Monday, January 2, 2012

Nyonya Kuih Pai Tee, Chinese Top Hats

2011 has just passed and the new year has just begun! Happy New Year to all our readers! Next up, Chinese New Year!
Nyonya Kuih Pai Tee (Tophats) is a great appetizer or snack that I'm always up for. Crispy shell together with soft, salty and sweetness of the vege with chopped shrimp makes it an appetizer to be enjoyed by anyone. Pai Tee originates from beautiful Melaka, from the Nyonya or Peranakan community and not only has wonderful textures and taste in a bite as you pop one into your mouth, but also looks pleasing to the eye with it's delicate, cute hat-like shape. 

Making Nyonya Kuih Pai Tee is not an easy task. Believe me when I say it takes a lot of time and dedication. It may look simple, but it requires a lot of patience, standing by the stove with a pot of hot oil to make each top hat perfectly using the metal molds. Metal molds so heavy it could be used as a defense weapon! When making Pai Tees, as usual I was not only all oily and tired, but my heels hurt so badly from standing around that it lasted for days. Of course, sitting by a hot pot of oil is not an option, far too dangerous. And of course, these beautiful things are so easy to devour and finish in just a matter of seconds. But looking at everyone so happily around dinner table devouring them with "aahh's" makes it all worth it! My Dad swears that when he was younger he used to make these for relatives all the time during Chinese New Year so it's always great putting a plate of Pai Tees before him and to receive his smile of approval! 
An antique pai tee mold which you will need to make the tophats.
For the filling, you will need:
  • 2 jicama (mengkuang)
  • 1/2 a carrot
  • dried squid or shrimp
  • soy sauce
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic 
  • 1 tsp chicken stock
  • white pepper powder 
  • Fried onions for garnish
  1. Grate the carrot and the jicama on the larger grater slots. Set aside. 
  2. Fry the garlic and dried squid/shrimp in about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok. 
  3. Add in the vegetables (jicama,carrot) and a tsp of chicken stock. Add salt to taste.
  4. Allow to simmer until the vegetables are semi-soft and jicama turns slightly brown. (Approximately 30 minutes till tender)
It takes quite a long time to figure out the right consistency of the batter to ensure that it cooks evenly and doesn't stick to the metal mold. This time, after trying many times to fix the batter by adding flour and water and what not, we didn't have enough time to continue experimenting since dinner had to be served. So in the end we made a new batter by trying a recipe from Rasa which turned out great.

For the crispy top hat cases adapted from Rasa Malaysia:

  • 1 egg
  • 100g flour (plain)
  • 1 tbsp rice flour
  • 180 ml water
  • Pinch of salt.

  1. Fill up a pot/wok of oil and allow to heat up.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk until smooth. (Preferably a deep bowl so it's easier to dip your metal mold)
  3. Ensure the pot/wok of oil is hot and then heat up your metal mold.
  4. Dip the mold into the batter, ensure an even coating and then slowly descend the mold to deep fry. I find this easier than just plonking the whole thing in because it releases the top part of the case easier (which is also thinner) instead of sticking to the mold. After which, jiggle the mold to release the case or use a fork to gently push the case out from the mold.
  5. Once the case has turned light brown, take it out of the oil and put on a kitchen towel to soak up oil.

Nyonya Kuih Pai Tee, or Chinese Top Hats.
Add fried onions or a coriander leaf on the top to garnish.
The filling can also be eaten with just lettuce, a healthier alternative!

No comments:

Post a Comment