Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Love Letters ( Kueh Belandah)

Kueh Belandah-Love Letter Crisps

With the need to sweeten the lips of celestial messengers, it probably explains why among the Straits Chinese, certain cakes are called kueh chuchi mulut or cakes to wash the mouth with. One Chinese New Year goodie that goes back centuries is kueh belandah or love letters. Crisp rolls are made from a batter that is poured onto cast-iron moulds with long handles so they can be baked over charcoal fires. Looking much like brandy snaps, kueh belandah hark back to ancient Chinese history when similar egg rolls were used to hide secret messages between army factions fighting off the marauding Mongols. Edible E-mail of a sort. They were also believed to have been used as containers for thwarted lovers to pass secret letters of romantic intensity. Each mould is etched with graphic and symbolic representations of flowers, birds or animals.

3 whole fresh coconuts, grated (about 3 1/2 pounds in weight)
7 large eggs
550g (19 ounces) granulated sugar
600g (21 ounces/4 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tbsp. rice flour

Dry-fry flour for a few minutes and allow to cool. Squeeze coconut for thick milk and reserve shreds for additional thin milk if batter is too thick. Beat eggs with sugar until completely dissolved. Place fried flour in a large mixing bowl, make a well into the centre and add beaten egg. Fold in gently from the sides and stir to form a smooth paste. Add thick coconut milk and continue stirring until all lumps are removed. To ensure this, pass mixture through a think muslin cloth or fine colander. Set aside.

Place charcoal in your special brazier and heat until they become glowing ember. Always have glowing hot charcoal in another stove on standby to add on.

Oil each belandah mould on both sides (one person should be able to handle two at the same time) and heat on charcoal.

Now comes the hard part. Holding mould at a slight angle over the pot of batter, pour a ladleful on the mould that is on the horizontal so that excess is drained off immediately. Quickly shut the mould and place on charcoal grill. Cook for about 2 minutes and turn over. Check by opening the mould and when it is light brown, use a sharp knife to scrape off excess from the side of the mould.

Open mould and with one quick roll of the free hand, roll into a cylinder about 1/2 inch in diameter. If this is difficult, fold over twice to make loose triangles.

Cool and store in an airtight tin as love letters go soft quickly when exposed to air.

Cook's tip: Add a little warm water to used coconut shreds and squeeze out thin milk. This can be added to the existing batter as you go along as it settles a little and becomes thick.

You will need love letter molds to make these love letters, or as suggested by a guest to Diana's Desserts Website, a pizzelle maker can be used to make the love letters.

Date: January 13, 2003