Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Layered Kueh (Kuih Lapis)

Like the seasons, my tastebuds has a particular liking to something at certain times. This few weeks, I am drawn to the Local kueh that I can find easily back in Malaysia but have to shop for ingredients and make my own over here! Thank goodness I can find substitute in the form of canned coconut milk, dried grated coconut flesh, frozen pandan leaves and the list of Asian ingredients that is rarely printed in the cookbooks over here! I cannot imagine myself grating and cracking up a coconut, imagine the chaos it will do to my little kitchen and I will probably destroy my countertop with the cleaver while the coconut happily roll away.

It is very true that you only learn to appreciate things that you take for granted when they are not available. I remember eating this layered kueh when I was young, there were rainbow colored ones or simply 2 or 3 toned and peeling every piece off randomly and easily shoving them into my mouth was fun. But now I have to make it, I understand the labor intensive involved in layering and steaming it. So I appreciate it alot now and swear that I will never treat a piece of 'kuih lapis' as another simple thing in life!

The most difficult thing I find doing this kueh is positioning the steaming plate in my over abused wok and the steamer rack. And I used a glass pyrex loaf pan which was not wholly straightedged, so I had to bend and continously tipping the pan to a balanced state! Next came the dividing of the rice and tapioca flour mixture into 2 colors. To get a perfect quantity amount for each, I used the measuring cup to measure 100ml everytime and fill in 2 separate bowls till I got both even. I have heard stories of one color running out or uneven layers of colors and certainly if I have to do this, I will do it right once and for all! After dividing equal amount in 2 separate bowls, I colored one red or rather pink and started the steamer to medium heat. The trick to get the kueh to easily come out of the steaming pan after it is done is to wipe a small quantity of cooking oil inside the pan and put the oiled pan into the steamer while waiting for the water to boil. Next I used my measuring cups to scoop, pour and do the layering and for this recipe, I used the 1/2 cup size and 1/4 size, combined together to make 3/4 cup of each layer color. During the steaming, it is important not to drop the water droplets from the steam that has compiled inside the lid of the wok onto the kueh, therefore take care when removing the lid everytime the next layer is added. I wiped the lid dry everytime I open and replace it. Yes, that makes it 9 times wiping, layering and perhaps 45 minutes of steaming! No kids play and that is what I meant that I will never eat this kueh the same way that I did when I was a kid! Imagine each layer took 6 minutes to cook and perhaps just 1 minute to peel all of them off!

I was hoping the 9 layers will turn out perfect, but for a first timer, there is bound to be something amiss. For the 1st and last layers, you can see that these layers were thinner than the rest in the middle part as I was not sure when I started with the 1st and didn't have enough to finish the last! In all, I ended up with 7 perfect layers. In my hometown Malaysia, this kueh is indeed called "the 7 layered kuih" but in Hong Kong, I think they make the 9 layered one, for auspicious reasons I guess. Anyways, I am very happy with my success as the texture was right, not too soft nor wet, just the right chewiness and gooeyness with the right amount of sweetness which was not overwhelming and the kids and father in law loved it. Curry will have no say as he seems to dislike anything coconut! And of course, Missy E couldn't resist peeling the layers while Prince D found it intriguing that he can pull the slices apart and able to pinch and pull with his 2 little fingers. Sigh, there goes my 7 layers of hard work!
p.s.I adapted the recipe for this kueh from the Periplus Mini Cookbooks titled Malaysian Cakes & desserts. I reduced the water content to 300ml instead of the stated 600ml to get the perfect texture.

1 comment:

terri@adailyobsession said...

very well done, really impressive. my 7 layer kuih failed. it didn't have a nice bite n yes, i messed up the thickness of the layers n like u, i appreciate this kuih even more after making it. does this recipe make springy kuih?