On my Instagram feed, I have been sharing images of some of the canapes that I had designed for a recent luxury event — the launch event for the Singapore instalment of the Hermès Carré Club. I didn’t have a good picture of one of them, my modernist version of the Teochew oyster omelet, but I did have good pix of my Hae Mee Uni Jelly and my Oxtail Taiyaki. Another canape that I designed, and based on how quickly we had to replenish the trays during the event, proved to be very popular, was this spicy, savoury play on Nyonya kueh.
For the event, I (and the other chefs) had been asked to present local flavours and dishes in fun, unconventional ways. One of the immediate things I came up with was the idea of presenting savoury snacks in shapes and styles that you would normally associate with sweet things. Hence the idea of a gold-dusted jelly (that actually in the dim lighting some people thought were chocolate truffles); a taiyaki, which is usually stuffed with a sweet filling; and a Nyonya dessert.
When I got around to properly testing recipes, this idea of a spicy savoury Nyonya kueh was the second dish I tried out. The first, sadly, was a complete disaster. I attempted to create a rainbow-coloured kueh lapis with each layer made from a different vegetable juice. While everything looked okay as I was assembling it (and boy was that time-consuming), when I unmolded the dish, things went south. Not immediately though. For a good four or five seconds, the jelly sort of held firm. But then it collapsed in an oozy mess. When I was describing the result to a friend later that week, I remember lamenting and angrily calling it “unicorn diarrhoea” (sorry, that was probably a little too graphic).
Fortunately, however, the kueh salat worked very well. I tested it on the superwife and a few friends and people really liked it. One said it tasted like nasi lemak, because of the coconut milk infused rice and the steamed seafood mousse, which reminded her of otah. It was good enough, I thought, to add to the canape list, and indeed, as told to me by the wait staff, it proved quite popular.
I’ve also found that this is a nice dish because you can make it a number of hours ahead of time, keep it at room temperature and eat it as is, or heat it up a little under a heat lamp or salamander.
The recipe is below. Please feel free to tweak this to your own tastes. Happy cooking.
Laska Seafood Kueh Salat
You’ll need a deep-sided mold with a sharp 90 degree turn. The one I use is 34.5cm by 7cm and is probably about 10 or 12cm tall. With some oil, lightly grease the insides of the mold. Then cut baking paper so that you can place it inside of the mold, folding it along the longer sides, with some sticking out. Cut two more pieces for the sides of the pans not covered. You’ll want to be able to take the entire kueh out of the mold by gripping the baking paper and gently lifting.
You’ll need some aged comte for the final stage of this dish.
Making the top layer:
1 onion, diced
120g laksa paste (I used the BH Nanyang Curry Laksa Paste)
150g jumbo Tiger prawn
30g egg white
150g Norwegian saba filet
90g Australian spanner crab
275g coconut milk
½ teaspoon glutinous rice flour
½ teaspoon fish sauce
Saute the onion. When soft, add the laksa paste and cook gently over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Using a food processor or blender, mix all the above ingredients (including the onion and laksa paste) together until smooth. Set aside in the fridge.
Making the rice:
240g glutinous rice
120ml coconut milk
Wash the glutinous rice. Drain it and then place it in a container which can fit over your steamer or in your steam oven. Steam for 30 minutes.
Mix the coconut milk, water and salt together. Pour over the rice and steam again for 15 minutes.
Transfer the rice into your mold/pan. Make sure to press it down firmly. Now, spread the raw seafood evenly over the rice. It is up to you how tall you want your rice and seafood layers to be. You also don’t need to use all of the seafood spread in one go. I have found it freezes well and can be defrosted to be used later.
Steam the seafood and rice together for 30 minutes. Take out and let cool. Unmold the whole kueh gently.
Grate some aged comte over the top of the kueh salat and gratinate under a broiler or salamander. Slice and enjoy.