South East Asian cuisine, as one knows, is diverse in a rich and colourful way. Distinct sharp flavours often puctuated by the clever use of exotic spices and earthy fresh ingredients have come to depict the identity of SE Asian cuisine to many.
Needless to say, gastronomy nostalgia for me, with my Singaporean roots, will always have to involve food or ingredients that transport me back to the region. Dessert will always be a category that grips many and for many of us who reside in the South East Asia, Kuih, those bitesized snacks that come in a myriad of textures, colours and taste will always evoke fond memories and comfort.
Common ingredients for Kuih include coconut products, root vegetables such as tapioca or sweet potato, rice flour (SE Asia's staple carb component) and.... Gula Melaka (palm sugar) which transforms our sweets further with its exotic sweetness. Commonly used in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesian cuisine, the palm sugar resembles brown sugar but has a more distinct caramel or butterscotch like flavour. The palm sugar, being more accessible and cheaper than refined white cane sugar was very often the sweet note on the simplest desserts such as sago pudding, coconut milk based chendol and in this case, the no frills, straight forward rice cake, Kuih Kosui.
I have to admit that Kuih Kosui has never been my favourite kuih but it is possibly the one that best celebrates the flavours of palm sugar. Commonly steamed in a tray and cut into rectangular slices to be coated with grated coconut, there are others who also steam these in little cup molds. I have decided today to try to work with these little leaf cups which I had bought at a wet market in Chinatown, Bangkok. However, I must admit regret in dressing up the kuih in these cups for the the dried leafy cup carries with it a scent that I feel do not meld with the palm sugar.
Overall though, this is definitely one classic dessert which sets off the sweet exotic flavours of Gula Melaka in an honest, earthy manner and for many of us who hail from the region, I have no doubt that it will bring back sweet dessert memories we grew with.
RecipePalm Sugar 100g
Rice Flour 5 tbsp
Tapioca Flour 2 tbsp
Alkaline water 1/2 tsp
Grated coconut 50g (salted and steamed)
Salt 1/2 tsp
1. In a heavy saucepan, place palm sugar and water. Heat up to dissolve the palm sugar. Add castor sugar, and continue to heat until sugar dissolves.
2. Add Alkaline water and Rice flour and Tapioca flour and mix well.
3. Return the saucepan over the stove and over low heat and with stirring, cook the batter until the batter starts to become a thicker flowable batter.
4. In a spearate pot, heat up water to prepare for steaming.
5. Pour (3) into molds (either a rectangular tray or small cups)
6. Steam (5) over high heat for about 15mins.
7. Cool down and garnish with salted grated coconut.