Did I ever tell you that I am Malaysian by birth?
I lived in Malaysia for the first 16 years of my life. (My family still live there …. mum, dad, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews, niece, uncles, aunts and cousins. I miss them a lot.) I then spent the latter part of my teenage years at boarding school in southern England - it was nothing like Enid Blyton's St Clare's or Malory Towers and most certainly nothing like Harry Potter's Hogwarts. After boarding school, I went to a city centre university in the heart of England and after university, I stayed on in the UK, got a job, got married, had kids etc. Travelling back to Malaysia is an expensive affair and doesn’t happen very often. Now and then, I get really homesick – I miss the family and I also miss the food.
Malaysian food is pretty varied, reflecting the wonderful mix of cultures in the country. One of the best things for me about Malaysian food is its fantastic collection of kueh (kuih or kway).
Wikipedia says this about Kueh:
“Kuih are bite-sized snack or dessert foods in the Malay Archipelago. Kuih is a fairly broad term which may include items that would be called cakes, cookies, pudding, biscuit, or pastries in English. Kuih (plural kueh-mueh or kuih-muih in Malay) are more often steamed than baked, and thus very different in texture, flavour and appearance from Western cakes or puff pastries. They are mostly sweet, but some kuih are savoury.”
Living so far away from Malaysia has meant that if I did yearn for good old Malaysian food, I had to make it myself. Today when I got home from work and whilst fixing the kids their dinner, I had a sudden urge to make Kueh Bakar, a baked kueh flavoured like most kuehs, with coconut cream and pandan (screwpine) extract. Like many other kuehs, Kueh Bakar has a distinctive soft, almost pudding-like, yet firm texture. Traditionally it is baked in a heavy flower shaped pan – I didn’t have one so I poured the mixture into my frying pan, scattered the toasted sesame seeds on top and stuck it into the oven!
I used this recipe from Lily’s Wai Sek Hong blog and it turned out pretty good. The pandan extract I have is pretty strong and very green (my mum brought it over from Malaysia for me on one of her previous visits) – hence the intense green colour of my kueh.
Dinoboy has christened this “Shrek cake” on account of its ogre-like hue of green.
The aroma of pandan wafting from the oven instantly transported me back to my childhood days in Malaysia. It’s a sweet, fragrant, creamy and oh-so-green slice of home on a plate.