KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Envy can be a terrible thing. Add social media to the mix, and you have a partnership Shakespeare’s green-eyed monster would approve of.
See the faceless narrator parade a frozen croissant or a thick wedge of panettone. See those well-manicured hands — conveniently cut off at the wrists, like some disembodied idea of a home chef — place said frozen croissant or wedge of panettone into a waffle iron.
Press down the lid and... Et voilà! A crusty pastry or toast, with deep squares waiting to be filled with cream, compote, sweet liqueur or runny honey.
Looks fantastic. And so easy to make. I would make some too but for one tiny detail.
No waffle iron at home.
Nor do I want to splurge on yet another kitchen device or clutter my pantry with more one-time-use utensils.
It’s easier to slaver and wallow in jealousy, joyfully cursing folks who have nothing else better to do than make 30-second videos. (Why do we persist in watching these, then? Well, let’s debate the tragedy of infinite scrolling and mindless binge-viewing another time...)
But the idea sticks to me. Sometimes it can be fun to mix and match. To get something new from two old tricks. Fulfilling, insofar as we all delight in the novelty and if it tastes good too, why, that’s a nice bonus.
So I began surveying the contents of my pantry and raiding my fridge for odds and ends. This approach has never failed me before, in producing fresh ways to experience tried and true recipes and ingredients.
Here’s a little Sphinx riddle that I came up with, after all my kitchen explorations: "What looks like French toast, tastes like pancakes and smells like santan?”
The answer surprised even me, for looks aren’t everything: this soy and dairy free coconut fried bread has the eggy body of a decent French toast, the softness of pancakes, the aroma of coconut milk and coconut flour.
And it tastes amazing! (There you go, the bonus win we were hoping for but didn’t dare imagine.)
No need for a fancy new waffle iron; just your old saucepan would do. Sure, you won’t get deep pockets for the cream and honey to pool but let me assure you, this crusty yet moist fried bread will soak it all up just fine.
Now, what else do I have lying around in my kitchen...?
SANTAN FRIED BREAD
Fresh santan (coconut milk) works best here but the canned variety works too, in a pinch. The consistency of the santan might affect how dry or "damp” the resultant fried bread is, so adjust accordingly to your personal preference.
If you really like it moist and almost falling apart, transfer the santan-soaked bread to the pan using two spatulas to prevent it from crumbling into pieces.
Typically, to make the egg dip for the bread, we’d add some sugar to add sweetness to the fried slices. That can make it cloying or one-note, however; some salt is needed.
For an Asian twist, rather than adding a generous shake of table salt, try a few drops of soy sauce, fish sauce or even Japanese shoyu. This adds a dimension of umami to the proceedings rather than just saltiness.
Another option is to dust the santan-soaked bread with some coconut flour before frying, to create a light crust. Coconut flour is basically dried, ground coconut meat and is both gluten free and rich in fibre. Consider it a healthier alternative to breadcrumbs.
Enjoy these slices of santan fried bread on their own or spread some berry compote or chunky peanut butter to heighten the levels of decadence. After all, how often is comfort food also a (domestic) luxury?
3 large eggs
250ml santan (coconut milk)
2 tablespoons of sugar
A few drops of soy sauce
A pinch of cinnamon powder
8 slices of bread
Optional: coconut flour, for dusting before frying
Whisk the eggs, santan, sugar, soy sauce and cinnamon powder together in a large mixing bowl. Soak the slices of bread in the egg-and-santan mixture for one minute. Flip to the other side and soak for another minute.
Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over a medium-low fire. Once the oil has to shimmer slightly but not smoking, place the slices of bread into the pan.
You may opt to dust the soaked slices of bread in a shallow dish of coconut flour before frying them, the way you would with breadcrumbs, if you’d like.
Cook until the slices of bread are golden brown, then flip to the other side. Once the other side is golden brown too, remove the fried bread from the pan and serve with toppings of choice.
For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.