You may be familiar with this classic pandan coconut ‘kuih’ if you’ve ever visited Malaysian, Singapore or even Indonesia. This dessert goes by many names but the most common is, ‘seri muka’.
I love this pandan coconut dessert because it’s easy to make. Asian cuisine has a reputation for being hard to make but this pandan coconut dessert is easy to make. Even better? It’s a no bake dessert made entirely in a steamer, plus it’s gluten-free!
The main ingredients are pandan, coconut, and glutinous rice. I’m kicking off this article with some things I learned while I was making this dessert so you can make it without a hitch:
- Tips For Making This Pandan Coconut At Home
- Substitutes And Alternatives
- The Difference Between Glutinous Rice And Regular Rice
- IBS Dessert?
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Tips For Making This Pandan Coconut At Home
When I moved to Europe from Asia, I had a hankering for sweet treats that were sold on the streets of Malaysia. Unfortunately for me there were no road side stalls or aunty’s selling this pandan coconut dessert.
I turned to my mother and she basically listed some ingredients with eyeball measurements and vague instructions. I took those directions and turned it into an actual recipe.
This recipe was originally triple the volume of ingredients but I’ve tweaked it to fit a standard steamer made in Europe or the US instead of the large ones that are commonly found in Asian households. Also because I am one person who cannot eat a 40 person serving of this dish.
Here are some tips and key points that helped me when I was making this recipe:
How To Extract Pandan Juice?
If you are using pandan extract then go ahead and skip this portion but if you’re using fresh or frozen pandan leaves then keep on reading to learn how to make pandan juice. There is no real actual pandan juice recipe.
I recommend adding pandan leaves to any liquid measurement in a recipe. For example, the pandan leaves in this recipe need to be added to a blender with water in order to make pandan juice.
After that the pandan water needs to be strained to remove any roughage from the leaves because nobody wants to eat that. If you have a muslin or cheesecloth, use that or place some kitchen paper over a sieve.
A trick my mother taught me to achieve the perfect pandan coconut custard is to wrap a cloth around the lid of the steamer. This stops droplets of water from pooling at the top and falling into your custard and makes the perfect pandan custard cake topping.
I prefer traditional bamboo steamers because they’re light weight, easy to clean and extremely cost friendly. You can use it for savory dishes like dumplings too!
I used a regular 7-inch heat-proof bowl for this recipe but you can use a cake tin -which is traditionally used- or a springform cake tin for this pandan dessert recipe. Make sure the tin is lined with a baking sheet, oil, or banana leaf at the bottom to keep the dessert from sticking.
Cooking Sticky Rice And Assembly
How to make seri muka? The glutinous rice in this dessert is soaked for 2 hours prior to cooking and is steamed until fluffy. All you really have to do is add the ingredients to the container you want to use, mix thoroughly, and steam.
In order to get the custard to adhere to the sticky rice, you will want to create a rough surface by gently forking the layer of glutinous rice.
Pour the pandan coconut custard mixture over the glutinous rice and place in the steamer to steam.
The next step is my least favorite step.
Like plenty of desserts, this one also has a cooling time. It is unfortunately a little lengthy. I have been told that 4 hours or overnight is best but I have gotten away with letting it cool at room temperature for 40 minutes and in the fridge for an additional 20 minutes.
When you take the kuih seri muka out of the steamer, it will appear all puffy. The cooling time allows the custard to settle and for the whole dish to firm up.
Serving This Dessert
Sticky rice is, well, sticky. There’s no way around this and sometimes cutting this sweet dish up can be a nightmare. A tip given to me by my mother is to lightly grease your knife with a neutral-flavored oil. With every cut you make, clean the knife and grease again with oil. This will stop (to some extent) the glutinous rice from sticking to your knife. Lay parchment paper, food-safe plastic, or a banana leaf when serving to avoid a sticky mess too.
Sometimes you really want to make a dessert but you don’t have all the right stuff. That doesn’t mean you can’t make it! The next section will cover substitutes and alternatives.
Substitutes And Alternatives
This kuih seri muka recipe was given to me by my mother in Malaysia and requires fresh or frozen pandan leaves. You cannot substitute fresh or frozen pandan leaves with dried pandan leaves.
You can however make seri muka pandan flavored by using pandan extract instead. I have made this recipe using both and can report that it is equally delicious. Using fresh or frozen pandan leaves is an extra step and can be a hassle but something about the smell of blended pandan leaves transports me back to Malaysia or Thailand.
Another way to jazz up this recipe is to switch up the flavor of the custard. This kuih comes in flavor variations such as durian, red bean, mung bean, and yam to name a few. The pink one you see below is a rose flavored one I made using rose extract. It was rich, creamy, fragrant, and delicious.
Not sure what the difference is between regular rice and sticky rice? Hop on over to the next section.
The Difference Between Glutinous Rice And Regular Rice
A large majority of Southeast Asian and Malaysian sweets contain glutinous rice. Thai sticky rice is one of my favorites. It’s usually pretty easy to find at Asian supermarkets but you can also get it online. I haven’t seen any at regular grocery stores yet.
Also known as sticky rice, glutinous rice is not the sticky gummy gunk leftover from making rice, then you’re in for a little fun fact. Glutinous rice and regular rice are not the same. Sticky rice is a different grain altogether.
It’s not just a matter of preparation because you can cook sticky rice like traditional rice but you will not get the same results.
Note: pandan rice, Japanese sushi rice, and risotto rice are also not glutinous rice.
This section will cover some of the internets commonly asked questions about this pandan coconut dessert.
What Is Pandan Coconut?
Pandan coconut is a popular dessert combination in South East Asia. Pandan is a fragrant leaf used to flavor and sometimes color dishes. It’s almost always paired with coconut. I loved eating coconut pandan sweets as a kid.
You can find coconut pandan desserts like this in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines.
What Flavor Is Coconut Pandan?
Coconut and pandan are two separate flavors that make up a lot of South East Asian desserts. Coconut pandan is usually rich, creamy and coconut-ty with subtle grassy but floral hints like jasmine.
Is Pandan The Same As Coconut?
No, pandan is not the same as coconut. Pandan is a leaf that’s used to flavor dishes and make them more fragrant. Pandan leaves also have a bright green color and it’s often paired with coconut cream or coconut milk but it is not a part of coconuts.
What flavor is pandan?
Is pandan leaf like vanilla? Daun pandan in English is fragrant screwpine or vanilla grass. It’s known as Asian vanilla but personally, I think the pandan leaf has a grassy aroma with subtle floral qualities.
What Is Kuih?
Kuih, kueh, kue, 粿? No matter what you call it or how you spell it, kuihs can be described as bite-sized or single-serving portions of desserts or snacks that can be found throughout Southeast Asia.
The term ‘kuih’ is a broad term and includes a wide array of foods like cookies, cakes, puddings, pastries, dumplings, etc.
Kuihs can be sweet or savory. You can have them for breakfast, as an afternoon tea spread and before or after dinner.
What Is Seri Muka?
Directly translated from Bahasa Melayu, kuih seri muka’ translates to ‘pretty/radiant face cake’. ‘Seri’ means pretty or radiant and ‘muka’ means face. To this day, I have no clue why it is called pretty-faced cake or sweet.
The dessert itself is made of two layers. The bottom layer is steamed coconut glutinous rice and the top half is a vibrant green pandan custard.
This is considered an IBS dessert because according to Monash, glutinous rice at 1 cup or 200 g is low FODMAP.
The tricky part is that Monash has not tested coconut cream, so it may or may not be high FODMAP. Canned coconut milk is low FODMAP at 60 grams.
Coconut cream has a higher content of fat compared to coconut milk and there is a possibility that it may be lower in FODMAPs since fats don’t contain carbohydrates. Neither of us have had issues with coconut milk or coconut cream but if you are aware of your tolerances, then please err on the side of caution.
I wouldn’t recommend making this pandan coconut sweet if it wasn’t an easy kuih recipe. Asian sweets have a bad rep of being finicky and time-consuming and although this recipe takes a fair bit of time, it’s mostly the steaming time rather than actual work.
All in all, it takes a moment to whip up, an hour or two in the steamer, and a millennium cooling down. If you’re missing a taste of southeast asian desserts or looking for a fun new dessert recipe in your life, then why not take a crack at making this pandan Malaysian dessert? Make it your own with favorite flavor pairings or change the color!
Looking for other traditional kuih recipes?
Or are you looking for more pandan dessert recipes?
Kuih Buah Melaka, Sago Pudding, and Pandan Burnt Cheesecake
Malaysian Seri Muka (Pandan Coconut Dessert)
This no bake pandan coconut dessert is a Malaysian classic is a two layered dessert with a coconut pandan custard and sticky rice.
- For Sticky Rice:
- 200 g sticky rice (soaked 2 prior hours)
- 125 ml coconut milk
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- (optional) 1 pandan leaf tied in a knot
- For Pandan Juice:
- 4 fresh or frozen pandan leaves (DO NOT USE DRIED PANDAN LEAVES)
- 1/4 cup water
- For Custard:
- 180 ml coconut milk
- 60 ml pandan juice or 2 tbs pandan extract (or flavoring of choice)
- 30 g flour
- 100 g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 drops green food coloring
- 1 tsp salt
Start by soaking the sticky rice in water for two hours.
Strain the rice and add 125 ml coconut milk, sugar, salt, and pandan leaf if you have it into a bowl.
Mix thoroughly and steam for 30 minutes.
Oil a tin with neutral-flavored oil and line with cling film (saran wrap), baking paper, or a banana leaf.
While the sticky rice is steaming, make the custard mixture.
If you are making the pandan juice: add the leaves and 1/4 cup of water into the blender. Mix until smooth and pass the liquid through a fine sieve. Avoid any roughage from the leaves.
To make the custard layer of this dessert, simply add all the ingredients into a blender until combined.
Pass the custard mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps.
Once the sticky rice is cooked add it to the prepared and lined tin, making sure to press down and spread the sticky rice in an even layer.
Scratch the surface of the sticky rice with a fork to give it some texture. This will help the custard stick to the sticky rice.
Steam for 50-60 minutes. Remove the lid from the steamer every 30 minutes to let some steam escape.
Leave to cool for 4 hours or overnight.
Alternatively, leave to cool at room temperature for 40 minutes and refrigerate for an additional 20 minutes.
Allowing the dessert to cool lets the custard set properly and solidify the whole dish
You cannot substitute fresh or frozen pandan leaves with dried pandan leaves. This will not yield the same results, instead, use pandan extract.