One of the most widely found desserts in Myanmar, this chewy, not-too-sweet cake is a perfect accompaniment to Myanmar Tea. Although semolina is in the name, the cake doesn’t use the type of semolina flour you might be familiar with from Italian cuisine. Instead, there are two options: farina, finely ground cereal grains (and the main ingredient in Cream of Wheat) which can be found among Middle Eastern ingredients at food stores; or suji (also spelled sooji), a pale, grainy flour sold in Indian grocery stores. The traditional topping for semolina cake is white poppy seeds, which are sold in Indian and Japanese food stores. Using sliced almonds in their place (or leaving them out) is fine too. An aromatic (preferably unrefined) peanut oil gives the cake a pleasant nutty flavor, but melted butter or canola oil will also work.
YIELD: Makes 18 pieces
1 cup farina or suji
1 cup white sugar or chopped palm sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 (13 ½ ounce) can coconut milk
1 ½ cups water
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons white poppy seeds or ¼ cup of sliced almonds
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan.
Spread the farina on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until aromatic and lightly browned, 15 minutes.
In a 3-quart (or larger) pot, whisk together the sugar, salt, coconut milk and water. Heat over medium heat, whisking often, until the sugar has dissolved, about 4 minutes (this will take longer for palm sugar than for white sugar).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs. To temper the eggs (and prevent them from scrambling), drizzle about ½ cup of the hot coconut-sugar liquid into the eggs while whisking continuously until incorporated. Whisk the egg mixture into the pot with the rest of the coconut-sugar liquid and cook, whisking continuously, for 1 minute.
Pour the farina to the egg mixture gradually, whisking well to avoid lumps. Switch to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and cook the batter, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes. The batter will thicken quickly, but keep stirring until a film forms at the bottom of the pan. Stir in the oil.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the poppy seeds evenly over the top. Bake until lightly set, with the sides bubbling, about 35 minutes. Dot the butter on top and return to the oven for 5 minutes more to let the butter melt into the cake.
Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Cut into 3 strips across and 6 strips down to make 18 rectangles. The cake keeps covered at room temperature for a few days.
Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia Hardcover – March 28, 2017