February 2012 | KitchenTigress

15-Minute Flower Crab Curry

If you like crab but can't stomach the idea of being a crab killer, flower crab would be right up your alley. The blue crustaceans are mostly sold dead; live ones caught by local kelongs are available only once in a blue, blue moon, when you're extremely lucky. Or maybe unlucky if you're not into buying food that's still moving.

Kuih Seri Muka/Kueh Salat (I)

Kueh Salat is a 2-layer kueh. Glutinous rice is steamed with coconut milk to make the bottom layer. The rice is firm, not mushy. The top layer, custard, is soft, smooth and rich. The richness comes from coconut milk.

Traditionally, the rice layer is coloured with blue pea flowers. And the custard layer is coloured with pandan leaves, which also adds a floral fragrance.

Sadly, blue pea flowers are rarely used nowadays. And pandan leaves may be replaced with manmade pandan essence.

Homemade kueh salat is fairly straightforward. But there're 2 points I'd like to highlight.

To get beautiful kueh salat, the rice must be hot when the custard layer is added. Otherwise, the 2 layers won't stick together.

During the second round of steaming, the heat should be gentle. High heat would overcook the custard, making the texture rough, and the surface uneven.

So long as you pay attention to these 2 points, your kueh salat will be as beautiful as it's other name. Kueh salat is also called kuih seri muka, which means beautiful face kuih.

Source: Modified from Cooking for the President
(Recipe for 16 pieces)

Rice layer
5 young pandan leaves, rinsed
250 g glutinous rice
wash and drain in a sieve
125 ml water
1/2 tsp salt
125 ml freshly squeezed coconut milk, undiluted
50 bunga telang (blue pea flowers)
pound finely and strain; discard pulp
Custard layer
5 eggs
stir thoroughly and sieve
100 g young pandan leaves
wash and cut ½ cm long; blend with coconut milk; strain to yield 150 ml; add flour, salt, sugar and water to coconut milk; discard pandan pulp
150 ml undiluted fresh coconut milk
2 tbsp plain flour
1/8 tsp salt
115 g sugar
90 ml water

1. To make rice layer, line bottom of 18 x 18 x 5 cm cake pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Spread half of rice in pan evenly. Top with pandan leaves, then remaining rice. Add water and sprinkle with salt. Steam 10 minutes over rapidly boiling water. Drizzle with coconut milk. Mix thoroughly. Steam 20 minutes. Discard pandan leaves. Drizzle with bunga telang juice, unevenly. Steam 5 more minutes.

2. Check that rice is cooked. If it isn't, drizzle with 1 tbsp water and steam a few minutes till it's cooked but not mushy. Toss to mix the colours slightly. Press into an even, compact layer with a wet spatula or spoon. Cover and steam another 5 minutes.

3. Proceed to steam custard as detailed below. If custard isn't ready yet, reduce heat to lowest possible and continue steaming. Rice must be hot and moist when custard is added or the 2 layers won't stick together.

4. To make custard layer, cook coconut milk mixture over medium heat till gently simmering, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Pour half slowly into eggs, stirring to mix eggs and coconut milk evenly. Next, add eggs to remaining coconut milk. Cook combined mixture over low heat, scraping bottom and sides of pot to prevent lumps, till slightly thickened.

5. When rice is cooked, pour custard onto rice. Reduce heat to lowest possible. Keep steaming water just below boiling point, with the steamer's cover slightly ajar if necessary. Steam till custard is just set in the middle, 35-45 minutes depending on steaming temperature and thickness of custard before steaming.

6. Test custard by inserting skewer in the middle and wriggling slightly (the skewer, not you). If skewer comes out clean, kueh is done.

7. Remove kueh to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely and set, 3 hours or so. Unmould by lifting parchment paper, onto a chopping board. Cut kueh with an oiled knife, scraping knife after each cut. Discard parchment paper.

8. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2-3 days, then bring to room temperature. Steam over rapidly bubbling water to reheat, about 4 minutes if cut serving size. Don't steam longer than necessary or colours would fade. Cool to room temperature before eating.

9. Kueh salat may be frozen. Thaw before resteaming till just heated through.

XO Cognac Fried Chicken Wings

I have a friend who knows a thing or two about food. He doesn't cook but he's a discerning eater. If he says a restaurant is good, then it's either very good or at least above average. His restaurant recommendations never disappoint me. I have total trust in his opinion.