Malaysian Monday: Serimuka

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mr Kitchen Hand (Mr KH) steadfastly refuses to eat Malaysian desserts or kuih He cannot stand the texture of them and also freaks out that we use vegetables in dessert (think corn, pumpkin, sweet potato, kidney beans). With the mini-critics on my side, I am determined to convert him, one dessert at a time.

So, welcome to the first ever Malaysian Monday, where I’ll attempt a Malaysian sweet treat, and Mr. KH has to try it .
kuih serimuka


Today’s dessert is called Serimuka (literally translated as “glow face” – I don’t really know the origin of the name, I assume it means it’s so tasty it puts a glow on your face). This kuih is made up of a glutinous rice layer and a coconut custard layer on top. It’s flavoured with pandan (screwpine) and steamed instead of baked.

I find a recipe in one of mum’s hand-me-down cookbooks in which she’s collected recipes from various sources. It looks promising as the one I’ve picked has a little tick next to it, marked “good”.

mums recipe books


(The measurements given here are 2/3 from the original recipe.)

coconut, glutinous rice, pandan
Glutinous rice, pandan leaves and a coconut

6oz (625g) glutinous rice
2 eggs
½ cup (150g) thick coconut milk*
1 cup (250g) thin coconut milk*
(I’ve used fresh coconut milk, as described below, but tinned coconut milk can be substituted. Use the milk as is for the thick portion, and water it down for the thin portion).
¼ cup (60g) caster sugar (or to taste)
3 tbsp (30g) rice flour (can be substituted with wheat flour)
About 10 pandan leaves
(do not substitute with pandan essence – it will only disappoint. If pandan is unavailable, the coconut layer can be flavoured with either palm sugar or brown sugar. I don’t see why vanilla extract wouldn’t work either.)
Pinch of salt.

(Pre-soaking time at least 4 hours)

First make the glutinous rice layer.

1) Soak glutinous rice in about 2 cups cold water. (The recipe doesn’t say for how long. I soaked it for 4 hours and it worked fine, although I assume it’s meant to be overnight)
2) Lightly oil a cake tin/ heatproof baking dish that will fit inside a steamer.
3) Drain soaked rice and mix with the thin coconut milk and salt.
4) Pour into the prepared tin/dish and smooth surface so that the rice lies in an even layer.
5) Tie a knot in one of the pandan leaves and put into the rice mixture.
6) Steam for about 12-15 minutes until the rice is cooked (taste to check. It will look translucent).

wok steamingYou can use a wok to steam, just pop a pot-stand in the base

7) Remove from heat and flatten surface of rice firmly with a spoon. This will help it hold its shape when cut. Set aside.

Coconut layer

1) Dice the pandan leaves and use a mortar and pestle to grind and extract juice. (My leaves were a bit on the dry side so I added about 1 tsp water). Strain and keep the bright green juice, discard the solids.
2) Beat the eggs and the sugar until sugar dissolves and mixture is light.
3) Beat in the thick coconut cream and the pandan juice.
4) Beat in the rice flour until smooth.

(Put the glutinous rice layer back into the steamer to warm it up a little – about 2 minutes)

5) Pour the coconut and egg mixture over the glutinous rice layer, cover and steam for about 15 minutes. Cook until preferred “setness” is achieved. I like the kuih to be a bit soft, so I cook the top layer until there is still a slight wobble in it – like a baked custard. Others prefer a firmer layer, and this can be achieved by adding more flour and a longer cooking time.

*Fresh coconut milk
(otherwise known as “How to do things the hard way”)

For authenticity’s sake, I decide to use fresh coconut milk- which is a long drawn out process in a Western kitchen.

how to crack a coconut

Step 1: (Do this outdoors as the coconut juice will go everywhere). Place coconut on a tea towel in one hand. Using a heavy object like a rolling pin , whack the coconut across the middle, and rotate the coconut. Keep hitting and rotating and soon a crack will appear down the middle. Drain juice.

Step 2: Pop coconut halves in freezer for about half an hour, this makes it easier to extract the meat.

Step 3: Prise meat from shell, use vegetable grater or paring knife to peel of the attached brown layer. To make life easier, break up the halves with the rolling pin. (I had to keep mine in a half bowl shape because mini-critic senior wanted to keep it).
coconut meat
Step 4: For best results, grate the coconut flesh. But I am not that masochistic so I whack it into the food processor with about 1//2 a cup of water to loosen. Process until fine.

Step 5: Put grated coconut into a large bowl. Add ½ cup warm water. Use your hand to mush it around a bit, then take handfuls of the coconut and squeeze over a sieve. Collect “milk” in a bowl. Save the squeezed coconut bits. This first squeeze of milk is the thick milk.

Step 6: Add 1 cup warm water to the squeezed coconut. Repeat the squeeze and sieve process. You can discard the coconut after this, but I’ve saved it in the freezer for another project.

And how did the dessert turn out? I think it tasted fabulous and had the texture I wanted. It wasn’t as green as the traditional kuih, but I didn’t add food colouring which most kuih have.

What did Mr KH think? Here’s his score (and very vocal comments):

The MKH Malaysian Dessert Scale-O-Meter
(Scores out of 5)

1) Aesthetic Appeal : 2 ("It looks sludgy.")

2) Texture: 1.5 ("Eee! It resembles something that is dead!")

3) Taste: 2. ("Do I have to put it in my mouth? It smells like something not quite refrigerated properly…err…")When I finally convince him to take a bite – he says it tastes a bit *meh*. It’s mild enough but not to his taste. (“It tasted faintly of lawn clipping,” he remarks a bit later.)

Would he eat this dessert again: No.

Sigh…let’s see how it goes next Monday!


Ellie said...

Love your Malaysian Monday idea!!! My hubby doesn't eat kuih as well. I am still scratching my head to try to find a way to get him to like them. I love seri muka, haven't made them for ages. To cure my homesickness, I made kaya today.

shaz said...

Thanks Ellie. My hubby just can't seem to get past the texture...he loves all the savoury food though, which is good:)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

These are fantastic! My mum makes these and they're always wolfed down within minutes. It's funny how many people don't like the idea of sweet beans but I guess if you grow up wiht it it doesn't sound so unusual! :)

Julia @ Mélanger said...

This looks so lovely. I don't mind 'savoury' foods in my dessert. I had some red bean ice-cream and loved it. Funny the pictures of cracking open the coconut. For some reason we always had coconut growing up. Whole ones. We used to drill into the top so we could empty off the juice, then we'd crack it open to get to the flesh. This looks a lot quicker!!

shaz said...

Thanks Lorraine - I think it's the unexpectedness that gets people (I was lucky enough to dine at Tetsuya's last year and the sweet lentils and cheese dish really threw me!)

Thanks Julia - The coconut is meant to be struck with the back of a machete or knife, but no way was I waving a knife near my face!

The Little Teochew said...

Kudos to you for making everything from scratch! I'll gladly eat your husband's portion the next time he politely declines ;)

veggie belly said...

Love the picture of that handwritten recipe :)) Handed down recipes and cook books bring back so many memories :)

Anh said...

My MIL will love this. As for me, I do not normally like Asian desserts… But hey, I like ondeh ondeh and I want to try this as well.