Kuih Seri Muka/Kueh Salat (I)

Friday, 17 February 2012

The custard layer of my kueh salat (aka kuih seri muka) is a pale avocado green. That's because it's made with (a lot of) pandan leaves. Do you know how the bibiks of yesteryears get a brighter green, naturally? They used dark green leaves called daun pandan serani/suji, which look like pandan leaves but are smaller and darker.

Somewhere along the way, pandan serani got edited out of most recipes and was replaced with artificial green food colouring. It's so rarely mentioned nowadays that a lot of modern cooks don't even know about these leaves.

Some cooks then edit out artificial green food colouring in their recipes, but not in the kueh or cake they make for their photos. Yup, they cheat (shock! horror!). Prime example: Rasa Malaysia's kueh dadar, which you can see here. There's absolutely no way she can get that radioactive shade of green with five precious pandan leaves for 300 ml of coconut milk and 120 g of flour.

Indeed, one of Rasa Malaysia's readers asks why he can't get the green colour in her photos although he follows her instructions. You should have used fresh leaves, she says. *snort; roll eyes* Never mind five. If she can get the radioactive green with 50 FRESH pandan leaves, I'll go scrub her kitchen floor for free. In fact, if she can get even a tiny hint of green of whatever shade with just five pandan leaves, I'll kneel and scrub away.

Isn't it sad that a lot of people have never heard of pandan serani, much less use it? And they wonder why their pandan chiffon cake, ondeh-ondeh, kueh dadar or kueh salat isn't bright green even though they've squeezed – and squeezed, and squeezed some more – the four, five or even 10 pandan leaves as instructed.

Which brings me to the splotches of blue, made with blue pea flowers, in the rice layer of the kueh salat. It's another thing that's been edited out of most recipes because, you know, we are all 'time-poor'. But if we keep changing recipes, for no reason other than to save time, adopt the latest food fad, or dumb-down for the benefit of those living in foreign land, mistakes sometimes creep in and we don't even realize it. Isn't it nice to make something the way it used to be made? At least once in a while so that we don't become too 'food-culture-poor'?
20 August 2012 Update

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

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

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.

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.

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

Final steps: 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.

Serve as dessert, snack or for tea. Rice should be firm, not mushy; custard should be soft, smooth and rich. 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.

22 August 2012 update: Just thawed a piece of frozen kueh salat and steamed it. Guess what? It eats like it's freshly made.


Anonymous said...

lol love the comment about rasamalaysia

Anonymous said...

You are one funny woman!! I hope Rasa Malaysia read this. Yea, there is no way you can get the bright green colour without using any colouring or pandan paste.

KT said...

I guess she's never gonna ask me to do a guest post now. Oh, sob!

KT said...

Not that she's thinking of asking, or has even heard of a small unknown flogger like moi. Oh, oh, SOB!

Anonymous said...

Don't fall for her stupid guest posting bandwagon! How convenient, start a blog, promote it everywhere shamelessly and once it gets known, start another few blogs and get your content from "guest bloggers" who are so "honoured" to guest blog for you. Meh, don't even read any of her blogs anymore because all the posts are so pretentious and recipes are generic.

Anonymous said...

I totally agreed with the above comment. I heard rumours that she bought some of her food, and pass it off as she made it. Never like her blog anyway. Very pretentious!

Shu Han said...

rasamalaysia's recipes are always a hit and miss thing for me. no wonder.

kt: i rmb making kaya and wondering how to get the bright green also,i can get it slightly tinged green with liberal amounts of pandan, but never bright green. isit that same leaf? got a tip from some straits times writer before also, to actually BLEND the leaves and add that green puree to get a more intense colour.

anonymous: REALLY? she bought her food?? what's the point of blogging that?

KT said...

Hi hi

Thanks for the tip. Yes, I've been blending lots of pandan leaves.

I'm gonna try another recipe, for a yellow kaya that's more eggy, less coconutty, and it takes 5 minutes (I hope).

Creamdeluxec said...

Haha. You're hilarious. I stumbled upon your blog today through another's. I love your comments on Shermay and Rasa Malaysia. Thanks for sharing the tip on bunga telang. I never managed to get the right blue hue from my dried bunga telang. Going to give this a go now...fingers crossed!

KT said...

Hi Creamdeluxec

Please let me know if it works? Thanks.

Miss B said...

I love your sense of humour. I can't remember how I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago, but I was practically rolling on the floor in stitches when I read your comment about Shermay Lee and LKY's mama. And now it's RasaMalaysia, who's next? :-)
I am also guilty of using pandan paste in my kueh salat, but at least I am truthful about it :-)

LeeY said...

Kitchen Tigress - love your comments on the authenticity of other blogs. Thanks for being so candid. Really refreshing to read your comments compared to all the nice and polite comments on other blogs!

KT said...

Those saccharine comments are so sweet and so repetitive they're nauseating. It's an orgy, isn't it, for fondling egos?

Ms A said...

hahaha, you are funny, but it is true. Many many th years ago, I went to cooking demo, the cook, she has long painted bright finger nails and big diamond rings stuck to her fingers while she's preparing dishes ...  the thought of it are so disgusting...  Oh, yes, can post swiss rolls ?

KT said...

Swiss rolls? Yes but probably not any time soon because there're some other recipes lined up.

Lynetteme said...

Fantastic research and comments. I feel like I'm in the kitchen w my mom and her expert cook friends. Thanks. Good detail and eye for reality.

Singaporean in Texas said...

I love your comment on other blog - it is so true about pandan leaves esp in the US - it taste and smell of little less fragrant than in Asia - I am most certain she cheat a little for convenient. Thanks for being for straight forward and I could just said "blunt" LOL... I don't really like her blog but sometime I read it. Hey tried your "Soon Kueh" come out excellent and you great in crediting Rose's blog for the skin.

KT said...

Thanks for your feedback, Singaporean.

Mimi said...

Stumbled upon your blog by accident but I now love it to the thee. Have bookmarked for "real cooking storm" sometime soon. ;) thanks again.

Cyndi Chen said...

Thanks for creating this blog. I could only cook minimally before bumping into this blog. But after watching the cereal prawn video and making it myself, I was impressed by myself. Actually cooking is not as hard as it looks. Just have to watch a good video on cooking. Really appreciate your time and efforts in creating this blog for us the viewers. You've made a difference in my life haha, in your own special way.

Yan said...

So funny re the comments abt scrubbing floor! Where do I get blue pea flowers in the U.S?

kt said...




Amy said...

I love ur recipe so much. I have all the ingredients only the blue peas flower, i have no clue. Could u please tell me where i can buy it? I live in selangor.

Kenyalang said...

Helo, Rimau Dapor, terima kasih resipi Kueh Salat nuan, amai amai resipi ke nadai salah sakali!! Nyamai amai!!

Aiman Anuar said...

First of all, thank you for the great recipe!

I don’t like the idea of using food
colouring as well, but I had to put some in mine. I am studying in Australia,
and fresh pandan leaves are hard to come by. And the frozen ones make the
batter look really dull, especially when I mixed it with the canned coconut
milk, which is more grey than white.

But nonetheless, you have a pretty
foolproof recipe! The seri muka came out very soft but firm, and I used my wok
to cook it as well. Your instructions about the water needing to be below
boiling point, and leaving the lid ajar was great advice!

The sad thing is that I couldn’t get any
blue pea flowers, so I had to leave mine completely plain.

On another note, I was wondering whether
you have ever tried to make seri muka in
other flavours? I know some recipes use a little vanilla essence, and my
friend’s mother said she made a strawberry flavoured one, which didn’t turn out
too well apparently. But do you think it’s possible to make these taste good
with different flavours?

Newbie said...

Hi do i have to soak the glutinous rice in water first?

Ashina D said...

I had never attempted making this kuih before but girll... your instructions and recipe gets my two thumbs up.
Great work!

Oscar Phua Wei Jie said...


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