Kueh Sanur

In food on 01/27/2009 at 10:00 pm

An ex-roommate  introduced me to kueh talam several years ago at a Malaysian dive called Sanur in Chinatown that has two levels of food service. The basement serves dishes to order under greenish fluorescent lighting at ~7 tables. The street level displays traditional desserts by the window and also offers cafeteria-style dining for those on the run, 3 sides with rice for under $4. Whenever we make a trip to Chinatown, we always stop to buy the kueh, even if it’s out of the way. No one else makes this type in NYC that I’ve encountered. Maybe a dive nestled somewhere in the heart of Queens…

Kueh is a whole new world of food that would be intolerable to my palate if it were just a little tiny bit mushier. As is, it is like Jell-O meets smooth rice pudding without grains sans the crunch of agar agar. It’s colorful and jiggly and makes mouths happy. We finally figured out how to reproduce it. As an homage to the only place that makes it, and pretty darn goodly, we re-christen it kueh sanur.

We don’t like all types of kueh, just this kind, talam. Yellow, red, brown versions and flavors, all blech. Talam (aka ‘tray,’ because it’s made in one?) is green on the bottom and white on the top layer. It reminds me of mah jong tiles. You could easily make them any color you wanted, especially the coconut layer. The pandan pasta does impart a greenish hue, so you could probably only make the bottom layer in the green-blue spectrum.

Herewith an interview with our resident baker cum kueh talam lover.

Q: What’s so great about kueh talam?

A: It’s the perfect dessert. It’s salty and sweet, and QQ!

Q: What skill level is required to perform this feat and why would so few places make it?

A: I haven’t perfected it yet. It’s labor-intensive. The American palate doesn’t understand the wonders of salty-sweet, so maybe it’s not as profitable for the amount of work it takes for something you’re going to charge less than $1 for?

Q: If kueh talam were a famous person, who would it be?

A: Rachel Maddow, natch.



White Layer

1 tsp Tapioca Flour
1 oz Rice Flour
7 oz Coconut milk
1/4 tsp Salt
1-2 drops food coloring, if desired

Green Layer

3 oz rice flour
2 oz tapioca flour
8 oz Sugar
2 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup coconut milk
1.5 tsp Pandan Pasta (This is the real deal, not the artificial or imitation crap. We finally found it at our Indonesian grocery at Flushing Mall. The color will be a whitish green; final color will be darker when kueh is cooked and cooled)

Mix all ingredients in separate pots for green and white layers. Heat the green layer first over low heat and stir until slightly thickened. Pour green layer of batter into greased pan (6 X 3″ round cake pan, this depends on how big a steamer you have), steam on med-high heat for ~30 min or until layer is set. Take lid off the last 5 min to allow water to evaporate off the kueh.

Score top of kueh with hatch marks before pouring white layer to increase adhesion.

Meanwhile, heat the white layer first over low heat and stir until slightly thickened. Pour white layer on top. Steam ~20 min. Take lid off the last 5 min to allow water to evaporate off the kueh.

Let cool, try not to gorge yourself.

pandan pasta

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