I found these little delights in Cybercandy in Covent Garden. If you’ve never been to Cybercandy, then you should make it a point to make a trip there. It is where you go to feel like a kid in a candy store because there is something for everyone. Even if you do not have a sweet tooth, you’d struggle to leave without buying something. Tanseid is the brand of these sweets. As you can see from the photo they are very petite indeed. The manufacturers of this peculiar sweet treats are in the same opinion as me: Cakes and most desserts are as visually pleasing as they are to the tastebud. To be honest though, I have not actually tasted these sweets. I bought them because they were miniature cakes. I bought into the idea. I was sold on the concept. Sweets disguised as slices of cake? Love it! So they sit on a platter on my mantelpiece together with my badges, pins and brooches. In another bowl sits the donut marshmallow puzzler that Sarah brought over from New York. Is it a donut? Or is it?
I love the idea of things in disguise. Heidi Kenney is an expert in giving personalities to random objects and food items like used tissues to mushrooms, donuts and tampons!
My uncle came over the other day with a carrier bag full of pandan leaves for my mother. He picked these leaves from his garden where his one plant has truly grown in abundance.
I remember being a kid and spending Sundays in my uncle’s coffee shop, where he would make kayafor the week. Kaya literally translates from Malay to mean rich. Like a jam, it is a spread made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan leaf juice. My sister and I would fight to hold the giant wooden spoon to stir the mixture while my uncle cracked the eggs in.
Pandan leaves emit a superfragrant smell. For this reason it is used to perfume many of my favourite dishes. Added into cooking, the kitchen is rich with the aroma. Used with coconut it enhances the taste and smell of coconut and turns food a light green colour.
Knotted and added to cooking rice with coconut milk, you get nasi lemak, Malaysia’s favourite breakfast. Juiced and marinated with chicken, then used to wrap the chicken, you get Pandan Chicken, a Thai/Malaysian dish.
Pandan as a magic ingredient does not stop at savoury food. In Asia, it is also used in making cakes. I spent this trip in Kuala Lumpur looking to buy some Pandan Layer Cake, a chilled cake, sometimes topped with dessicated coconut. Last week, I found 2 different types of layer cake. The Indonesian variety, a dense cake made of many layers and the one I love, which is chilled and is made up of layers of sponge and pandan flavoured jelly. Another favourite iskuih bangkit, a cookie that is flavoured with pandan and a staple treat during Chinese New Year. I found some being sold in Chinatown the other day and snacked on the fish-shaped cookies, pretending that it was still Chinese New Year.
Pandan leaves are available to buy from the Chinese supermarkets in the UK. I remember seeing it for sale in Pat’s Chung Ying on Leith Walk in Edinburgh. Although available to buy from the Chinese supermarkets, once I head back to London, I am going to miss seeing the many foods made with pandan on menus and in bakeries. Before I leave, I will be clutching on to some leaves and soaking in the wonderful fragrance.
In the world of multiple-course dining, people generally fall into two categories. Those preferring starters to desserts, and those preferring desserts to starters. I fall into the third category, which means if I had my way, I’d have a starter and dessert.
Main courses tend to fall short of starters, and desserts look like sweet dreams. How do you resist?
I love how pretty pudding can look. The problem with pudding is that it looks better than it tastes. But that doesn’t matter. Although it is why cakes, ice-cream and all manner of candy look great on clothes and accessories.
Cupcakes are so popular because they look so good. I love baking ’em because I love how they are presented. Baking allows me to disguise my messy cooking in a pretty package in the form of a treat.
I remember In Barcelona, I stood in Papabubble. I was captivated by the magic-making of beautiful candy to the cools sounds of Lemon Jelly. I watched as the candymakers, these sugar-dreamweavers pulled colourful sugar into long strips, on which they built more layers of colourful sugarstrips.
And there it is: a piece of candy. Bite-sized and pretty much edible art.
When the candy sits in glass containers and the sun rays reach out, the shop walls are hit by a stained glass effect. They are sugar candy kissed.