Do you know how certain foods or smells evoke memories forgotten? Perhaps a day during your childhood or a long-ago holiday in some heady foreign land, remaining hazy in the sub-conscious mind, until you see or smell something which jolts that particular memory in to crystal clear clarity? Yes, this dessert is one such type food for me. And no matter how young I was, and how old I am now, I still eat it the same way - one thin layer, one mouthful at a time, to savour every last delicious sliver.
Nyonya desserts or nyonya kuih are little cakes or pastries created by the Peranakans or Straits Chinese. Peranakan is a term which refers to the mixed-race descentdant, part Chinese, part ethnic Malay. Baba refers to the male descendants and Nyonyas the females.
Nyonya kuih is usually bright and colourful. It is a popular item to be enjoyed during tea time, for dessert or is usually and integral part at festive occasions. Traditionally, Nyonyas were trained to perfect the art of making kuih, believing that it would lead to the marriage to a respectable man. You know what they say, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and it seems like it was reflective even back then! Many spend time making kuih for their families, believing that the more effort that the put into preparing food for them, the happier they would be.
A common flavour you would notice through these traditional kuihs, is the flavour of pandan. If you've already trawled through this blog, you will know that I too am a big fan of pandan and that is a very versatile flavouring to use in many recipes. As vanilla flavour is the traditional go-to flavouring in Western baking and cooking, pandan is the quintessential flavour across Nyonya desserts.
By the time I was born, these kuih had become a common treat to be found everywhere. I often picked up some at the wet markets, savouring each individual slice after a hard day's shopping!
350g rice flour350g tapioca flour
600g caster sugar
1L coconut milk
dash of salt
3 pandan leaves, washed and make into a knot
In a pot mix together sugar, coconut milk, water, salt and pandan leaves and bring to boil in a low heat till sugar is dissolved. Remove the pandan leaves and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl, mix the flour together and add in the coconut mixture. Whisk slightly till well blended.
Divide batter into 3 equal portions. Add a few drops of red colour to 1 portion and few drops of green to another.
From the 3 portions, divide each to another 3. Making 9 small portions all together.
Oil a round cake tin and pour the first layer of red and steam for 5 minutes, then white and green. When the last layer of green is added, steam for a 15 minutes.