Kuih Lapis (Layered Steamed Cake)

Kuih lapis is one of many traditional Malaysian bite-sized desserts (kuih, pronounced as ‘kweh’) that can take many forms and tastes (from sweet to savoury to spicy). The word ‘lapis’ means ‘layer’ and the name comes from its construction — layers of alternating colour that result in a nice stripy pattern after cutting.

This version results in the soft and slightly sticky version. After having compared several versions of the recipe, apparently, you should increase the amount of tapioca flour (tepung ubi) if you wish a ‘springier’, firmer, and shinier version. Recipe adapted and translated from Sinar Kehidupanku’s blog.

 

Kuih Lapis (Layered Steamed Cake)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rice flour flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (*original recipe was 1 cup sugar)
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk (I used 1 small tetra pack of Kara coconut cream and added a bit of water to fill up 1 cup)
  • 3 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • food colouring and flavouring of choice

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the 3 types of flour, sugar, and salt. Add the coconut milk and water.
  2. Mix everything and pass through a sieve (optional). Divide into 3 parts and put inside separate bowls.
  3. Add a different colour into each bowl. You can add in flavouring, if you wish. Leave one bowl without any food colouring if you want a white layer.
  4. Heat up your steamer. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of your pan. (I used a round 6-inch pan.)
  5. Pour in 1 cup of one colour and steam for 5 minutes or until the layer firms up.
  6. Pour in 1 cup of the next colour and steam for another 5 minutes.
  7. Continue the layering and steaming until all the batter is finished. Steam the final layer for about 20 minutes.
  8. Once cooked, remove the pan from the steamer and leave to cool for an hour or so to allow the kuih lapis to firm up. Make sure the kuih lapis has completely cooled down before cutting into bite-sized pieces. Use a plastic knife, such as those ‘knives’ you get for free when buying a cake from the bakery.

Important notes:

  • When removing the cover of your pot/steamer in between layers, take care not to allow any of the water that has condensed under the cover to fall into the kuih lapis.
  • Make sure each layer is firm before adding on the next layer in order to achieve a nice and even stripy pattern (unlike my first attempt!).
  • If you want to make the top layer look flawless, burst any bubbles that form on the surface using a toothpick prior to final steaming.

Selamat mencuba! :)

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My Little Dragon Turns 3!

dinosaur

Ahh….where did the time go? My little peanut of a boy is now a running, talking, screaming, giggling, chatting, (pretend) reading, scooter-riding, YouTube-browsing, smartphone-scrolling three-year old who loves construction toys and knows his dinosaurs.

Me: Look! Stegosaurus! (pointing at the purple dinosaur)
Little Dragon: No. It’s (a) triceratops!

Oops! Looks like the Mama needs to brush up on her dinosaur knowledge :P

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Quick & Easy Sausage Pasta

This is one of my go-to recipes when the kids and I are craving for pasta but:

a) I’m too tired.
b) I’m feeling too lazy.
c) I don’t have any fancy-schmancy ingredients in the freezer/pantry.
d) All of the above.

This recipe so easy, you’ll find that the hardest part is actually boiling the pasta.

 

Quick & Easy Sausage Pasta

sausage pasta

Ingredients:

- 1 pack of pasta (I prefer spaghetti for this recipe)
- garlic, crushed & chopped
- 1 tin of button mushrooms, drained & sliced thinly
- mixed herbs of choice
- 1 pack of sausages/hot dogs, sliced thinly into discs
- salt & black pepper
- olive oil
- knob of butter

Method:

1. Cook the pasta al dente. This is important. If you overcook it, it will turn to mush later as you try to mix it. Drain and set aside. Do NOT throw away the pasta water as we will need some of it later.

2. In a large non-stick pot with handle, pour in some oil olive and a knob of butter. Swish the oil and butter around to melt the butter over medium heat. The butter adds a nice flavour to the dish; it’s totally fine to omit it altogether.

3. Saute the garlic briefly in the oil/butter mixture. I deliberately did not specify how much garlic to put in because it all boils down to your personal preference. My family loves garlic, so I can use easily half a head of it for this recipe!

4. Add in the mushrooms and lower the fire. Sprinkle generously with herbs of your choice (I use mixed herbs, or oregano, or basil, or whatever I have on hand). Cook just long enough for the mushrooms to absorb the taste of the butter.

5. Add in the sliced sausages and stir around just to brown the sausages a bit.

6. Dump the cooked pasta into the pot and stir away. You might want to add some of the pasta water to make it easier to stir the pasta. Add olive oil as needed.

7. Season with salt and black pepper and continue stirring just long enough for the flavours to come together. (Remember, everything’s already been cooked, so there’s no need to cook it any further too long!)

8. Serve and enjoy. You’re welcome! ;)

A few quick notes:
- Linguini and angel hair will probably work with this recipe, also.
- Fresh mushrooms will surely taste better.
- If you’re doing Meatless Mondays, try making this with ONLY the mushrooms, omitting the sausages.

 

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The Magic of Random Conversation

I was in Penang the other day and, as is my wont, I started chatting with the taxi driver as he skillfully wove in and out of late afternoon traffic to send me to Penang International Airport. Somehow, we got to talking about hobbies, when he suddenly asked me to look at the pocket behind the front passenger’s seat…and out came a sketch book!

sketch

Well whaddya know? The guy’s got some talent, despite not having had any training whatsoever before. He said it’s just his way of passing the time while waiting for passengers or while in a queue.

This just goes to show that you never know what magic you can encounter when you take the chance on a conversation with a random stranger…

Categories: Rojak | 1 Comment

Nearing The Home Stretch

A new semester is about to begin. After all the blood, sweat and tears of four grueling semesters of part-time graduate school, I am left with two core subjects, one elective, and my final project (a thesis that will take up two whole semesters). The finish line actually feels very close at hand now. Fancy that!

I still can’t believe how I managed to survive the past four semesters, given everything that I have on my plate. The last semester was the worst of them all — not only did I have three subjects (one of them being THE dreaded Corporate Finance class!), but my maid of five years also ran out on me, going off on holiday in her kampung (village) and never coming back. I actually took steps to to take a break for one semester but, in the end, I could not do so because by then, it was too late to drop the subjects that I’ve taken and it would have resulted in automatic Fs for me in all three subjects. So I plodded on, even if it felt like crawling in thick, slippery mud up to my ears.  And, with God’s grace, I survived! God, indeed, does not burden a soul more than it can bear.

People ask me all the time now, more than ever, “How do you do it?”. In an article that I wrote for a Polish magazine way back in 2009, I attributed my ability to juggle my dual responsibilities of motherhood and a career to three things: (i) a commitment to make it work, without losing sight of the objective; (ii) being blessed with an excellent support system; and (iii) being lucky enough to live in Malaysia. Those three things are still very much relevant…especially (ii), now that my mum lives with me!

And after 4 semesters of MBA classes, case studies, and term papers, I’d like to highlight one more thing about this whole motherhood-career-study juggling thing: you can do everything and be everything…just NOT at all once.

It’s not an original answer by any means. I know I’ve read it somewhere. But it resonates deep and true. There is only one me and there are only 24 hours in a day. So within those 24 precious hours, I can do everything that I need to do, just not at the same time. And I often have to make painful choices to let one thing go so that I can give priority to what I deem to be the more important matter. It can be as simple as reducing the house cleaning to a once-a-week affair, just so I could get my homework done. Or it can be as difficult as deciding to skip the last 30 minutes of an online lecture because my Little Dragon needed me. In fact, about a week before final exams, there was a night when I shoved all my textbooks to one side and decided to join my kids’  ‘Movie Night’ at home — all the kids gathered around the TV in the living room, lights out, volume turned up slightly more than what I usually allow (the latter being attempts to simulate the cinematic experience), watching a DVD of their choice. And you know what? That single night off didn’t make me flunk. Neither did it kill me.

Sometimes I feel that us, working mothers or even stay-at-home mothers, are too hard on ourselves. We put up the bar way too high, expecting nothing but perfection, and worst of all, comparing ourselves to some imaginary ideal, usually stereotypes perpetuated by movies or TV shows. I know now that there is no such thing as a perfect mother; there is no such thing as a Super Mama. We are all humans, fraught with our own frailties and faults. We have good days and our own share of bad days. Sometimes we feel it’s worth all the effort; sometimes, we feel like dropping everything and just running walking away. We can only attempt to give it our best at any given time, with whatever information and resources available to us at that time. After giving our best, the rest is in God’s hands and we no longer have control over it.

Sure, we all make mistakes and it is expected of us to learn from those mistakes so as not to fall into the same hole all over again. But at the same time, we should not dwell on those mistakes to the point of falling into despair and giving up altogether. Life is still beautiful, despite a few dark days every now and then. We are where we are because we are meant to be there. Whatever happens, we need to keep the faith that He is the All-Wise, the All-Knowing, and the Best Planner of all.

Categories: Parenting, Thoughts | 2 Comments