The Saturday Kitchen – Kueh Salat, A Double Decker Delight

One of my favourite desserts is kueh, a whole genre of little cakes and confections found in the indigenous cuisines of Southeast Asia. Called kueh, or kuih, it is an integral part of Indonesian, Malay and Peranakan culinary culture. You’ll also find renditions of that genre in Thailand. There hundreds of different kinds of kueh in these parts, and with regional differences. These bite-sized morsels are mostly sweet, and eaten as a snack, as breakfast or as a dessert, though honestly the course-by-course concept of the meal where dessert comes last is really a foreign import as far as Asian cuisines are concerned.

I am always fascinated with kueh, and not just in the eating, but because every jewel-toned morsel is a mark of the creative genius of local women over the centuries. This is because this vast array of kueh primarily revolve around a very small pantry of very humble ingredients such as coconut flesh and milk, sugar, tapioca, sweet potato, mung beans, bananas, sago, pandan, glutinous rice. All these would have been easily available in the kampong or village gardens, within arm’s length of front doors.  But the stunning variety of flavours, textures, colours these housewives of old came up with is pure genius.

The hint of blue in the rice comes from the extract of butterfly pea flower. But I didn’t use enough flowers, so it is very faint. The green comes from the natural colouring of the pandan leaves.
The pandan leaves in my backyard. They give off a lovely soft fragrance especially when you brush past them. Widely used as a flavouring and colouring, it is also good for repelling cockroaches.

Anyways, back to the kueh. One of my favourites is kueh salat, a double-decker delight comprising glutinous rice on the bottom and a lovely, softly gelatinous pandan-coconut kaya layer on top. I always wanted to try making it as I have pandan leaves growing like a weed in my backyard, and I had picked some butterfly pea flowers while jogging this morning. This is my first try, and it was a success. It’s so easy to make, I won’t ever have to buy kueh salat again.

Kueh Salat

  • Servings: Makes 1 cake pan
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Pandan Layer

8 pandan (screwpine) leaves, cut into 6cm pieces (or use pandan extract if the leaves aren’t available, but there’s nothing like the actual thing)

100 ml water

200 ml coconut milk

3 eggs

5 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp cornstarch

190g sugar

 

Rice Layer

300g glutinous rice, soaked in water for 1 hour

70 ml water

130 ml coconut cream

1/2 tsp salt

2-3 pandan leaves, washed

20-30 butterfly pea flowers, washed (optional)*

 

Method

  • First, make the rice layer. Grease an 8-inch cake pan or deep heat-resistant dish. Add in all the ingredients except pandan leaves and stir to combine. Place the pandan leaves neatly on top of the rice. Steam on high heat for 20-30 mins until rice is cooked.
  • Meanwhile, make the pandan layer. Place the pandan leaves and 100 ml water in a food processor and blitz fine. Then pour through a sieve and squeeze the pandan leaves to extract as much of the green liquid as possible. Discard the leaves. (It will be messy.)
  • Combine the pandan extract and the remaining pandan layer ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a medium flame, stirring constantly, for about 20-30 mins until it has thickened and become quite heavy.
  • By now the rice should be done. Remove the leaves and press the rice layer down into the dish using a wide spoon so the rice is compact. Make sure the surface is level.
  • Pour the thickened pandan layer over the rice, and steam again over high heat for 35 mins.
  • Remove from the steamer, and let it cool in the pan. The pandan layer will firm up and set a little more as it cools.
  • To remove it from the pan, run a wet knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the sides, then turn it out carefully. Alternatively, just cut pieces of the kueh directly from the pan.

Note: This kueh is never served chilled but at room temperature when it is quite soft and pliable. You can store it covered in the fridge for up to 3 days. The rice layer tends to dry up a little in the fridge but I zap it in the microwave for a bit before eating, and that does the trick.

*Butterfly pea flowers have been traditionally used as a natural blue colouring in Southeast Asia. Crush 20-30 blooms and infuse it in 1-2 Tbsp water. When the rice layer is cooked, sprinkle some of it randomly onto the rice before adding the pandan layer. You do not have to use all of the colouring. Store the excess in a sealed container in the fridge – it should last a few days.

 

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8 thoughts on “The Saturday Kitchen – Kueh Salat, A Double Decker Delight

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  1. Nice recipe. I have read many recipes using pandan leaves but am not sure whether I will get these here in Delhi. Is there any replacement for these? I mean can I add any other flavor if I do not get pandan leaves.

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    1. Hi Vandana! Great to connect with you again! Hope you have been well! If you can’t get pandan leaves, you can use pandan extract which comes in little bottles. The flavour of pandan is very distinct, so I don’t think there is another substitute flavour really. But I searched up the internet, and found this post by a chef in India (http://thefoodfables.blogspot.sg/2014/02/pandan-superflavour.html) who compared it to the kewra plant which he was more familiar with. He says its flavour is the same, but when I looked up the kewra plant online, it isn’t the pandan we have in Singapore — the leaves looks similar but really not the same at al. I am not familiar with the kewra plant, but if he uses it to cook, maybe you could explore that…? Do let me know how it turns it, if you get to try the recipe! 🙂

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