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Monday, September 29, 2008

How do You Top Mum's Popiah? With Kuih Pie Tee

I heart Pie Tee!

Kuih Pie Tee with Prawn

Kuih Pie Tee

No, this has nothing to do with tea, which is something else I heart a lot! Kuih Pie Tee or "Top Hats" (because the shape is sometimes like a top hat) is an appetizer that is popular in Malaysia. It is a wonderful treat--crisp shell, sweet and slightly crunchy vegetal flavors of jicama, carrots, and green beans, and meatiness from pork and shrimp.

I've been wanting to make kuih pie tee since Rasa Malaysia posted her fabulous pictures on her blog. It made me miss home a lot. My 4th grand aunt used to make this every Chinese New Year and I always looked forward to visiting with her so we could indulge in these savory treats.

As you know, my mom is visiting and she brought me a mold (that was given to her by my 4th grand aunt, no less!).

4th Grand Aunt's Pie Tee Mold

4th Grand Aunt's Kuih Pai Tee Mold

And just yesterday, my mom made her famous popiah! When she decided to make popiah, I asked if she would make more of the filling so that I could make pie tee with the leftovers. Making the filling is quite a production but we both agreed that if you're going to go to the trouble, making a bit more is not that difficult.

So with the leftovers in mind, I searched my food forum for a recipe (pretty similar to Rasa's). Boy, frying those shells are really time-consuming. But are they worth it? DEFINITELY!

We made about 80 pie tee shells and in no time at all, we had consumed more than HALF of them (filled, of course - what did you think, we ate empty shells?). We did give some to our neighbors who also wolfed them down in two seconds flat. Seriously, these are such good eats!

Finished Pie Tee Shells

Fried Kuih Pie Tee Shells

The recipe for the batter is quite simple. I used a kuih pie tee recipe that called for the ingredients to be measured in grams. Now, I don't mind that at all really because I have a weighing scale. Unfortunately, many people here in the US don't own a kitchen scale. I HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THIS....I JUST HAVE TO.

Get. A. Scale.

It doesn't really cost very much to get a kitchen scale AND it doesn't take up too much space these days. Most scales are just flat little things that can be easily tucked away. The prices for them are also getting lower and lower. You don't need a fancy one though the fancy ones are cool. As a matter of fact, I own one that I bought from IKEA 5 years ago and it still works like a charm (and trust me, I abuse that poor kitchen scale) and it's so small and flat that it's not an inconvenience in my small kitchen.

I will give you three reasons why you should own a scale:

  1. Most recipes outside the US call for weight measure in their baking and cooking recipes (like Malaysia!)
  2. Alton Brown (I heart him too!), recommends it for flour measures.
  3. And the main reason for me--it saves me from washing measuring cups, extra bowls, etc. I love that I can use one bowl, weigh the first ingredient, tare, weigh in the second ingredient, tare and so on and so forth. Anything that lets me not do more dishes is a brilliant invention. AND, you can even weigh in grams or lbs. Lovely!

If these reasons have not convinced you to go out there and get one lickety split, then I guess I can't do anything for you. But maybe, this recipe will force you to choose to cross over to my side (as it's all in grams!). ^_^

Kuih Pie Tee batter recipe

1 egg
320g All-purpose flour
55g rice flour
500 ml of water
dash of salt

1. Beat egg and salt.
2. Add in half of the AP flour and rice flour and half of the water.
3. Add in remaining AP and rice flour and water.
4. Strain mixture to remove lumps.
5. Heat oil in pan on medium heat (make sure oil level is higher than mold level).
6. Dip pie tee mold in hot oil to condition it, then once oil is hot, dip mold in batter, and then into the hot oil. The first 3-4 shells will probably be ugly and stubborn (as in, won't want to release from the mold). Use chopsticks to assist in getting them out.

Battered Pie Tee Mold

Pie Tee mold with batter

7. Once the mold and oil is at the right temperature, the work will go smoother. You might still need to help the batter release by nudging with a chopstick but they should come off more easily. Take them out of the oil when they are a golden brown.

Nudging the Pie Tee Off

Frying kuih pie tee

When I made this, I found that they weren't crispy enough. So I'm going to try a different batter next time. If you have a sure-fire batter for this, would you share with me? I've already asked my mom to go back to Penang and get the recipe from my 4th grand aunt and hopefully, I'll be able to get that to you later.

But if you find this batter not crispy enough, here's my trick. Just stick it in the oven at 250 F for 10 mins and they crisp up nicely.

Fill the shells with the popiah filling. Nate, thinking about some of the awesome dishes we had at TomatoFest, had the idea to put a whole prawn in the pie tee like a shrimp cocktail shooter, then dressed with some sweet chili sauce:

Kuih Pie Tee with Prawn

Kuih pie tee filled with shrimp

These shells are also perfect to hold all kinds of little bites. They don't have to be filled with the traditional pie tee filling. I'm already thinking that with a little bit of sugar, I could easily make these babies a receptacle for custards, creams and tiny fruit. Or savory little bites of salsa with shrimp ceviche. You can definitely let your imagination take you places with this.

What do you think you would fill these pai tee shells with? Leave us a comment and share your ideas!

I will share the popiah/pie tee filling recipe with you but this post is getting way long. Also, my mom's popiah filling recipe is really worth a post of its own so I'll see you back soon with that ok?

This entry was entered into the September edition of CLICK! The Photo Event.

Incidentally, if you are planning to make kuih pie tee for yourself, you don't need a 4th Grand Aunt in Penang to give you hers. Rasa Malaysia is selling pie tee molds via her website.

Cheers, Annie

Hungry for more savory finger food?

Getting Buzzed at TomatoFest
Mana Bu's Musubi
Secrets to Making Spam Musubi
Pimientos de Padron
Baked char siu bao


daphne said...

U lucky girl!! I would love to have this!!!!

Bob said...

Heck with the pie tee, I want you mom to come and stay at my place. I do have a scale, but, I find I need bigger numbers now, not so good...

Clumbsy Cookie said...

OMG! This is amazing! That mold is incredible and your pictures are gorgeous. Beautiful idea and elegant presentation!

Manger La Ville said...

I have never heard of these. But they look and sound delicious. I think it is awesome how you made these. Do you recommend a restaurant in the Bay Area who serves these....After I try them, I might feel a little more confident to make them. Hot oil and molds always seems daunting.

Maggie M. said...

What beautiful pics - thanks for commenting on my site so I could find yours! I'm in Mountain View, so we're close. Restaurant recs are always welcome :) Speaking of great restaurants, if you like Thai food you should try Blue Mango on Stevens Creek Blvd... delicious.

Valentina said...

I love this post. I love your blog. Over the last year i went to Singapore 3 times on business and the food is something that will stay with me forever. How wonderful to see lovely things here. i am in love with these beauties. And the little gadget..where can i get one from? fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Try my recipe the next time, mine was crispy and the shell is thinner, too.

Ari (Baking and Books) said...

I can't get over the first photo, it's fantastic! Looks like it should be on the cover of a magazine. And others? Also in a magazine, in the accompanying feature article.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@daphne - heheheheh.

@Robert - we all wish she could stay longer.

@Clumbsy Cookie - thanks!

@Manger La Ville - You could try Straits Cafe in SF.

@magpie - we recently reviewed La Fiesta in Mountain View. We don't go out for Thai food too much because it's too sweet for our tastes.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Valentina - thanks! You can purchase a pie tee mold from Rasa Malaysia's site.

@Rasa - We will try it. One of the things we would do differently is only dip the mold once into the batter, instead of 3 times.

@Ari - thanks! these subjects spoke to me ;-)

Maria Verivaki said...

fantastic little canapes!

Maggie said...

I love seeing the mold in action! I think the filling possibilities are endless. I'd love to get a mold and try them with ceviche or a tomato and avocado salad.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Mediterranean Kiwi - James Beard would be impressed (I wish)

@Maggie - yeah, ceviche!

Anonymous said...

Hey.. you're not sharing the family recipe!! If you find any improved pie tee recipes do tell as I have to show off at an upcoming pot luck party and I thought about pie tee too :-)


Y said...

I love those, but don't think I'd have the patience to make them! I like the idea of something raw and salsa-like, as a filling. Also, a sweet filling is a great idea!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@JT - Do you have a mold?

@Y - you said it. It takes a lot of patience to make not just the kuih but also the filling.

Mel said...

This looks really really good. It reminds me of my grandma when I was growing up in Malaysia. Nyonya food is sooo good. I think I'm gonna have to try this.

Anonymous said...

I filled it with Acar. Tasting good too.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Mel - we love Nyonya food!

@Anonymous - acar, nice touch!