Hello from Singapore! I’ve been here for 10 days now and I’ve finally gotten a chance to indulge in some kitchen therapy. I’ve been having the greatest time eating at the local food courts, wandering the markets, and sampling the cute, colorful desserts.
The food here is exciting, flavorful, and really different from anything I’ve ever had (including the food in China and Hong Kong!). Because the Singaporean population is primarily a mix of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian people, the cuisine shows strong influences from each culture, which in turn makes for some really interesting meals. Your typical bowl of Chinese noodles might have a spicy Southeast Asian twist on it, or a steamed bun might be filled with Indian curry instead of barbeque pork.
Another characteristic of the local cusine is that Singaporeans can’t seem to get enough chili sauce– McDonald’s serves it as a condiment for burgers and fries (as well as curry sauce), children begin eating it early on, and no matter what kind of food a Singaporean has in front of them, it seems like they always add at least a little bit of spicy sauce for some extra flavor. I’ve been trying to be adventurous as far as taste testing goes, but I’ve definitely been called a wimp more than once for my pathetic heat tolerance!
Anyway, I decided early in my trip that while I was here, I was going to try and replicate some of the local desserts. If you didn’t already know, Asian desserts are much different from the usual cakes and brownies we’re used to back in the US. In Singapore- a popular treat is the Malaysian nyonya kuih- or “lady cakes”. These bite-sized desserts are commonly made with tapioca, palm sugar, sweet potatoes, pandan leaves and coconut milk- and they also tend to be really bright and colorful. Asian cuisine emphasizes texture much more than European and American cuisine does, and I’ve been enjoying my chance to taste all the chewy, springy, gelatinous desserts that I can.
What I have for you today, is one of my favorite nyonya cakes so far, kuih dadar (also called kuih ketayap), which is a pandan flavored crepe with a sweet, fresh coconut filling. The crepe is colored with pandan paste (some people also mash up the leaves and use pandan juice), and the coconut is steeped in a delicious brown palm sugar.
The ingredients available in Singapore are fresh and flavorful- as you can see below, I was able to find grated fresh coconut, which is leaps and bounds better than the dried stuff we have in the grocery stores at home! The brown disc-like things are chunks of palm sugar, and thick coconut milk is found very easily here as well (it is NOT the same as the Silk coconut beverage you find in the health food section- it’s more like the canned stuff you find in the Asian foods aisle).
The batter and the prepared filling—
And my finished product! I bought this place mat here in Singapore as well (I’ve been on a polka dot craze lately).
This recipe is so easy that I plan on making it for my friends back home in the near future. Hope you try it and enjoy!
Kuih Dadar (Kuih Ketayap)
120 g flour
300 ml (1 1/3 cups) coconut milk
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pandan (screwpine) paste, or green food coloring as a lesser alternative
80 mg Gula Melaka (palm sugar, can replace with plain brown sugar as a lesser alternative)
1 tablespoon sugar
80 ml water
120 g shredded fresh coconut (if using dried add 2 tablespoons of coconut cream)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Dissolve sugars and water in a sauce pan on medium low heat. Stir in shredded coconut and cornstarch until you have a moist, golden brown coconut filling. Leave aside to cool.
Next, sift flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk in egg and the coconut milk until combined. Add pandan paste and stir until batter is a homogeneous green color.
Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan on medium low heat, and spoon 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the center. Spread the batter out with the back of your spoon to make the pancake very, very thin. Flip when the top begins to look dry. Remove pancake from the stove, place on a cutting board, and spoon two heaping teaspoons of the coconut filling onto one side the the pancake. Roll the pancake like a spring roll, tucking in the edges as you go. Serve immediately and enjoy!