Viola Extract and Pulut Tai Tai with Kaya

Glutinous ‘Pulut Tai Tai’ slathered with home-made ‘kaya’ (coconut egg jam)

Some time three weeks ago, I woke up with dreams and thoughts of flowers oh so pretty, oh so bright oh so colourful and wandered whether I could extract some colour out of the Viola Tricolor species  dotting a small section of our garden (they look more like pansies to me but no doubt from the same family). I knew violets and pansies are edible from various culinary programs but it never occured to me that I could extract colour from the petals. Prior to discovering via google that you can make violet extract in the same manner as you would vanilla extract, I decided to pluck and crush a few flowers. With a little bit of warm water added through, I soon got a beautiful royal blue dye.

Cobalt Beauty – the front one has a slight purplish tinge whereas the one behind is pure blue

Calming effect: I could stare at this natural blue dye for ages

Now that I’ve extracted a rice-bowlful of dye, how best to use it? So caught up was I with the experiment that I didn’t consider what I would make from it. Fortunately, there was a packet of glutinous rice in the pantry so Pulut Tai Tai (a Nonya  kuih) was instantly on the menu. It’s such a shame that I haven’t got any banana leaves which imparts a gorgeous fragrance to the steamed glutinous rice but I had all the other necessary ingredients to still produce a tasty afternoon treat. Traditionally, Pulut Tai Tai is made with the natural blue extract of the Butterfly Pea flower/Blue Pea Flower/Clitoria ternatea/Bunga Telang (in malay) but I’m not sure whether you can source dried ones here (I haven’t looked) but J purchased some Blue Pea flower seeds from Ole Lantana’s Seed Store (Australian) which we have yet to sow.

With 700 g of glutinous rice as per the recipe in ‘Nonya Flavours’, my natural blue dye wasn’t potent or concentrated enough to colour the rice a deep dark blue so I added a tiny drop of blue gel colouring to the rice mix (the dye in the photos above are all au naturel i.e. without any food colouring). Since I had no banana leaves, I added more pandan leaves to perfume the rice and combined both traditional method and shortcuts to make the the ‘kaya’ (coconut egg jam). I will explain this in my ‘Notes’ under the recipe below. My curiosity with the violas awarded me with a tender, springy and coconut milk enriched afternoon treat. Can’t complain! 😉  Pulut Tai Tai must be enjoyed with the Kaya jam;a certified match made in heaven!

“Pulut Tai Tai, meet Mr.Kaya!” (it was love at first sight)

Pulut Tai Tai
(adapted from Nonya Flavours: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine)

30 butterfly pea flowers (bunga telang)
3 tbsp water
700 g glutinous rice, washed and soaked for 4 hours
2 pandan leaves, knotted
200 ml thin coconut milk
400 ml thick coconut milk
1 heaped tsp salt
1 banana leaf

  1. Wash and pound the flowers and mix with water. Strain to extract the indigo blue colouring. Set aside.
  2. Mix the rice with half the thin coconut milk and allow to absorb for 5 minutes.
  3. Line a steaming basket with muslin cloth (I just used a slightly greased cake tin) and put in the rice and pandan leaves. Steam over rapidly boiling water for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the thin coconut milk, stir through, and continue to steam for another 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the steaming basket from the steamer and add the thick coconut milk and salt. Stir with a pair of chopsticks.
  5. Add the blue colouring to 1/4 of the steamed rice and return to the steamer to cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Line a shallow 18 cm (7″) square pan with banana leaf. Grease the surface of the leaf before spooning in the cooked rice, alternating the blue portion with the white. Mix well. Level the surface and press down the rice with banana leaf. Cover the top of the rice with a banana leaf and place a heavy object on it to compress the rice. Leave to cool before cutting into pieces to serve with Kaya.

Kaya (Coconut Egg Jam)
Below is the full recipe.  (I halved everything)

550 g (9-10 medium sized) eggs
500 g sugar
2-3 pandan leaves,washed and knotted
600 ml thick coconut milk, from 3 grated coconuts (I just used canned coconut milk)
50 g sugar, extra

  1. Beat the eggs and sugar together with a hand whisk for about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, fill the base unit of a double boiler with water and bring to a boil (or you can sit a metal bowl atop a pot of boiling water, make sure base of bowl isn’t directly touching the water). Lower heat and strain egg mixture into the top unit of the double boiler, add the knotted pandan leaves and steam over the base unit, stirring all the time until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Remove the top unit from the heat and strain the thick coconut milk into the egg mixture. Mix well.
  4. Return top unit to the base pot and double boil over simmering water, stirring all the while with a long wooden spatula until it reaches a smooth custard consistency, about 30 minutes.
  5. To get a nice brown colour: Heat the extra sugar in a metal ladle directly over the flame until sugar melts. (I just caramelised the sugar in a small saucepan). When the caramel browns, add it to the egg mixture and stir well. (Be careful when caramelising sugar. As it is a small amount, it burns quickly so work fast; once you get a golden caramel, pour it into the egg custard)
  6. (I didn’t follow step 6, I figured I couldn’t wait 5 hours for the kaya to steam so I’ve worked out a shortcut –>see Notes. However, I’ll include step 6 here for your reading pleasure. This is how it is traditionally done) Wrap the lid of the double boiler with a clean cloth (to prevent steam from entering the custard when steaming) and secure. Cover the pot with the lid and double boil custard for 4 – 5 hours. Do not stir the jam during steaming. Do top up the water in the base unit when level recedes.
  7. When jam is cooked, discard pandan leaves and allow jam to cool before storing in jars. Keeps well for a week at room temprature. Refrigerate for a longer shelf life.


  • After step 5, remove the pandan leaves and transfer the kaya to a microwavable dish (Pyrex or Corningware is fine) then microwaved it on High for 3 minutes. Give it a stir then microwave it for another 3 minutes. I repeated this once or twice more., stirring in between. The kaya will leave the sides of the dish. Stir until smooth, cool then store in jars. Refrigerate. Alternatively, if you really want a smooth blend, give it a quick whizz with a hand-held electric blender. Works like a charm! 🙂 
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2 comments to Viola Extract and Pulut Tai Tai with Kaya

  • Eelaine


    Do you know where can I find blue pea leaves in Melbourne?

  • Mei Sze

    Hi Eelaine,

    Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the dried flowers in any store in Melbourne. I have the seeds for them from Queensland but have yet to plant them.