Be it all prettily arranged on the table of a family feast/wedding, or simply packed in small plastic boxes fronting local Malay foodstalls, I always look forward to homemade Malay kuih (traditional delicacies). Sure, the Malay kuih, or kuih-muih in their plural form, are not exactly the healthiest, being almost always laden with guilt-inducing rich santan (coconut cream), heavily sweetened by the golden-brown blocks of gula Melaka (palm sugar), and alluringly fragranced by the many manifestations of daun pandan (screwpine leaves). But there is something most certainly enticing in colourful, single-serving desserts with a rich and chewy intricate texture, meticulously perfected generation after generation.
When I was growing up, I would often watch as my mother summon her kuih prowess and labour off on her own, doing her proverbial ‘thang’, so to speak. There are, however, the lucky times when she would relent to my incessant hovering over her shoulder, and hand me the easier tasks such as the rolling of bread slices (for roti gulung), arranging kuih nagasari pieces into the steamer, and more often than not, residual flour dough from epok-epok for me to make shapes and play with. Whilst my mom is undeniably one of the most selfless persons I know, she has yet to pass on a smidgen of her kuih skills, not because she refuses to, but simply because she belongs to the campak-campak (throw here and there) camp, so constantly deciphering what “a handful of this”, or “a pinch of that”, or “to taste” would translate to in metric was a confuzzling joykiller, to say the least.
Hence, when P of Notabilia, a New Yorker currently based here in Singapore, invited me to share with her a recipe from the Malay culture, I knew it was the most opportune time for me to set aside my culinary differences and venture into the kitchen with my mother. Plunging headlong into the kuih newbie path, I played apprentice to my mother, anxiously armed with my measuring cups and spoons, and proudly survived it all to share a guest post on one of my favourite kuih growing up, bingka roti kukus pandan. What began as a personal self-challenge soon enough morphed into a great bonding session with my mother, picking up tips and tricks, along with the exchange of nostalgic stories. And thanks to this opportunity, I’ve already booked classes with the masterchef herself, to explore and appreciate sweet treats from my culture, and more importantly, to finally be on the making, and not eating, side of the kuih steamer.
Drop by Notabilia for the full [measured out] recipe.