starter into powder form.
  6. Spread the tapai yeast powder evenly on the rice, stirring gently as not to break the rice grains.
  7. Cover the bowl with a lid and let it ferment at 20 – 25 degrees Celsius for at least 48 hours in a dark place.
  8. Transfer the tapai into the fridge. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. P.S: I love eating tapai with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you haven’t tried it, you really should!

A few tips and tricks for you:

  • Make sure you clean your glutinous rice thoroughly. No one likes dirty food or to discover a little dead bug in there while enjoying their tapai.
  • Always use gloves or wash your hands when processing the tapai to prevent contamination from a foreign object.
  • For a longer shelf life, keep the tapai in an airtight container in the fridge.

There you have it! You have mastered the process of making tapai. Comment down below with your own tapai stories. Do you have special tips and tricks to making tapai? Also do let us know if you have any favourite accompaniments to Tapai! Go on and tempt us.

Regina Wiriadinata

Hello there, pleasure to meat you.. oops, I mean meet. Hunger tends to get the best of me, which happens almost 24/7. You can probably find me at a gelateria, holding triple scoops of gelato in a cone. Please donut talk about my diet because I always end up with a slice of cake at the end of the day.

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