When you walk along streets with picturesque heritage buildings in Singapore, Indonesia or Malaysia, you’ll come across stores selling kuehs, bite-sized steamed savory snacks or desserts typically made of glutinous rice or rice flour. Many variations of kuehs were created by the Peranakans, a unique culture that was born from the beautiful fusion of the food, clothing and lifestyles of the Malay and Chinese communities.
Kueh Salat’s intense blue hue comes from the blue pea flower, also known as the butterfly pea flower. These flowers grow wild in Southeast Asia but you can buy dried versions online in the US. The rest of the ingredients, including kaya can be found at any Asian grocery store. Note that pandan leaves are in the frozen aisle instead of at the produce section.
Kueh Salat is best enjoyed with kaya, a sweet coconut jam smeared generously on top of the rice. The slightly salty rice is infused with the essence of the pandan leaf which has a slight vanilla flavor to it. When combined with the sweet jam, the flavors do a harmonious dance on your taste buds!
- 4 ¾ cup glutinous rice (sticky rice), rinsed well in a sieve
- 5 cups water (or more)
- 1.25 cups of dried blue pea flower, also known as butterfly pea flower
- 1 assam peel (dried tamarind)
- 4 pandan leaves, knotted
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large banana leaf
- Jar of kaya (coconut jam)
Boil the water and pour it over the blue flowers. Let it soak for a few minutes until the water turns dark blue. When the water has cooled down, strain out the flowers.
Pour the room temperature blue water over the uncooked glutinous rice in a medium pot and add an assam peel in it. Cover and leave overnight for 8 to 10 hours.
Strain the rice in a sieve and remove the assam peel. By now, the rice kernels will be bright blue in color! Place the rice on a muslin cloth that’s already in a steamer. Add pandan leaves with the rice and steam for about 45-60 minutes until the rice is soft.
Take out the entire muslin cloth with the rice and place in a large mixing bowl. Add salt in the coconut milk and stir. Then carefully stir the milk into the rice and mix well.
Put the muslin cloth with the rice back into the steamer and steam for another 5 minutes.
After the rice is ready, place in a 9-inch square cake tin lined with banana leaf at the bottom and sides. Evenly press the rice down. Then lay saren wrap on top of the rice and place another slightly smaller tin on top with something heavy (dumbbells or a heavy book) pressing it down. The goal is to get the rice pressed down tightly and evenly. Leave it to rest for a few hours.
When cutting it to serve, use a sharp clean knife. Serve with kaya spread on top.