Kueh Lapis (II) | KitchenTigress

Kueh Lapis (II)


Kueh lapis is tapioca starch that's mixed with coconut milk and sugar, then steamed one thin layer at a time.

Coconut milk gives kueh lapis its taste and aroma. Tapioca starch makes its texture chewy and stretchy.

Traditionally, there're 9 layers in kueh lapis. That's why it's Chinese name means 9-layer cake (九层糕).

My kueh lapis also has 9 layers. Each white portion is made with 2 white layers, not just 1. Double stacking makes the contrast between white and blue more distinct.

Long before unicorn food became a fad, kueh lapis had multi-coloured layers. The most popular colour combination is red, green and white. The topmost layer is typically red, probably for good luck.

My kueh lapis is blue and white. The blue layers are coloured with blue pea flowers, so I don't use artificial food dyes.


Kueh lapis is best enjoyed layer by layer.


You peel off a layer, tilt your head back, say 'Aaah!', then pop the layer in your mouth.

If no one is looking, let the kueh lapis hang from your mouth for a few seconds so you look like you have a very long tongue.

Shake your head to make the tongue flop from side to side. Enjoy the chewy texture and coconut fragrance when you're done playing.

Kueh lapis is a food you should play with.




KUEH LAPIS (九层糕)
Source: Adapted from Cooking for the President
(Recipe for 10 pieces)

4 pandan leaves, wash and cut 10 cm long
185 g sugar
⅓ tsp salt
400 ml freshly squeezed coconut milk, undiluted
200 g tapioca starch
50 fresh bunga telang (blue pea flowers)
– rinse gently and remove ants if any; drain, then blot gently with paper towels
1 piece parchment paper, 15 x 15 cm

1. Pound flowers finely. Strain to yield 2-3 tsp juice. Set aside. Discard pulp.

2. In a small pot, make pandan water by gently simmering pandan leaves for 5 minutes, covered, in just enough water to cover. Discard leaves. Measure 160 ml from the pandan water and discard excess, or top up with water as necessary if you're short.

3. Put pandan water back in the pot, along with sugar and salt. Stir till salt and sugar dissolve, over low heat if you like. Add coconut milk and stir till even. Add tapioca starch and mix thoroughly. Strain into a mixing bowl. Push undissolved starch through strainer.

4. Measure 270 ml from the batter. Add flower juice. Stir till colour is even.

5. Bring kettle to the boil and set aside.

6. Rinse 15-cm square cake tin to make it wet. Line bottom with parchment paper. Bring steamer to a rolling boil. Pour enough white batter into cake tin to form a layer 3 mm thick, about 100 ml. Place tin in steamer. Steam 5 minutes over rapidly boiling water. Steam another layer of white, then blue. Repeat the white-white-blue sequence twice, making 9 layers in total.

Other than the first one, each layer needs about 90 ml batter. Stir batter to mix starch evenly before measuring each round of batter. Have measured batter ready before lifting lid on steamer. Once lid is removed, quickly pour batter into cake tin and cover steamer. Every layer is steamed 5 minutes except the topmost, which gets 10 minutes.

7. Make sure steamer doesn't boil dry. To top up steamer: a) wait till previous layer of batter is cooked; b) reboil water in kettle; c) add boiling water to steamer as necessary; d) bring steamer back to a rolling boil, covered. After step d, proceed to steam more layers as described above.

8. When all 9 layers are done, remove kueh lapis to a wire rack to cool down completely and set, about 3 hours.

9. To unmould kueh, loosen edges with a knife. Cover top of kueh with parchment paper to keep it clean, then turn cake tin upside down and knock firmly against chopping board till kueh falls out. Discard top piece of parchment paper. Cut kueh by pressing knife downward, i.e. do not saw. Discard bottom piece of parchment paper.

10. Serve kueh lapis as a dessert, snack, or for tea. Leftovers should be refrigerated. Steam on a perforated tray till just heated through, then cool to room temperature before eating.