Tomorrow is the Lantern Festival, which is called Yuan Xiao Jie (元宵節）in Chinese. I don’t know much about it, other than the fact that it tang yuan is traditionally eaten at this time. Hooray for an excuse to eat tang yuan!
So, tell me more about tang yuan, you say. Remember yuan zi? Tang yuan are basically filled yuan zi. I think there are actually savory fillings and sweet fillings, but my only experience is with sweet, so that’s what I’ll be featuring today. A common filling that is also my favorite is black sesame paste, and other popular fillings include peanut and red bean paste
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
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