During our last winter evening in Lijiang this year, my family ventured into a coffee bar in the olden city. Dim lights, acoustic guitar and just enough warmth to be comfortable. We ordered something titled “Eternal Beauty Tea” in English and after a long wait, a very unassuming tea pot was delivered to our table.
The moment I tasted it, I immediately opened the lid of the pot. There it was: a melody of snow white fungus, boiled pears, dates and various herbs.
Not a single tea leaf.
It’s not tea. It’s a dessert soup with great warming and throat soothing qualities. One sip and you’ll taste the spiced blend of poached pear mixed with the sweetness of white fungus soaked in rock sugar.
The dates add a dimension of tartness but the tastes are all blended so well that it trumps all other winter drinks. It’s sweet and terribly addicting.
Here’s the recipe:
Two pears (I used Bosc, but any would do)
Three clumps of white fungus
1/4 cup of dried lotus seeds
One tablespoon of rock sugar (adjust sweetness to your liking)
Five cups of water
1. Soak the white fungus and dried lotus seeds in hot water for 20 minutes.
2. Cut the pears into cubes
3. Separate the white fungus into smaller pieces. Toss out any yellowing parts or hard sections.
3. Boil water in a slow cooker
4. Once water is boiling, add pears, then white fungus. Add lotus seeds and turn the cooker to high.
5. Wait 30 minutes then add dates.
6. Wait another hour and add sugar to your liking.
You want to soak the white fungus and dried lotus seeds in hot water first because when you buy them, they’re dehydrated. The hot water will allow the fungus and seeds to soften and open up.
This dessert soup takes a while to make because you want the white fungus to “烂,” which means, to decompose and get softer. A slow cooker is ideal but if you don’t have one, you can do this all over a fire.
Don’t add the dates in too early or else the soup will become too sour. The key is to get it to a mild sweetness.
Everything in this dessert soup is edible. So while others prefer just to drink the soup, you can eat the all the ingredients. I personally love munching on the fungus.
After finishing my regular to-do list in the morning, I had a sudden urge to use the almond powder in my pantry. Lately, I’ve been using it to make a hot almond milk drink and I was starting to get bored of the usual…
It started out with a cookie recipe…but the batter looked too dry so I added milk and another egg. The butter at my house was grossly expired, so I made due with grape seed oil.
Somewhere in the process it evolved into a muffin.
The health-conscious boyfriend (aka J): “Prettyyyy good. I’d eat this again. Go lighter on the sugar next time.”
The dad (in a heavy Asian accent): “85 out of 100.” *walks away*
Whatever. In my defense, J is so anti-sugar it’s a little bit sad. A couple years ago in Taiwan when my Chinese skills were still slightly rudimentary, he’d purposely order milk tea for me with half the amount of sugar they regularly put it. There’s a reason it’s called “regular.” Regular is the norm — and I prefer my milk tea the way the store normally makes it.
As for my dad? I don’t even know. #asianparents
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup almond powder (I usually get mine at the local Asian supermarket. 99 Ranch is my go-to location)
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup milk
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt.
3) Add in sugar, almond powder, oil, eggs, and milk.
4) Stir until the batter is smooth.
5) Divide batter in muffin pan. (I used individual, large ones) Make sure you spray the bottoms with vegetable oil.
5) Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
This was enough for four large muffins (the equivalent of probably seven or eight regular-sized ones). They were so large I cut them up into little pieces.
I had a really good interview with Stephen Li of the Hong Kong Street Cart who shared with us his recipe for a Chinese classic.
Salt and Pepper Shrimp
12(large 16-20 count) shrimps shelled and deveined
2 tablespoon fried garlic bits
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seed
3 pieces green scallion (white part only julienned)
5 pieces dried red chili peppers chopped
1 ½ quart soybean oil or corn oil for frying shrimp
1 pinch salt & pepper seasoning (see salt & pepper recipe)
Fried taro (cut to strip) optional for garnish
Cilantro for garnish
For Shrimp Batter
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cup potato Starch for dredging
½ tablespoon soybean Oil or Corn oil
Salt & Pepper Seasoning Recipe
(This makes about 2 pints) scaled down from original restaurant recipe
You can save seasoning for all type of dishes, such as crispy paperskin chicken
3⅓ cup Salt
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 spice powder
1 teaspoon Szechuan powder
½ teaspoon Ginger powder
Toast the salt in a frying pan until hot about 15 minute. Toss constantly. Set aside to cool down, then add 5 spice powder, Szechuan powder, Ginger powder and mix well.
Shrimp Batter Procedure:
Rinse shrimp and pat dry.
Marinate the shrimp with a pinch of salt and work through the shrimp with your hands until it’s a little pasty.
Add cornstarch, mix well.
Add oil, mix well.
Put the potato starch in mixing bowl and dredge the shrimp in potato starch.
Squeeze the shrimp with palm of hand so the starch sticks to the shrimp.
Heat soybean oil in wok or deep pan.
Fry shrimp 2-3 minutes until golden and transfer to paper towel to drain.
In a separate frying pan, on high heat, place the fried shrimps and add fried garlic bits, toasted sesame seed, dried red chili peppers, scallion and toss.
Sprinkle with a heavy pinch of salt and pepper season while tossing.
Garnish plate with cilantro and fried taro stripes and place the shrimps on top.
Maple Black Sugar Cookies
Yield: Around 32
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2/3 cup sugar
6 ounces black sugar
8 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoon water
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
7/8 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon of espresso powder
1 tablespoon of Kahlua
Combine the espresso powder and Kahlua into a bowl and stir until the
espresso powder is dissolved.
Add powdered sugar to the creamed butter.
Add the coffee mixture into the butter-and-powdered-sugar mixture. Keep mixing
until well combined.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a pot, place black sugar, maple syrup, and water on low heat. Mix
for about five minutes, until the black sugar has dissolved into the syrup and
water to create a syrup-like liquid. Note: Do not let the mixture harden or burn, so keep it on low heat.
In a medium-size bowl, cream butter and sugar until well mixed.
Add the egg and mix incorporate into mixture.
Into another small bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
First, mix one-third of the dry ingredients into the butter-and-sugar mixture. Then, add
the black sugar liquid into the batter. Make sure the batter is constantly
being mixed as the warm black sugar is poured.
Slowly add the remaining flour mixture into the butter-and-sugar mixture. The
dough should not be wet but rather should feel sticky.
Place tablespoon-size scoops of dough onto a pan, with one-inch separations
between each scoop.
Bake for 12 minutes and let cool for five minutes.
Once the cookies have cooled, spread a layer of the coffee cream on one side
of a cookie and place another cookie on top of it to create a sandwich.
I caught up with Bian Dang creator Thomas Yang to chat about his new ventures and Taiwanese food. After our conversation, he was kind enough to give me a recipe for a delicious tasting pork belly bao. Full article at Village Voice.
5lbs pork belly, skin on
13 fl oz soy sauce
5 cloves garlic, with skin off
3 – 4 pieces star anise
2.5 tablespoons sugar
cilantro, to serve
Wash the pork belly and pat dry.
Cut into 1 inch cubes.
Spread the cubes out on an oven tray and place under the grill to quickly brown all sides.
Put the pork belly and soy sauce in a large pan over high heat.
Stir thoroughly until the pork belly absorbs the soy sauce evenly (about 2 minutes). Then add enough water to just cover the meat, followed by the scallions, garlic, star anise and sugar.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 – 50 minutes without the lid on and stir constantly.
Serve in a bowl and garnish with cilantro.