My first memories and experiences of making mochi were in my junior year of college, with my best friend Jeska. You see, Jeska has an unfortunately long list of foods that upset her stomach, including an essential ingredient of most Western desserts: eggs. This meant that most of the baked goods that I made were, well, anti-Jeska food..
Fortunately, she brought with her to our new apartment a handwritten recipe for making mochi from scratch, given to her by her mom (Thanks, Auntie!) Shortly after, we commenced on a mochi-making experiment. About an hour later, we were covered with cornstarch, ouch-ing from the hot mochi mixture, but very happy with the results. We now had chewy, Jeska-friendly dessert that we made all by ourselves.
Maybe it was the fear of the thought of wrestling that hot dough, or the influence of my husband’s aversion to having food-coated fingers….But sadly, I only made mochi a few times on my own after that, despite my love for all things chewy and QQ.
While perusing Taiwanese cooking shows on YouTube, I found a recipe for hakka-style mochi. We tend to think of mochi as having a filling (red bean paste comes to mind first), but this hakka style mochi is made by showering the mochi bits with coating; usually peanut or black sesame.
This may not have the red bean paste filling, but the peanut and black sesame are no-fuss and simple to prepare. A pair of chopsticks is highly recommended for this recipe, as it helps shape the mochi and keep your hands dough-free.
In the year 2000, my dad’s half sisters from Beijing came to our house to visit for a month. Not only did I learn that my 爺爺, like some Chinese who fled to Taiwan to escape Mao, had married a first wife before he met my 奶奶, but that he had two daughters from that previous marriage, whom my dad and our family had never met. Obviously, Chinese/family drama prevented us from meeting them or knowing about them up until that point.
So, my 大姑 二姑 (da gu, er gu) arrived, and after only a few days into their stay, my dad promptly brought home a 50 pound bag of flour from our local Costco (I miss the days of living 5 minutes away from Costco 🙁 ). Fear not; this was not gluttony at work, but rather, common sense. Northerners are famous for their “麵食“ or mian shi, or basically goodies made with or from flour- think dumplings, noodles, steamed buns, shao bing, etc etc., and my 大姑 and 二姑 were no exception. They, like many other Chinese, showed their love and care for us through the delicious food they made for us, carby and bready delights included. Even though their visit was 15 years ago, I remember many goodies they made us- pan fried steamed buns (sheng jian bao) with kabocha squash filling, individual sesame shao bing, chewy dough filled with sesame paste and ooey gooey brown sugar, zongzi galore, man tou, and Chinese pizza, as my mom and I (and sister, maybe?) fondly called it. Continue reading
The more I record my steps to make recipes for this blog, the more I realize that it is so difficult to make exact recipes for dishes! There are so many variables in cooking- how powerful is your stove? How thick are your ‘julienned’ carrots? How big is one dried shiitake mushroom versus another? What type of salt? Even just for kosher salt, Diamond brand versus Morton brand have different sized flakes of salt- Morton brand is noticeably saltier per pinch of salt (try it!). Some soy sauces are super salty (cough Kikkoman red), and others are not as salty (Pearl River Bridge, for instance). I aim to provide as good of instructions as possible, but there are some variables I can’t account for. That being said, please use the recipes I post, but also use your tastebuds and intuition to guide you, even if that means straying from the exact amounts and such!
Stir-fried Thin Rice
chao mi fen (tsao mi fen)
help from: YTower and 李梅仙老師
Makes 4 hearty “carb” servings
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.
I’m sure you have seen these “alien” looking fruit at the grocery store. Raw, they taste kind of sharp or peppery like turnips or radishes, with a crunchy texture. Cooked, the taste is a bit mellowed out.
I first received kohlrabi in my CSA with Highland Orchards (though have now switched to Lancaster Farm Fresh, which I prefer for its variety). I tried them raw, but for some reason wasn’t a bit fan of the raw taste. I know others enjoy it raw, so maybe I will go back to trying it uncooked someday. Until then, however, I look forward to kohlrabi because I can make fritters!
To me, these fritters taste like a cross between latkes and Chinese turnip cake, or luo buo gao (萝卜糕), both of which I really like. Just like latkes, I think these would taste delicious with sour cream or applesauce, but Tim and I have just been eating them with Carla Goncalves’ amazing Piri Piri sauce, which she kindly gifted us with for our wedding. (quick back story: Carla and her husband, David, used to own a Portuguese restaurant called KooZeeDoo which is now closed, but David is the exec chef at Morgan’s Pier as of May 1! Carla does desserts for Sunday brunch, and Carla is a pastry wizard, in my opinion)
Makes 8 mediumish fritters
inspired by http://www.acouplecooks.com/2013/01/kohrabi-fritters-with-avocado/ and http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/kohlrabi-carrot-fritters-recipe Continue reading
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.
These don’t taste quite like cookies because there is no flour in them, but they are awfully yummy treats that are somewhat soft and chewy. Enjoy!
Almond Sesame Cookies
modified from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook
-1 cup almond meal
-1/4 cup toasted and ground black sesame seeds
-1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shreds
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-3 Tbsp coconut oil
1. Mix dry ingredients together (almond meal to brown sugar)
2. Beat egg until it has roughly doubled in volume.
3. Add egg to dry ingredients. Add coconut oil and pulverize coconut oil chunks well. Mix well. Drop onto baking sheets in 1-1.5 inch diameter blobs. Flatten out with a wet hand if you care about appearance; otherwise, leave them as is.
4. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes until the edges start to brown.