Going to Malaysia, brb.
Next week, I'm flying to Kota Kinabalu for a mini Chinese family reunion. There's one set of family (including myself, of course) coming from Britain, a set of family coming from Australia and a set coming from Texas. Understandably, since we're all so scattered, it's a big deal when so many of us wind up in the same place together.
Other than the prospect of seeing a bunch of awesome people I only get to see every few years, I also get to go to a part of the world in which the greatest percentage of my favourite foods comes from. Char kway teow noodles, pisang goreng (banana fritters, but not as the West knows them), eis kacang, cendol, rendang and nyonya curry... and kuih.
I covered a lot of these during the Australiafiles on my other blog, but not kuih. Kuih (or kueh) means 'cake', and is mainly found in Malaysia, Singapore, South China and Indonesia. They come in an array of colours and forms. Most usually, they're soft and chewy or custard-like, and are often made with rice flour- either glutinous or plain.
I've used pandan extract so many times in this blog, but I'll remind you guys: pandan is also known as the screw pine, and it's leaves are widely used to flavour things in South East Asia like vanilla is used in the West. To sum up, 'kuih bakar pandan' is literally just Malay for 'baked pandan cake'- nothing fancy.
Unlike a sponge cake, this kuih is a lot like its South East Asian brethren: dense, soft, a little chewy and not too sweet. However, unlike its kuih relatives, this one isn't complicated to make as it doesn't involve steaming any layers (check out my recipe for kueh lapis and see what I mean...) You just mix it up, whack it in the oven and bake it.
Traditionally, this recipe is baked in a flower-shaped pan and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I had neither on hand this evening, but I did have this:
Sesame snaps! You can get these at any supermarket, I just happened to have a packet from my last trip to the Chinese supermarket. All I had to do was grind a couple of sticks up in my teeny tiny pestle and mortar and I was ready to go. I think it worked really well: it sort of created a caramelised brûlée effect on top.
-100g plain flour
-50g glutinous rice flour (you can also use regular rice flour in this recipe)
-100g caster sugar
-Pinch of salt
-400ml coconut milk (one tin)
-1tsp pandan paste/extract (or vanilla, if you can't find it)
-2tbsp crushed sesame snaps
1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line an 8 x 12" pan with foil. Plonk the butter in the pan, but DO NOT put it in yet (or you risk burning the butter).
2) Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl, make a well in the centre and start whisking the eggs in, adding the coconut milk bit by bit to avoid lumps.
3) Once everything is well combined, add the pandan paste and stir thoroughly.
4) Now the mixture is ready, place the pan with the butter into the oven, and take it out when the butter is melted and bubbling (keep a close eye on it, it'll only take a minute or two). Using a pastry brush, quickly spread the melted butter up the sides of the pan, then pour in your kuih batter and place in the oven.
5) After about 10 minutes when the top is set, sprinkle over your crushed sesame brittle, and return to the oven to bake for a further half hour, or until the kuih doesn't jiggle in the pan and the top is golden brown (it'll puff up quite a bit but will sink back down once it cools).
6) Let it cool completely before slicing it into the shape of your choice
7) Serve and enjoy!
That's it recipe-wise from me, for a couple of weeks! I'll be on the other side of the world, eating myself into a noodle and kuih-induced stupor. However I will be updating with snapshots of my culinary conquests, as well as writing up a 'Malaysiafiles' series on Where I Like to Eat. Until then... happy baking!