Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kueh Dadar at Overseas Asian Restaurant

I first had this sweet treat in Penang, Malaysia about fifteen years ago. I had bought it from an Indian who was hawking various sweets and cakes from a street cart. At the time I didn't know what it was called, but I fell head over heels in love with it. I learned later that it's called kueh dadar in the Malaysian language, kueh referring to various cakes and dadar being the specific type. Kueh dadar is a fluffy pancake rolled around shredded coconut and palm sugar. They're delicious and addictive. The bright green coloring is natural, coming from pandan leaves, which also add a subtle aromatic flavor. Although my first kueh dadar was purchased from an Indian, I believe it's a Peranakan, or Straits Chinese, specialty.

I was thrilled when I discovered these again a few years after my Malaysia trip in New York's Chinatown, at an Indonesian-Chinese restaurant on Doyers Street. They were fifty cents a piece, and I bought them regularly for a year or two. Then they stopped making them. When I inquired why they weren't available I was told that they're too labor intensive to make it worth their while, and the local clientele wouldn't be willing to pay more than fifty cents each. Consequently, I went ten years without a kueh dadar.

I had a pleasant surprise this afternoon. I was lunching at Overseas Asian Restaurant, a Malaysian place on Canal Street, and noticed a tray of kueh dadar among the sweets on display by the cash register. I asked the waitress for a couple of kueh dadar to go, but she didn't know what I was talking about, so I pointed. I then asked her what she called them, and she gave me a Chinese-sounding name. Perhaps she wasn't from Malaysia. I don't know if they have them all the time, but if you find yourself on the east end of Canal Street (between Orchard and Ludlow) it would be worth your while to stop in and see if they have some by the cashier. They go for eighty cents a piece.


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