Only when I moved to Australia, homesick for the flavours of my mother’s kitchen, did I attempt to recreate dishes I loved. Having a lot of time on my hands and feeling very motivated, we ate many intricate, home-cooked Malaysian meals during those early years. But then work, study and eventually kids, started taking up more of my time and the practise of cooking Malaysian gave way to anything fast, simple and most of all acceptable to the mini-critics’ palates (pasta became a staple).
Malaysian Monday is a way of motivating myself to re-introduce some childhood favourites to the family (and if you’re a regular visitor, you’ll know it has been a hit and miss affair).
While I’m pretty confident at the savoury Malaysian dishes, my success rate with the sweet stuff is pretty erratic, mainly to do with the vagueness of Malaysian recipes. Take for instance this Kuih Bangkit (Bangkit=rise), a popular biscuit (cookie) for the Chinese New Year celebrations (which falls on February 14th this year). Mum’s handwritten notes contain two recipes, both without any method attached. A frantic teleconference later, I’ve been talked through the method and told which recipe to use. But how on earth do I measure a recipe that calls for 3 coconuts and ¾ tin of cornflour. How big a tin? Or for that matter, how big a coconut?
So I fiddle about with the measurements and base my calculations on a 375ml can (I vaguely remember mum measuring with an empty evaporated milk can). Halfway through the mixing process, I suddenly understand why Mum didn’t quite want our “help” when she made these cookies. Flour flies EVERYWHERE! By the time I’d finished, there was a thin coating of flour on the kitchen bench, the stove, the floor and me! (So glad the kids are in bed at this point)
The resulting cookies are a mixed bunch, some of them end up looking like the real McCoy and the rest look like Scarface, with cracking and fissures. But you know what? I’m actually pretty pleased with them. For a first time effort, they actually look like they’re meant to (apart from the cracking) and they taste really good too. The texture isn’t quite right yet, the cookies aren’t as “melt-in-the-mouth” as the ones mum used to make, but hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad ☺
Both the mini-critics liked the kuih bangkit, but immediately reached for glasses of water after. Be warned, it has quite a dry mouthfeel but it’s meant to be that way.
(a typical cookie served during the Lunar New Year celebrations. It is made from either sago or tapioca flour and tastes very coconut-ty. If the cookies were made right, the texture should be dry and crisp at first bite, then dissolves pleasurably on the tongue. I have a feeling that my cookies didn’t contain enough liquid, so next time I’ll experiment with adding a couple of tablespoons more coconut cream. Also, I think I didn’t let the flours cool sufficiently after frying. This is my mum’s recipe, I’ve seen other recipes around that use only egg yolks instead of whole eggs, and some recipes call for butter as well).
320g tapioca starch
2 heaped tbsp (about 20g) cornflour
Pandan leaves if available
The day before (or few hours before), lightly toast the cornflour and the tapioca flour , and some pandan leaves in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat. The flours should start to lose moisture and become really lightweight and fluffy, almost like talcum powder. Set aside to cool completely (if making a day or two ahead, leave to cool then store in airtight container). I actually cooked them separately, and used a little bit more tapioca flour than I thought I’d need – this came in handy to dust and flour the kuih bangkit mould.
½ cup (100g) thick coconut cream or more if needed (I used the canned stuff)
½ tsp Vanilla extract (because I didn’t have pandan leaves)
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to about 150˚/160˚C. Beat the eggs and sugar until very light and at least doubled in volume (about 5 minutes on high with my electric hand-held beaters).
Sift the flours into a large bowl, with a pinch of salt. Mix the vanilla extract to the coconut milk. Using a spatula, fold in the eggs and then add the coconut milk a little at a time until a pliable, smooth dough forms. You may need a little more or less coconut cream, or if too “wet”, then more flour is needed. If you pick up a ball of dough, you should be able to roll it into a ball and it should still hold its shape.
Lightly dust the “kuih bangkit” mould (thanks mum!) with cornflour or tapioca flour (I used cornflour), pop a ball of dough into the mould, then very gently press it in (not too hard or it will stick). Use a knife to level off the dough. Hold the mould at an angle to the bench top and give it a firm tap to dislodge the dough shapes. If all goes to plan, they should fall out and look perfect (not smooshed like some of mine did).
(Actually I think my mould is a pineapple tart mould but it works just as well for this cookie. Mum has a beautiful, old wooden mould with intricate animal shapes).
If you don’t have a mould, the dough can be rolled out quite thickly and cut with cookie cutters.
Bake at 300˚F / 150˚C , for anywhere between 15-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the cookie. Check often, turn trays if needed. The aim is to get a really dry cookie but without too much colouration. It needs to be dry all the way through so snap one or two in half to check, and put it back into the oven if needed.
Have a good week ☺