Kuih Talam – Recipe

This kuih talam recipe took me several attempts to get the technique and texture right. The first time was too soggy. The second time was too firm. And, just like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the third one was just right: soft and custardy but with a nice bite.

Kuih (also spelled kueh) is Malay for 'cake', and encompasses a lot of different desserts (usually steamed). Kuih talam is a two-layered cake, typically with a green sweet pandan layer and a rich, creamy coconut layer that's also lightly-salted. The combination works a little like salted caramel, and the texture is smooth and bouncy like a set custard - but also with a little bite and chew to it.

The texture is created with a combination of different flours: tapioca for bounce, rice for creaminess, and green pea for chew. The trick is as much with technique as it is with the ingredients too: the green layer needs to be a little pre-cooked first, but not so cooked that it's completely solid before you can pour it into the tin. The coconut layer is the easy part: you just mix the ingredients together, pour over the green layer and steam.

You can also watch how I make these on YouTube:

Ready? Let's go.

Ingredients for Green Layer:

50g tapioca flour
25g rice flour (not glutinous rice flour)
25g hoen kwe (green pea / green bean) flour
100g caster sugar
100ml thick coconut milk
2 heaped tbsp coconut cream
200ml water
1/2 tsp pandan paste

Ingredients for White Layer:

15g tapioca flour
20g rice flour
15g hoen kwe flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
300ml thick coconut milk


1. Grease a 1lb loaf tin with oil and line with baking parchment, also greasing the inside of the parchment.

2. Combine all of the Green Layer ingredients in a saucepan and, over a low heat, cook until thickened like custard (but not too thick), stirring constantly with a balloon whisk to prevent lumps. It it starts lumping up, remove from the heat and whisk vigorously

3. Pour the mixture into the tin, smoothing the top, and steam for 40 minutes on medium heat.

4. Whisk the White Layer ingredients together, pour on top of the green layer and steam for a further 30 minutes.

5. Leave to cool completely to room temperature before slicing with a wet knife (rinse in between slices) and serving.

Enjoy, and have fun!


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