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Chinese New Year

In Recipe on
January 28, 2017

Chinese New Year 2017 | Water Chestnut Cake Recipe 馬蹄糕

Happy Chinese New Year!

This is why I love being Chinese. Not even a month since New Years and we’re celebrating again!

Being in Australia, and away from the majority of our relatives, Chinese New Year is not a huge thing for us, but we always do try to celebrate it, even if it only really involves the mandatory red pockets from our parents in the morning, and a nice Chinese New Year dinner at night.


And sometimes, if we have time for it and the weather’s not too hot, we get around to making some Chinese New Year snacks as well. I didn’t quite get around to making anything as involved as  honeycomb crisps, peanut filled pastries or smiling mouth cookies this year, so I threw together a quick water chestnut cake instead.

Whilst the classic New Year Cake (年糕) and Radish Cake (蘿蔔糕) are the more common cakes you tend to see around Chinese New Year, any type of cake can really be used to celebrate Chinese New Year because the word cake in Chinese is pronounced similarly to the word tall, therefore symbolising the promise of a better year.

For me, it’s just another excuse to have cake really.

Water chestnut cake is my favourite of Chinese cakes- essentially a simple sugar syrup mixture, thickened into a jelly-like consistency from chestnut flour. Chunks of water chestnut add some addition textural contrast- if you’ve never tried water chestnut, it is similar to the texture of a pear, although not nearly as sweet. Fresh water chestnuts make for an amazing snack, but you’ll have a hard time locating some in Australia so the frozen ones will do for this recipe.

We’ve been through a fair amount of water chestnut cake recipes and this is the one we ended our search at because it is the texture and the taste that we are after. The flavour mostly comes from the sugar, so it will vary depending on the type of sugar used, but the subtle taste of the water chestnut and the unique texture still remains regardless. I would definitely recommend this recipe for any water chestnut lovers!

Water Chestnut Cake 馬蹄糕
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Ingredients
  1. 320g water chestnuts (I used frozen)
  2. 320g water chestnut flour
  3. 480g cane sugar (I used 300g)
  4. 1T lard (I used vegetable oil)
  5. 5.5 cups water
Instructions
  1. Wash the water chestnuts and cut into small pieces
  2. Mix water chestnut flour with 1.5 cups of water to make a paste
  3. Boil the remaining 4 cups of water with the cane sugar until melted
  4. Add lard and water chestnuts. Boil breifly and turn off heat.
  5. Wait for 3 minutes and then quickly pour in mixed water chestnut solution in the boiled sugar solution. Mix quickly to form a paste
  6. Pour into a greased cake tin and steam for 30 minutes until cooked
  7. When cold, cut into slices and pan fry in oil until gold on both sides before serving.
Notes
  1. The recipe can be tweaked, but I would recommend keeping the ratio of chestnut flour to water the same- this is what gives it the correct texture.
  2. Because water chestnut does not have much of a flavour, the flavour mostly comes from the sugar so you can change it to suit your tastes. We tend to use Chinese brown sugar (which results in a darker cake), but in this instance, I used rock sugar (cane sugar) for a whiter result.
The texture of the cake can vary considerably depending on how it is mixed
  1. In the method described in the original recipe, the water syrup mixture (step 3 and 4) is set to cool for 3 min before the flour solution is added. When this method is used, the resulting cake is smooth and attractive.
  2. The method I prefer is to add the flour solution immediately tot he boiling syrup mixture. This 'cooks' the flour and immediately turns the mixture into a thick paste. This results in a chewier cake, although not as smooth.
Adapted from Hong Kong Snacks Cookbook
Berry Nutritious http://berrynutritious.com.au/
In Asian Treats, Recipe on
February 17, 2011

Honeycomb Crisps/Cookies (糖環)

It’s only just starting to hit me that the holidays are ending soon, and I might never have this much time to bum around again until the end of the year 🙁 So I’ve gotten off my lazy butt and started doing the things I had meant to do since I came back from holidays.

Just yesterday, I turned on the oven for the first time since I came back and baked a couple of pots of creme caramel -a recipe which I’ve made a billion times (but have yet to upload onto this blog) But then I went to watch a movie …….and completely forgot about it until a whole hour later (double the time they should have spent in the oven). Strangely enough, they turned out to be the best batch I’ve ever made- almost perfectly smooth and silky (perhaps because my electric oven is a lot cooler than my gas one which I usually use?)

So yes, I’ve officially re-entered baking land and have started going through all those recipes I’ve bookmarked over the last couple of months (most of which I’d completely forgotten about). Meanwhile, here’s another chinese new year snack we made a while ago. I’m not quite sure how to name them but they’re basically a sweet coconutty batter (sort of like a pancake batter)deep fried until crispy- and they’re terribly addictive too!

To make, these, you need a special mould (like the one in the instructions on this site). I’m not sure whether you can buy them in Australia… We bought ours in Hong Kong- we’re buying one or two different moulds everytime we go to there now and are slowly building up our ‘special mould’ collection 🙂 So I might have a few interesting Asian snacks up on this blog soon!(egg waffles anyone?)

Coconut Sweet Rings (糖環)

140g plain flour

140g cornflour
3 eggs
140g sugar
1 cup each of coconut milk and evaporated milk, mixed

1. Beat the sugar and the ggs until fluffy
2. Add flour and mized milk in batches alternately to the egg mixture. This should be done in 4 additions (beat thoroughly after each addition). Set aside for 1 hour.
3. Heat oil (to deep fry) to meadium heat. Place mould in the oil for a few seconds (until hot) and then remove from oil.
4. Coat mould with flour mixture carefully (dip the mould into the batter)
5. Place the mould in the hot oil. The cooked rings will separate from the mould after frying (we used chopsticks to help them off). Deep fry until golden brown. Drain well and place in an airtight container when cold- they should keep for 1-2 months.
Note: If the oil is too hot, the rings will become brown really quickly and not shape well

 

In Asian Treats, Recipe on
February 9, 2011

Chinese New Year Snacks ….

I’m back!


So. I realise I’ve been gone for quite a while now, half because of holidays but mainly because of reasons associated with laziness, but let’s not worry about that now 🙂

Well, since it’s a little past chinese new year, and I have so much time on my hands right now before uni, I got a chance to try out a couple of Chinese new year snack recipes! We make these fried pastries almost every year but this is really the first time we’ve come close to success- perhaps because of the recipe or because of experience. In chinese, they’re called 角仔, which litterally translates into ‘litle horns’ because of their shape but are actually pastries filled with a sweet peanutt-y filling.

I’m pretty terrible at pleating the dough though- mine all turn out more ike a child’s first attempt at pleating dumplings than anything (the ones in the photos are probably my mum’s ) but it’s still fun getting my hands all oily and sugary 🙂

 

New Year Crispy Triangles (角仔)

(as named by the chinese cookbook I got the recipe from)

640g flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup lard (I replaced with butter)
125g water

320g fried shelled peanuts (I’m not quite sure what that means- I just used plain peanuts)
80g fried white sesame seeds (we used plain white sesame)
240g white sugar
2 Tbs desiccated coconut
(I doubled this becuase I like coconut)

1. Grind peanut and mix with sesame, sugar and coconut to form filling
2. Sieve flour onto tabletop and make a well in the middle
3. Add eggs and lard and mix. Gradually pour in water, kneading at the same time until a soft dough is formed
4. Cover with damp cloth and set aside for 30 minutes
5. Roll dough out with a rolling pin and cut rounds with a saucer (we used a cup). Wrap in filling and fold edges in a zigzag pattern.
6. Deep fry on low heat until golden brown and the pastries float to the top (about 8-10 minutes although I’m pretty sure ours didn’t take that long…..)

In Asian Treats, Recipe on
June 13, 2010

Smiling Mouth Cookies 笑口枣

When I was little, I had terrible teeth. Big, ugly, rabbit teeth. Each tooth had a mind of its own and grew in a different direction to the one next to it- I’m not kidding. It was terrible.

I didn’t mind too much- after all, I’d grown up with them. But I tried to hide them as much as possible- like smiling with my mouth closed (at least for photos). Which wasn’t an easy thing. Because when I’m happy, I just can’t seem to close my mouth! Looking back at photos, especially those in year 6, I can’t tell which ones I look worse in- the ones where I’m trying to close my mouth but end up with a funny face or the ones which I just let my teeth stick out. School photos were horrible because the photographer always made us say something like ‘yes’ (actually they still do….) and not only would that be awkward (the way it still is), but I’d have to try to close my mouth lightning fast, which I never managed to do.


I remember a (sort of )conversation with some friends in primary. A girl was pondering over the issue of getting braces- except that, she had pretty much perfect teeth. When I mentioned that I would probably be getting braces soon, she responded with something along the lines of ‘If I had teeth like yours, I’d definitely get braces’ (only the real quote had words like ‘ugly’ somewhere in there too….)=[ I eventually got braces in year 7. They didn’t really hurt after the first couple of weeks but my orthodontist told me not to eat chocolate or drink fizzy drinks when I had braces. Being the good girl I am, I actually listened and went off chocolate and fizzy drinks for a whole year (I definitely don’t have that self control now)- it was not until I had them off that I realised that no other orthodontist told their clients to do so. But with my braces off, not only could i start eating normally again, I also had straight teeth, meaning that I could finally smile properly- a good happy smile, which I use a lot now =]

I never really noticed how much I smiled until someone called me ‘smiley’. I sometimes smile instead of saying hello, I smile when I’m embarassed, I smile when I don’t know how to respond to something. I even finish sentences with smiley faces, both on my blog posts and in comments 😉 My fingers just wander over to the smiley face sign instead of a full stop……..


I really love happy things- which is why I love the name of these cookies. And they’re delicious too! ‘Smiling mouth cookies’ is the direct translation from chinese, incase you’re wondering about the weird name- because apparently, the split looks like a smile (I don’t really see it….)

My mum had promised me she’d make these with me, after reading it in one of her chinese cookbooks. But being busy with school work and various other things, this promise got forgotten until one day, after school, a food topic on the chinese radio triggered my memory. Off I went on a rant about how my mother had promised me to cook all these things but we’ve never gotten around to doing them (to be fair, she keeps a LOT more of her promises than I do), which eventually led to her suggesting we make these cookies right there and then!

Despite having a load of homwork due, I quickly hurried around the kitchen to grab all the ingredients, before my mum changed her mind. It didn’t take too long- my mum read the recipe whilst I measured everything. I did all the mixing and kneading, shoving my mother’s helpful hands out of the way every time she tried to grab the dough off my to have a go- yes, we love the hog the fun bits! As luck would have it, we could only find enough seasame seeds in the house to coat three cookies, so we attempted to coat them with coconut, which we realised would not work. So we went back to the pantry, turned the whole thing inside out, and finally find a brand new packet of seasame seeds! *phew*

The cookies fry quickly, it only takes about 20 seconds or so for them to float up and another minute to brown but we leave it there for a couple of minutes longer, since the recipe said 6-8 minutes. The coconut cookie browned within the first few seconds, and the coconut got burnt- so don’t try these with coconut! They’re sweet and crunchy, but the inside is slightly softer and the seasame seeds give it a really nice flavour too. Definitely the type of food to keep me going throughout the night…….to finish all that homework I’d been putting off 😉

Smiling Mouth Cookies

Ingredients

Low gluten flour (cake flour)……….450g
Salad Oil (any oil will do)……………..20g
Caster Sugar………………………………150g
Water………………………………………..100g
Baking Powder…………………………..9g
Baking Soda……………………………….1g
Egg…………………………………………….50g (1 egg)
Some white sesame
Some black sesame (optional)
Oil (for deep
frying)

1. Mix together the water, sugar, baking powder and baking soda until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Whisk in the egg and slowly add in the oil.
3. Using a spatula, mix the flour into the mixture until a dough is
formed. Turn it out onto a hard surface and knead until the dough is smooth.
4. Divide the dough into 100g portions and roll them out into long sausage shapes. Place all the ‘sausages’ lengthwise closely next to each other and then use a pastry cutter to cut along the other way so that each sausage is cut into ten pieces. Alternatively, divide the dough into 10g portions (I think the first way is meant to be faster)
5. Roll the pieces into balls. Then, place in a sieve and sprinkle with water. (you don’t want it to be too wet). Then roll the balls in sesame until the entire surface of each ball is covered. To do this, I sprinkle the sesame into a tray , dump the balls of dough in and shake the tray around so that the balls are covered. I find it easier to work with about 10 balls at a time.
6. Heat the oil in a large pot (or wok) until 120C then place as many balls as can fit into the oil. They will initially sink to the bottom, and then rise after around 2-3 minutes. When the cookies split open (or ‘smile’) and turn golden brown (around 6-8 minutes), take them out and let cool a while (unless you want a burnt tongue….) before eating.

In Asian Treats, Recipe on
February 11, 2010

Pinapple Cookies | Almost New Year…..

With the lunar new year coming up, many bloggers have been busy making new year treats. I don’t usually bake for special occasions (other than birthdays) because they usually fall within some sort of busy period where I just can’t find enough time to bake something and blog about it in time. Thinking I was going to have to miss out on yet another occasion, I resorted to reading about other people’s blogs (erm..whilst supposedly studying..hehe), as I usually do anyway, until I came across pineapple cookies/tarts on almost everyone’s blogs- which reminded me, that I had actually made them a while ago!!

I’m guessing that these cookies are a Malaysian thing because when I asked my parents about them, they had no idea what they were talking about. To them these are more similar to the chinese pineapple cookies they buy from asian supermarkets (I don’t know if they’re the same thing???)

I’d made these at the end of last year after reading about it. I chose this recipe and made it one afternoon before I went on holidays to give to my relatives. It was quite a risk, making something I’d never made before as I often fail the first time I try to make anything. But since I don’t have a signature dessert or a favourtie recipe or anything, I thought I’d just give it a try. Luckily, they turned out perfect so I was able to box them and take them overseas- my relatives loved them!
When I got back to Australia, I made them again- to take photos (so I could blog about them) and, more importantly because we all wanted to eat them again! Unfortunately, they didn’t turn out as good as the first time but still tasted great! me and my sister had a fun time rolling these into balls- whilst my mum had….errrr fun cleaning the burnt bits left on the saucepan after I cooked the pineapples. Oops.
Rolling them is a bit tricky at first but is extremely fun- the dough is very soft due to the large amount of butter which leaves your hand all oily after rolling them, whilst the pineapple filling is extremely sticky. My sister made a few oddly shaped ones- just so that we could tell they were hers! Not surprisingly, they were devoured very quickly- I completely understand the food bloggers obsession with these cookies, and why everyone makes them for new year! I’ll definitely be making these again and again and again!
 

Nastar (Pineapple cookies)

 For the pineapple filling:
1 can (440 gr) crushed pineapple, DO NOT drain
150 gr sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1. Dump everything into a medium saucepan. Cook until caramelised, mashing the pineapple gently.
2. Transfer into a bowl and cool. Shape into small balls and place on a baking paper-lined baking tray. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until needed.

For the cookies:
125 gr butter, chopped, cold
25 gr powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
150 gr plain flour
25 gr cornstarch

1. Mix butter and powdered sugar on medium speed. Do not overmix – we don’t want to incorporate too much air.
2. Add yolk and mix well. Sift together flour and cornstarch. Mix on low until combined.
3. Take 10 gr of dough and flatten it. Place one pinapple ball on the center and enclose with the dough. Place on a lined baking tray – cover with plastic wrap if necessary, to prevent the cookies drying out. Repeat until dough is used up. Do NOT brush them with egg wash (recipe follows) prior to baking.
4. Bake in preheated 180 C oven for 10 minutes. Take out and brush with the egg wash. Return to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned.

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp milk
1 tsp honey

1. Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Make sure the honey is dissolved well and the mixture is no longer lumpy.