Review: ‘Local Kuih Favourites’ Kueh Making / Cooking Class at Palate Sensations

Local kueh favourites from Palate Sensations with chef Low Shih Erh
Steamed kueh – soon kueh, rainbow kueh lapis, kueh salat and orh kueh! 

Which is your favourite?

Mine has to be kueh salat and my daughter’s is rainbow kueh lapis. 

Hehe, I was back at Palate Sensations yet again because I had a $50 voucher from the Bruno Valentines’ event and it was a pity to not use it.

Initially, my friend and I decided on a pau class which featured steamed char siew pau, salted egg lava custard bun etc. Alas, the class postponed to March 2021.

This class was taught by the lovely chef Low Shih Erh (I went for her tze char (seafood), tze char (vegetables) and Taiwanese cuisine classes previously).

Between the last lesson with chef Shih and this kuih class, I re-created Taiwanese braised beef noodles, salt and pepper chicken (盐酥鸡) and oyster mee sua (蚝仔面线) at home. School fee$ did not go to waste ok, lol! 

local kuih favourite from palate sensations - steamed kueh lapis, kueh seri much, yam kueh, soon kueh
Picture credit to Palate Sensations. I only managed to snap one photo of the final presentation before my handphone died on me. Moral of story: charge phone fully before attending a cooking class, lol.

This class consists of 2 sweet and 2 savoury kuih. I wish to master these so that I can prepare kuih for gatherings and faith meetings. 

Fun fact, kuih has various spelling: kuih / kueh / kue. They all refer to the array of bite-sized snacks that we love. The spelling ‘kue’ is more commonly used in Indonesia though.  

Some olden time kueh are no longer widely available. What we see today are the more popular ones which stood the test of time.

I didn’t have time to take photos of the individual kuih!

Shall show some work in progress photos then:

1. Steamed rainbow kuih lapis a.k.a kueh rainbow lapis sagu
Preparing the rainbow coloured batter for steaming rainbow lapis sagu
Class has started. Beautiful rainbow colours. One of the many tips – stir well! 

It was almost impossible to snap a photo during the steaming process.

first layer of steamed kueh lapis
This is eventually the bottom layer on the final steamed rainbow kueh lapis

After chef Shih demonstrated the first layer and watched us do the second layer, we were on our own!

Simultaneously, we started on prep work for other kueh! And me being me, furiously jotting notes on my recipe paper, haha.

My friend and I had to monitor the kueh while multi-tasking the prep work. It was a lot of teamwork and co-ordination – we took turns to create the layers and reminded each other of the time.

Thankful that the kueh turned out well!

kueh lapis in a tin, just done steaming
Lovely glossy top layer! Rainbow colours are hidden underneath the red.

Fret not if the top layer is not even right after removing your rainbow kueh lapis from the steamer. When the kueh cools, the top layer should slowly fall nicely. 

Cutting rainbow kueh lapis into slices
Chef joked that kueh lapis looks like sio bak (Chinese roast pork)  

Pardon my cutting. I have no idea what’s the appropriate thickness for the kuih, lol.

I love both the steamed and baked versions of kuih lapis (aka thousand layer cake or kueh lapis legit). Despite the similarity in name, they are very different in terms of ingredients, taste and texture.

pastel shade lapis sagu
Pastel kuih lapis – first attempt at recreating it at home! Hmmm… my blue and green looks rather similar.

Oops! An unsuccessful first attempt. Wavy layers, haha.

I prefer pastel shades so I added less colouring in the previous picture. Otherwise, the kueh in the 2 attempts were made using the same Americolor food colour (I bought the $3.80 ones from Phoon Huat/Red Man).

rainbow kuih lapis sagu
Success! My 2nd attempt at steaming rainbow kueh lapis 

YAY! Nailed it on attempt #2 thanks to Chef Shih’s detailed teaching.

I steamed this kuih lapis in a Panasonic 15L cubie oven. I had to experiment the steam setting and timing as steam oven and steamer pot on induction stove is rather different.

*** Tips for making steamed kueh lapis in a steam oven **
If you are using a steam oven like me, you may want to refer to this Youtube video tutorial from ‘The Burning Kitchen’. Each layer to be steamed for 3 minutes on ‘high’.

I found it too strong for my liking. The layers come out puffed with air pockets.

if the layer puffs up with air pocket, just let it cool aside for 1 minute or so. The little “hills” would fall and be flat again. Pour the next layer only when the previous layer comes down flat. Otherwise, you’ll end up with wavy kueh lapis like my attempt #1.

Eventually I settled on 4.40 minutes on ‘medium’ and it was perfect!

2. Kuih salat a.k.a kuih seri muka
cooking and whisking custard kaya layer for kueh seri muka
Cooking the kaya custard top layer for kuih seri muka. Swirls have appeared, it is almost ready

The blurry photo is a great and realistic representation of what went on doing the class.

The top custard layer of kuih seri muka is essentially kaya! Cooking it requires constant whisking.

Concentration is required, any attempt to multi-task by watching Korean drama may render the kaya lumpy.

kueh salat preparation
Cooking the custard layer (this is a ‘before’ photo)

It starts out easy – whisking a watery sugared solution. Out of the blue, resistance can be felt from lumps of kaya. And all of a sudden, there is a lot of tension when the custard is ready.

Kueh making requires patience. They are a labour of love.

The next time I find made-from-scratch kueh, I will definitely savour every bite!

If you find a hawker stall that makes their kueh with love, please support them and encourage your friends and family to patronise them too!

Beautiful blue and white marbling porcelain like look of glutinous rice layer of kuih salat
Blue and white marbling creates a porcelain-like look 

Loving this marbled look.

Personally, I prefer the glutinous rice 100% white so I might skip this step or perhaps reduce the intensity of the blue.

dried blue pea flower
Chef Shih taught us a shortcut method to extracting the colour from bunga telang

100% natural colouring derived from dried blue pea flower aka bunga telang.

I thought chef’s technique of steaming the rice 3 times (on banana leaf) – each time with addition of different ingredients – was brilliant. 

In her classes class, she basically condenses the result of her tried and tested preferred method. 

3. Orh Kuih aka Steamed Yam Cake
steamed yam kueh is ready
The final product before garnishing!

Yums! Steamed yam kuih is ready. Garnish with some chopped spring onion, chili, fried shallots, coriander and it’s ready to be served. 

The surface can be rough (like this image) or smooth depending on personal preference.

Making of orh kuih or yam kueh
Soupy goodness, this is the making of yam kueh before flour is added!

Oh my, I didn’t know yam kuih was initially a soupy mixture like this. Interesting.

According to personal preference, the yam can be cubed like this for some bite and texture to it, or steamed and blended into paste form.

frying dried Chinese mushroom, dried shrimp
Stir frying rehydrated dried Chinese mushroom and dried shrimps – super fragrant!

Super fragrant. I was never a fan of Chinese mushroom and dried shrimps before I started to pick up cooking seriously.

There are different grades for dried mushroom and dried shrimp too. 

Last but not least, a rather fun kueh as it involves wrapping – something I’m not very confident in.

4. Soon Kueh (bamboo shoot and turnip)preparation for soon kueh making
Mise en place – done prepping!

The ‘soon’ in soon kueh (笋粿) refers to bamboo shoot. There are similar looking ones with other fillings hence their names will differ accordingly, e.g. ku cai kueh or chives kueh.

cooking turnip and bamboo shoot filling for soon kueh
Frying the filling (carrot, bamboo shoot, turnip etc) for soon kueh. Can also be used for popiah etc.

The wrapping was the most fun part of it. Unfortunately I have no photo to show as my hands were too busy wrapping by then. 

It helped that Chef Shih taught us to 敢敢做 (be confident, do not hesitate). The dough is not friendly to handling. To seal the opening, we have to pinch. Too much pinching will cause the skin to thin and tear. Once that happens, the dough is likely wasted.

So I set my fears aside and… 

Brush oil on steamed soon kueh
Brushing oil once soon kuih is done steaming

Ta-dah! Not bad right. I’m rather proud of it 😀 These were wrapped by my friend and I. 

Local Kuih Favourite from Palate Sensations
Brought my own containers to pack home the kuih. No time to slice the yam kueh and kuih salat – I just brought the whole block home!

It was a kuih buffet that night for my family and me, haha. 

– – – 

local kuih favourite from palate sensations - steamed kueh lapis, kueh seri much, yam kueh, soon kueh

The class that I took was ‘Local Kuih Favourites‘. 

It’s a 4 hour class for $148. 

Palate Sensations Cooking School
Address: Chromos #01-03, 10 Biopolis Road, Singapore 138670
(to get to Chromos, alight at Buona Vista station, exit via Circle Line side towards MOE building)
Contact no.: 6589 8843
Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Just sharing my experience in this review. Lesson was paid from my pockets, with a $50 voucher from the Bruno workshop with Palate Sensations (also non-sponsored) 🙂 

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