Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sugee (Semolina) Almond Cookies

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I noticed something strange. As you may already know, sugee (also known as soogee, suji or sugi) is basically semolina. Yet, when I searched for a Sugee Cookie recipe, I ended up with quite a few which did not contain a single grain of semolina! I realised that most of these were really vanilla or almond cookies. So why call them sugee? In the words of Eminem, will the real Sugee Cookie please stand up, please stand up?

Well, super-sleuth me decided to refine my search and typed "sugee semolina cookies", which yielded a find at - contributed by a fellow Singaporean, no less. When I saw the word "semolina", I punched a triumphant fist in the air (yes, I am quite the drama queen, even in solitude). Now we're talkin'. So I gave it a browse, and although the recipe - described as "a very OLD Singaporean/Eurasian recipe" - looked sound, I felt that it was missing a crucial ingredient.


Perhaps the Eurasian way of making Sugee Cookies doesn't require salt but for many Chinese-style cookies, salt is a must. Think peanut cookies, or almond cookies, or pineapple tarts ... the sweetness is always nuanced with sudden bursts of saltiness*.
* Actually, the same principle applies to many western-style desserts too. Chocolate with fleur de sel, anyone?

Anyhow, I decided to make 2 batches: one following the recipe to a 'T', and the other with 1/4 tsp salt. You wanna know what happened? Tune in next week.

Nah, just kidding.

The batch without salt tasted curiously like Kjeldsens Danish Butter Cookies! They were buttery and sweet, but tasted a bit flat.

The second batch was a lot more like the Sugee Cookies I grew up eating. And it was quite incredible how a mere 1/4 tsp salt made all the difference. Simply put, it gave depth. Food should have layers of flavours, no?

The one thing I observed was that using semolina flour gives a crispy, sablé-like texture. Both batches of cookies were sandy and crumbly, even on the fourth day. Me likey!

So yeah, there you have it. Sugee cookies that contain sugee. How on earth the star ingredient went missing in the first place is beyond me. LOL!

A big thanks to the kind lady who shared this recipe. Without you, I would have sadly assumed that authentic Sugee Cookies had gone into extinction. Now I wonder, should I try substituting butter with ghee? Would that not give the cookies an even stronger Asian flavour? You think?

(from here)
Yields about 20 cookies

- 125 g butter
- 75 g soft brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 100 g plain flour
- 75 g semolina
- 25 g ground almonds
- 1/4 tsp salt (I would recommend adding this)
- Almond strips for garnishing
- 1 egg white, beaten

1. Grease baking trays lightly with butter and preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Cream butter, sugar and essence until light.

3. Sift in flour.

4. Add in semolina, ground almonds and salt to combine well into a dough.
* I would suggest chilling your dough for about 6-8mins before handling it (in tropical weather, especially).

5. Pinch off pieces and roll into small balls and place on prepared trays.
* Note that these cookies expand when baked, so make sure you leave about an inch between each one. I used a teaspoon to make sure every cookie was of uniform size.

6. Press gently with a fork.
* I didn't bother. Just used my fingers. ;)

7. Brush lightly with egg white and press two almond strips in the centre of each pressed out dough.
* Up to you, really. One strip, two strips, almond sliver, almond half ... you decide.

8. Bake in a preheated oven for 13 to 14 minutes or until cookies turn golden.
* I brought the temperature down to 170°C when I popped the cookies in, knowing how my oven tends to overheat. The tops and bottoms of the cookies should turn a golden brown colour.

9. Leave on the tray for 1 to 2 minutes.

10. Remove onto a wire rack to cool. Then store in an airtight container.
* I don't know how well these cookies keep. I stored them in a plastic container and they remained sandy and crispy even after 4 days, but beyond that, I really don't know. To "refresh" your cookies, preheat your ovenette toaster on high for about 8mins, then pop the cookies in and turn off the heat. Let them remain in there for about 5mins, in the residual heat. The cookies will taste (nearly) oven fresh again.

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  1. i like your punch in the air =), such a drama queen! ahaha

  2. You are too funny! Love these cookies and the semolina reminds me it is time to start making our maamoul (semolina Easter cookies).

  3. Beautiful cookies! I love almond cookies. You probably can't believe it. I got early this morning to make almond cookies. Had just finished baking ...and eaten lots :D I think it was the simplest almond recipe that I had seen. I think I will add a little salt next time. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Salt is such a crucial ingredient in everything isn't it? I always add a pinch to everything I make even if the recipe doesn't call for it. I wonder if those old recipes maybe assumed that salt was a seasoning that cooks and baker's didn't need to be told to add. I have noticed that the directions on older recipes are also not quite as through as they are today, they assume a certain level of knowledge.

  5. Our posts were right next to one another on FG and I thought your cookies looked awesome.. I love almond cookies when they are done well and so agree with you about salt. I forget it from time to time and am always so sorry I do... everything taste flat without it! I never knew they were made with semolina!

  6. I smiled to at Drama Queen:) The cookies look so good..I love almond anything really..You're presented them beautifully Diva Ju:)

  7. Isn't is SO satisfying when you find the info you want? Yay! While I have not knowingly ever had an authentic sugee cookie, I am with you that cookies without salt just aren't right! I think all sweets need a bot of salt to round things out.

  8. oh, this looks so delicious! I`m absolutely sure that`s really tasty!

    Have a great time,

  9. We have an Asian restaurant here that has almond and cashew cookies. Just as you describe them - crisp, sandy, crumbly. I've tried recreating them but no success so far. I think this is what I am looking for!

  10. Ooooh I love semolina and will definitely try to make these if I get a chance. Otherwise I'll just make them after CNY, nothing wrong with that... right? :P

  11. These are spectacular cookies JU....gorgeous presentation!

  12. Seeing all these cookies is making me guilty of not making any this year. been so so lazy!

  13. this post and recipe couldn't have come at a more apt time! I just picked up a packet of semolina for some bread making and will some more than enough left over for some cookies :)

  14. Haha, the Sugi Cookies recipe that I used is without the semolina flour (the key ingredient from the name of the cookies). I don't know, I tried both cookies and found that the one made with semolina flour is more crispy and hard compared to the one made with flour. I think is the adaptation of the recipe which resulted in today's sugi cookies without using semolina flour. We probably should rename this cookies hor?

  15. Oh, cookies baked with semolina flour, sound healthy too. By the same token, I love those pasta made with semolina flour, more taste and texture. Worth trying!

  16. I'm not familiar with semolina cookies, sounds interesting. You are right, anything sweet with a little bit of salt tastes better!

  17. Hey, drama queen in solitude, I took a look at the sugee cookies I brought back - no semolina!

  18. I'm unfamiliar with this cookie as well but they look exactly like the kind I can wallop a lot at one go. Gong Xi Fah Chai to you and your family Ju!

  19. nice cookies and Wish you and your family a Happy Lunar New Year, Gong Xi Fa Cai!

  20. I really adore the texture of semolina and the flavor of almonds, so this is just the cookie for me. Happy Chinese New Year!

  21. Thank you for sharing this. I was also trying to find sugee cookie recipes but kept finding once without the semolina. I made them today using the salt and it took me back to my childhood.

  22. Love all your recipes, of course there's some that I simply just can't make it as well as you. Tired this recipe a few times and everybody loves jtc. Especailly the chewy texture of the cookies. I have a slight problem, the cookies always melt and spread out like a flat biscuit. Doesn't stay in shape like yours. Is it something that I have done wrongly?