The British have influenced many aspects of our life here in Malaysia. Among other things, one of the most British habits that we have fully taken on board, assimilated and kept is the culture of teatime.
Besides the tea served in delicate fine bone China, we Malaysians do teatime quite differently. Instead of indulging in light finger sandwiches and subtly-flavoured tea cakes, we dine on bite-sized kueh, rich in strong flavours like coconut milk, pandan and gula Melaka (palm sugar). One of the must-have teatime kueh is the Kueh Seri Muka.
Feel Pretty in Every Bite
Kueh Seri Muka or ‘Pretty Face’, in its literal English translation, is a popular Nyonya Kueh that comprises of two layers of different colours and flavours. The top layer is traditionally made of green pandan custard while the bottom layer is made of tightly packed glutinous rice, cut into small rectangles.
The glutinous rice layer is usually white, but sometimes, like in the recipe I am sharing today, it is mixed with some butterfly pea extract in order to make it more attractive and elegant. Maybe that’s why it’s called Kueh Seri Muka.
Married with a Sweet Note
Before, Nyonya kuehs were usually served during weddings since they signify happiness and prosperity directed towards the happy couple. In addition, these kuehs were usually tinted with vibrant, bright colours in honour of the auspicious day. Another interesting fact is, the complex flavours of the Nyonya kueh; sweet, sour and salty, which you can taste in just one bite, symbolizes the ups and downs the newly weds will go through in life. It is also to subtly tell them that with every sorrow, there will be happiness. Such beautiful sentiments, these Nyonyas!
Today, Nyonya kuehs, including the pretty Seri Muka is eaten as a dessert or afternoon snack or whenever you just feel like having something sweet.
a) Bottom Layer
- 450g glutinous rice
- 300ml thin coconut milk, 150ml coconut milk + 150ml water
- 100ml thin coconut milk (for 2nd steaming time)
- 2 tbs of castor sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 pandan leaves cut into 3
- 20 butterfly pea flower
- 2 cups of water
c) Top Custard Layer
- 300ml thick coconut milk (fresh coconut if possible)
- 3 large whole eggs
- 180g castor sugar
- 300ml pandan juice, blend 30 pandan leaves with 1 cup water, extract and sieve the juice, excess pandan juice can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks
- 60g plain flour
- 30g corn flour
a) Glutinous Rice Layer
- Soak butterfly pea flowers in 2 cups hot water for 30 minutes. Remove flowers and soak half the glutinous rice (225g) in the blue tinted water.
- Soak the remaining half portion of the 225g of glutinous rice in plain water for 2 hours. Do not cover or soak too long as it will ferment.
- Prepare and place banana leaves on 2 separate steaming pans.
- In a bowl, combine the first portion (300ml) of coconut milk and salt. This mixture will be used to steam the glutinous rice and the one dyed with the butterfly pea extract.
- Place both portions of glutinous rice in the pans and insert the pandan leaves randomly in between. Divide the coconut milk mixture between the two pans.
- Bring water in the 2 steamers to a boil and steam both glutinous rice over high heat for 25 minutes or until cooked.
- Remove the steaming pans and fluff up the rices with a pair of chopsticks.
- Place and combine both rices in the pans and flatten it with a spoon or hands to compact it. Pour in the second portion (100ml) of coconut milk. Steam for another 10 minutes.
b) Custard Layer
- Mix all of the ingredients and strain it, cook in a double boiler until mixture thickens slightly but still runny enough to pour through a sieve.
- Remove the pans from the steamer and use a sieve to pour in the egg mixture onto the steamed rice.
- Steam the custard layer on medium low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Place an aluminium foil loosely on top of the pan so that the water from the steamer will not drip into the pans.
- Cover the top of the pans in order to prevent cracks forming on the custard layer. Once cooked, leave to cool completely before cutting and serving.
So Easy, So Satisfying!
Nothing beats the satisfaction you feel after successfully trying out an easy recipe, right? Nyonya kuehs are very delicate and require careful preparation. However, it does not take much ingredients to prepare such decadent sweetmeats. Even the well-loved Victorian sandwiches cannot compete with the Seri Muka!
If you love this recipe and would want to try more recipes of Malaysian favourite dishes and sweet treats, follow Butterkicap on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook when you want to try out delicious Nyonya recipes by yours truly easily. If you have anything you’d like to ask about the dishes you have tried, feel free to slide into my DM @justinescakesandkueh