A Malay Madeleine

Here’s something you don’t see every day on an American menu: Kueh Lapis, an eggy, Malay/Indonesian layer cake that’s so time-consuming to make that it’s hard to find in the U.S.

Think of it as the red-velvet cake equivalent of Southeast Asia –
it’s a signature dessert and it’s a pity you don’t see it
more often in American restaurants and bakeries.

Tonight, the Hubbs and I lucked out at a
pre-theater dinner, however — the moment we saw kueh lapis on
the menu at Bali Nusa Indah in Midtown Manhattan, we knew we had to order it. (Note: Other items on the menu were a little disappointing — the nasi goreng
(fried rice), for example, was so bland it brought to mind the less-than-successful
first stabs at fried rice my class-mates made in high school home
economics classes way back when.)

The kueh lapis, however, was perfectly decent — even if it was dressed up for Americans with a scoop of ice-cream and a layer of palm sugar sauce (better known as gula melaka in Malaysia/Singapore).

In Asia, the cake is thinly sliced, sometimes toasted lightly, and eaten on its own. After all, when you consider how tedious the process is, why let other trimmings get in the way of the star of the show? The baking process involves
spreading a thin layer of batter — made with condensed milk, golden syrup and a medley of spices such as cloves, cinnamon and cardamom — in the pan, baking it for 10 minutes,
taking it out of the oven, spreading another layer of batter and …
you get the picture. 

That could explain why you don’t see kueh lapis in restaurants in the U.S. more often. But hey, considering the fact that some kueh lapis recipes call for 25 egg yolks, that may not be an entirely bad thing.

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4 thoughts on “A Malay Madeleine

  1. Hi Cheryl,
    As with the previous commenter, I arrived her via Liberty London Girl and am looking forward to reading all about a fellow Singaporean’s foodie quest. All the best for it!
    Was it you who had the pineapple tarts recipe published in The Wall Street Journal?

  2. Hi again,
    I did enjoy the pineapple tarts story. It captured how Asians tend to show their love for their offspring very well. My grandmother was always cooking us food when she was still around. As for pineapple tarts, the funny thing is that I didn’t like pineapple tarts when I was a young girl. I only started liking them in my twenties!
    I was just sent a link to the No Reservations episode when Anthony Bourdain visits Singapore. I’m sure you’ve already seen it, seeing as you’ve mentioned him in your first post, but just in case you haven’t, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vEtfakmiik. There’re five parts in all.

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