Kuih Talam

my all time favourite – Kuih Talam

Continuing on with my Kuih-making frenzy, I now present you this mouth-watering Kuih Talam: a soft and springy treat combining the sweetness and fragrance of the green pandan layer with the slightly salty and rich coconut layer on top. This is a delight to eat and I’m over the moon with the recipe; once again from the pages of ‘Nonya Flavours’ mentioned in my Kuih Lapis post. In my past experiments with this Kuih, I’ve had lacklustre results; either the green layer is too sweet without sufficient pandan aroma or the coconut layer ends up hard- more so after refrigeration. However with this ‘ Nonya Flavours’ recipe, the kuih remained tender even after overnight refrigeration so WOOHOOO!!  I think it’s due to the combination of rice, tapioca and green pea flours in the right proportions that lends it such a tender texture.

Unlike back home (in KL) where we could easily grow pandan leaves/bush in our backyard, in Melbourne, frozen pandan would be the best option (I don’t quite favour artificial pandan essence). Fortunately, J found fresh pandan leaves sold in bundles at Preston Market so I had a rather potent pandan extract. You can still use frozen pandan leaves – just let them thaw out (it does so quickly) and you can proceed to use it as you normally would with fresh leaves.

natural flavouring and colour: pandan leaves – snipped, blended, squeezed and strained for the extract

The only trouble I had with the kuih was my lack of skill and patience with cutting it into perfect diamond shapes..Urgh…The first photo depicts my best cuts of Kuih Talam from my second attempt of this recipe. I butchered the shapes from my first attempt: I actually felt momentarily defeated even though the ugly cuts tasted awesome! But definitely this recipe is a keeper!

square shapes from my first attempt

Kuih Talam
(adapted from Nonya Flavours: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine)

Green Layer

80 g       rice flour
40 g       tapioca flour
30 g       green pea flour
230 g     sugar
700 ml  pandan juice (from 20 pandan leaves) – see note 1
1 tsp        alkaline water – see note2

White Layer

40 g       rice flour
30 g       green pea flour
1 tbsp    tapioca flour
500 ml thick coconut milk (from 2 grated coconuts) – see note3
1/2 tsp   salt ( or adjust to taste – it should be mildly salty)


  1. Combine the ingedients for the bottom green layer in a saucepan and cook over low heat until batter thickens slightly.   

  2. Pour into 20 cm (8″) square, greased tray and steam for 10 to 20 minutes. Open steamer every 5 minutes.
  3. While steaming the bottom layer, cook the top layer. Combine all the ingredients for the white layer in a saucepan and cook over the lowest heat until the mixture thickens slightly, stirring all the while.
  4. Pour the batter for the white layer over the green layer and steam covered for 20 minutes; open the steamer lid every 5 minutes.

  5. Cool for 3 – 4 hours before cutting into diamond shapes. (see note 4)


  1. Wash the pandan leaves and snip into 2 – 3 cm pieces, add 700 ml water: add this to blender and process well. This might take a few minutes as pandan leaves are very fibrous. Strain this into a muslin cloth and squeeze out all the extract especially towards the end with the fibrous pulp; discard pulp; proceed with the recipe.
  2. Alkaline water, also known as Lye water can be found in many Asian grocery stores. As this is a very caustic solution, always handle with care i.e. protect your hands with gloves and stick to the 1tsp amount in the recipe. Keep the bottle of lye water far from reach of children as accidental consumption can lead to burns. Lye water is used in other kuih, dumpling and noodle making processes and while it’s dangerous in uncooked form, it is ok for consumption after cooking. It gives the kuih a distinct flavour: think of Hokkien Noodles and Kee Chang (glutinous rice dumpling). Only a small amount is used in this recipe so its alright – don’t panic!
  3. I used canned coconut milk – worked fine for me.
  4. I used my metal scotch scraper – lightly greased on both sides to ease the cutting process. I find that the green part wants to stick all the time so a little grease helps. You can also use a cleaver, knife or plastic cutter. 

colourful kuihs sitting pretty in rows : Kuih Talam and Kuih Lapis in the background

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8 comments to Kuih Talam

  • Mei Ying

    This was yummy. Thanks for bringing some over. =)

  • maddie

    looking to this recipe for so long.Tq :}

  • min min

    i totally love those kuih!

  • Eelaine


    I made this using this recipe the other day. Unfortunately the top layer seems kind of hard and it had a strong coconut taste. Do you happen to know what’s the reason? I used cannded coconut – Ayambrand thick coconut milk.

  • Mei Sze

    Min Min…mee too..my all time favourite Kuih

  • Mei Sze

    Hi Eelaine,

    It could be due to the thick coconut milk used as the thicker it is the more fat it contains and hence it hardens up more when left out in the cold or kept in the fridge. I found that the white layer of the kuih turned out hard as well when I experimented with a new brand of coconut CREAM. So I decided to stick with just regular coconut milk (I use TCC Coconut Milk, blue can and available at most asian grocery stores in Melbourne if that applies to you). Also a tip is not to refrigerate the kuih as it will harden. Just keep it in an air-tight container in a cool place OR better, make it on the day it is to be consumed. If these doesn’t work, try replacing 100ml of the coconut milk with water i.e. 400 ml coconut milk + 100 ml water. Good luck! 🙂

  • Eelaine

    Hi Mei Sze,

    Thanks for your advice! I’ll try it with that coconut milk. I’m in Melbourne to 🙂 Will let you know hot it goes.

  • M Tneoh

    Hi I tried your recipe today and was very good indeed. The only setback was the fresh pandan leaves I used was very pale green. Overall taste excellent..Thks for the great recipe.