A few days before Chinese New Year, I brought red bean sticky rice cake for my friends at the restaurant to try. “What is it?” one of the servers asked. “Bean cake,” K told them. “Hmm, is this eaten with anything else- ice cream or something?” S asked. “It tastes….innnnnteresting…”
1) Sweet bean taste (and weaker bean taste, too, because this was a store-bought cake, not the one I made) and 2) Rice in dessert made for some disappointments in taste and texture department from these French cuisiners. Oops! Needless to say, they were not fans. I later told my mom on the phone about this funny cultural exchange, and we talked about the differences in Western and Eastern palates.
It’s funny how different cultures think about different ingredients. For beans, Western cuisine and Eastern cuisine have completely different takes on it!
When I think of beans with a Western brain, I think of salt: chili, hummus, rice and beans, split pea soup, and salad.
When I think of beans with an Eastern mindset, I think of both salt and sugar: tofu, soy sauce, soymilk pudding, red bean paste (豆沙), Vietnamese 三色冰 or Che Ba Mau, red bean soup, mung bean soup, etc.
But, please stay with me on this beany journey- learn to appreciate both the savory and sweet applications of our legume friends!
‘Mung bean’ is the more appealing translation of the Chinese word lv dou (綠豆). Lv dou actually translates to ‘green bean,’ just like adzuki bean is another word for red bean. I’m sure people would be gagging if they heard green bean soup as a dessert, as a picture of the lovely string bean would first pop up in their minds.
If the taro version is the ‘original’ 西米露, then allow me to call this its mung bean cousin.
I was tempted to add a pinch of salt, after thinking of how salt is so smartly applied in the famous Thai dessert of mango sticky rice, but feel free to include or exclude that if you wish. I don’t think Chinese people ever add salt to desserts, so I guess this is my take on this one.
Also, I’m not sure if 綠豆西米露 is the official correct name for this, but it’s the way I thought to differentiate it from its popular taro counterpart. Bon appétit!
|Pre-coconut milk…post coconut milk looks kind of funky! :d|
lv dou xi mi lu
Mung Bean Tapioca Soup Continue reading
Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we moved yet again! I am thankful for friends and co-workers who graciously gave up their Saturday morning to help us.
Those of you who have had to move know that it’s a pain in a butt to pack everything, and also know that the number of boxes representing the kitchen area seems to always outdo boxes from any other room. I am trying to pare down the ‘stuff’ I have…do I keep my shaved ice maker? The Taiwanese in me screams yes! And, after our trip to Taiwan (less than 72 hours to go!!), I am sure I will be re-inspired to make shaved ice.
Does anyone want a stovetop waffle iron? It’s a gift from my mom, but after 2 waffle sessions, I realized that I didn’t have the patience to make waffles over the stovetop and have to babysit them. (Sorry, Mama!) I am looking for a good home for them, so inquire within. Obviously, you must be able to pick it up from me..no deliveries 😉
Before the move to our current place, I went through a sad period of about 1-2 weeks where I didn’t feel much like cooking or baking. It’s hard to feel inspired to create when you can’t feel like the place you are living in is your home, for me, at least. It’s also hard when lots of your kitchen stuff is still packed away in boxes! By the time I snapped out of it and realized that I had to resume my routine for my sanity’s sake, it was just about time to move again..
I am thankful to be living in our new place, where we really like it. We have just gotten settled, and almost all the boxes have been unpacked or moved to closets. I am excited to cook!……when we return from Taiwan. We’re leaving on Saturday….sooo excited! We will be back in 2 weeks.
We bought a Costco-sized pack of AA batteries for my camera in preparation for our trip. We plan to take pictures of everything we eat, and maybe pictures of some scenery and people here and there 😉
I’m excited for many things in Taiwan, but I can’t deny that the food is one of the top things I’m excited for. Taiwanese people really know how to make great snacks, sweets, and food of all sorts! I can only pray that I can learn to re-create a few of the delicious morsels we will feast on in one of Asia’s best places 🙂
In the mean time, here are some Taiwanese/Chinese recipes to transport you to Taiwan while I am gone!
Lu Rou Fan (The most popular recipe on this site, believe it or not!)
Yan Su Ji (Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken)
Jiu Cai He Zi (Chinese Leek Boxes)
Spicy Pepper Stir-Fry (Make it as a side for your dinner tonight. I will be making it to go with our steamed fish!)
Sweet Red Bean Soup with YuanZi
Every year our church holds two potlucks, and the weather forecast showed this past Sunday to be a warm day. I was trying to think of something that would be good for a crowd, yet easy enough to make in my barely-moved-in kitchen supplies and equipment! My friend G had requested that I make the Taro Coconut Dessert, but I thought it would be too warm for that. She has some food allergies and also tries to be vegan when possible, so I tried to also keep her in mind for the dessert.
Enter memories of mung bean soup, or lu dou tang, from childhood. My mom would make this simple lightly sweetened dessert of mung beans cooked until they were ‘sandy’, served cold. Sometimes she would add grains or seeds like lotus seeds or pearled barley, but the heart and soul was the mung bean. I thought of grass jelly as a refreshing addition to the mix, then thought of chewy mochi balls for some texture. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this soup would actually be an ode to some of my most favorite Taiwanese shaved ice fillings, in a drinkable form. (Imagine trying to make shaved ice for 100+ people and keeping it cold…good luck!) To keep it simple, I’ll call this mung bean soup. The additions are recommended, but not required; even just mung beans on their own soup taste delicious.
Things have been pretty busy around here! Practices for the Mendelssohn Club choir have begun, I’ve been to New York City and Staten Island just in this month, and we’ve started to pack for our move to a smaller but less expensive apartment. It’s been 5 years since I’ve lived at the same place for more than a year, so I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking from the pantry and freezer the month or month and a half before we have to move. Tim was also working late most of this past week (and got free breakfast/lunch/dinner), so I had no one to help me eat all the food!
Today, I pulled out some taro I had frozen a while back. Taro is another ingredient that freezes quite well. So, the next time you see pretty taro in the grocery store, buy it, freeze up what you don’t use, then make this easy Chinese dessert soup. Even though I call it a soup, it’s thicker* than a soup but thinner than tapioca pudding or a custard. You should totally make this dessert because it only requires using one pot! The version I make is not super sweet, and doesn’t skimp on taro or coconut milk taste. I hope you will try it out sometime 🙂 My neighbors had it- the parents loved it, but the 3 and 10 year olds had one spoonful each and decided they didn’t like it at all! Hopefully y’all will enjoy it like the parents did. Oh yeah! I also made this for our pastor’s ordination ceremony in a huge 16 or 20 quart pot, and there was none left at the end. :d
Ever gotten the mochi topping that ubiquitous in frozen yogurt shops?
Ever had boba milk tea, known as “bubble tea” on the east coast?
What do they have in common? If you think of the texture and taste of the mochi topping, along with the way that boba is served (chewy or QQ treat in a liquid), that is kiiinda what red bean soup with yuanzi is. I wouldn’t officially call them mochi balls, even though they are also made of glutinous (or sticky) rice flour, because I think someone in Japan would be outraged! Anyway, I’ll call them yuanzi simply because this is glutinous rice flour used in a Chinese/Taiwanese food manner. Just as rice is everywhere in Asia, sticky rice and its products are also commonly found in other Asian countries, including but not limited to Japan, Korea, and Thailand:
Note: Product of Thailand! You can buy sticky rice flour at any “Oriental” supermarket.
Yuanzi are essentially little round dumplings of deliciousness. The Taiwanese use QQ to describe the elusively “chewy” texture of boba, and yuanzi are QQ in that same manner.
What about the red bean soup? Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste anything like if you were to mush up and add sugar to kidney beans. That would probably not taste that good. These are tiny red beans, also known as adzuki beans. You can think of them as a “dessert-only bean” if you wish!
For me, the tastiest and only red bean soup worthy of drinking is that which is cooked long enough so that the red beans form a nice “sandy” and rather homogeneous texture with the soup. It will also have an intense red beany taste. Red bean soup that is not finished cooking at high enough of a temperature or is just not cooked long enough, will have a weak red beany taste, and an ever-present layer of bland water floating on top.
You can always just make red bean soup, or hong2dou4tang1, to end a Chinese meal, but yuanzi are always a nice addition. Yuanzi is probably one of the first things that I learned how to make during my childhood:
“Do you want pink ones too (要不要粉红色的)?” my mom would ask my sister and me.
“YES!!” we would answer without hesitation.
After mixing the dough together in a manner of seconds, my mom would split the dough in two and put half in another bowl. She would then take the small McCormick bottle of red food coloring out of the mirror above the sink that opened up to small shelves just big enough for some spices and jars. She would put a few drops of food coloring into one of those bowls, and rub it into the dough until the dough turned all pink. She and my sister and me would make the yuanzi together and rub them into little balls before dropping them into the red bean soup. I would see little pink and white balls float in the hot soup, then it was time to eat! Keep reading for a recipe for hong dou tang and yuanzi, plus some ideas for variations.