I was chatting with my old friend, Jo and we were wondering on what is the real name for this sweet crepe like dessert that we usually get from the Malay cake shops in Malaysia. I grew up calling it 'Kuih Lenggang' but in all the recipe books that I have seen, it is called 'Kuih Dadar'. Whatever it is called, this sweet roll is fun to eat at teatime with a cup of plain hot tea to wash down the sweet taste of the coconut filling.
Pandan leaves are used to infuse and give color to the pancakes. Over here, I use Pandan paste as I find the frozen Pandan leaves at the Asian groceries not convincing and not naturally pungent anymore after a shelf life in the freezer. Perhaps in Malaysia, Pandan is not prized as a gourmet ingredient for the fact that it can be grown easily and anywhere at the backyard but over here, where weather is not permitting in my neck of the woods to grow any, I see it as a very unique thing that shares the gourmet status as the vanilla bean.
The filling which consists of grated coconut cooked in palm sugar, known as 'Gula Melaka' in Malaysia is a marriage of ingredients that comes from the same group and different species of Palm trees, both different in texture and taste and yet quite similar in the aromatic sense. I am a big fan of coconut and sipping its cooling juice with a straw poked into a little opening cut on top of the coconut shell is the most enjoyable thing to do by the seaside. I used to live nearby the sea in Malaysia and will have a coconut opened up by the stall vendor to let me dig in the white clean flesh after the drink. A small piece is cut off from the shell to use as a spoon to do all the grating and digging and the flesh will just comes off slippery and soaked with juice that you just slurp in and relishing it at the same time! Coconut flesh is one of those things that I find most natural in its taste without any need of adding anything and yet tastes so good.
Melting down the palm sugar with low heat and patience is important as overheating will burn it so quick that you won't even realise as the sugar itself is already brown and fragrant to start with. Once melted, the consistency is more thicker than regular syrup and the grated coconut flesh is mixed in to absorb the water content of the sugar, hence resulting in brown coated strands which tends to dry up a little after a while and the presence of the palm sugar sweetness just comes bursting out when the filling is bite into. For coconut lovers, this is the best Pancake roll that satisfies their palates as every bite is like munching into a baked and roasted coconut itself with its pungent charred aroma to go with it.
The making of the Pancake part surely is another test of patience. Firstly, the batter itself must be thin enough to swirl around a hot frying pan and to let it sit in the pan for at least 2 minutes on both sides while making sure that it doesn't char too much on the surface which can render it too dry to roll up is not as easy as I first thought. The batter must be smooth and free of lumps before hitting the pan and requires constant stirring while in the mixer bowl as the flour tends to set down to the bottom after letting rest for a certain time. The rolling up part is like doing a spring roll with a spoonful of the filling scattered near one edge, leaving a mere 1 inch on both sides for enclosing and rolling from the bottom edge tucking in all the coconut fillings and then folding in the sides using the index and middle finger to hold the seams in place while finishing up the rolling part with my thumbs doing most of the work. I let all the rolled up pancakes sit compactly together while they are still warm with the closing seams faced down to ensure they seal up before serving.
It is preferable to eat this pancake on the day it is made as it gets tough after one day. The perfect 'Kuih Dadar' will be one with thin pancake, a little charred from the pan frying effect with lots but not overflowing sweet coconut filling. One or two of this at teatime will satisfy your sugar craving and sustain energy level till dinner time and perhaps another one as a sweet ending to any meal will be nice too.