Truly the best part of this blog has been finding a kindred spirit in Simran, a foodie friend who loves to eat and tinker in the kitchen as much as I do. I have a lot of friends who appreciate a great meal, who love to cook, but never a friendship so firmly rooted in all things culinary. Our adventures have led us to recreate beloved childhood flavors (Hainanese Chicken Rice), excursions to out of the way farmstands with our kids in tow, Indian pickle making sessions and treks to far flung corners to sample everything from Shanghai dumplings to southern fried chicken, artisan donuts and taiyaki.
I’m very confident that without Simran, I would never have found myself digging through my pantry to find that forgotten nugget of palm sugar to try my hand at making Kolak, a simple Indonesian dessert of bananas or other tropical fruits gently poached in mixture of coconut milk, pandan leaves, palm sugar, sea salt and vanilla. Simran had given me and a friend a lesson in Indonesian curry pastes and the next thing you know I was knotting pandan leaves and chopping palm sugar and getting over my lifelong dislike of soupy, sweet Asian desserts.
And so another culinary detour begins….
If you are new or not a big fan of Asian desserts, Kolak is a good place to start given that it tastes sort of like bananas foster with an exotic edge (and is a little less guilt inducing because it contains no butter). It’s also quick to make and easy enough for the kids to help with. You can substitute brown sugar for the palm sugar if needed, but don’t skip the pandan leaves. You should be able to find both palm sugar and pandan leaves at a well stocked Asian market. There’s a good overview on pandan leaves on the Burnt Lumpia blog and a write up on palm sugar on Chez Pim.
- 4 ounces of palm sugar roughly chopped
- 1.5 cups water
- 2 pandan leaves, tied in a knot
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 bananas, peeled, halved and sliced into 1″ pieces
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon tapioca flour or cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoons water to form a slurry
- Combine palm sugar, water, vanilla extract, pandan leaves and sea salt in a pot large enough to hold all of the bananas. Simmer for 20 minutes until sugar is dissolved and ingredients are reduced to a syrup.
- Add bananas and poach until soft but not mushy (2-3 minutes). Remove the bananas with a slotted spoon while you finish the sauce.
- Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes, then drizzle in half of the tapioca or cornstarch slurry whisking while it thickens. Add remainder of slurry until you reach the thickness of your preference. Remove the pandan leaves and discard.
- To serve warm, return bananas to the sauce to just heat through. Bananas and sauce can also be made ahead and served room temperature or cold. Serve alongside vanilla or coconut ice cream.