Whilst we were in Kuala Lumpur, my Uncle John dropped by with a box of Nonya kuih. These are little chewy snack-like treats that tend to feature glutinous rice, rice flour, coconut and pandan as well as many other local flavourings (most of which I can’t name… ). I had just come downstairs as we had all planned to go to a nice dim sum brunch (that is a whole other story) and was greeted with this adorable rainbow of squidgy goodness.
As a child, I was never fond of your typical kuih. Even now, I tend to be quite picky with anything involving sticky rice. So I opted for one thing I knew I would like and another that piqued my curiosity. The first was kuih ketayap, a green spring roll which consists of a soft and sticky pandan crepe rolled around a toasted sweet coconut filling. The gentle flavour of the skin really helps cut through the sharp sweetness of the smoky brown shreds of coconut flesh.
The second thing I sampled was pulut tekan, the blue glutinous rice square topped with kaya (the brown egg custard jam). That vivid indigo shade comes from the butterfly pea flower, which is a popular flavouring in Southeast Asian cuisine. There is a tea in Thailand that uses these flowers which results in a bright blue or indigo translucent drink; very pretty. But back to the kuih; this little rice square had a rather prominent salty note which worked well against the sweet kaya. You could still see the individual grains of rice on the cake but they were very soft and merged together to form a sticky chewy bite.