Asian Food Blog: Springtime Sweets

2010 April 12
by Kendall

The newest addition to the Hills Learning blog – Asian Food Blog
A section devoted to introducing Asian dishes and giving step by step instruction for fool-proof Asian cooking.

Since the weather is warming up and signs of spring are popping up all around, I thought it would nice to introduce some deliciously light sweets from China, Japan and Korea. This entry will quickly introduce each of the desserts, and over the next three weeks, the recipe for each dish will be explained. So if you like anything here, stay tuned to this blog and you’ll get to learn how to make it!

Nian Gao, a traditional dessert for Lunar New Year

From China

Although ti’s a little late for Chinese New Year, this cake is definitely worth trying any time. Nian Gao, or Chinese New Year’s cake, is sweet and sticky and symbolizes family cohesion and rising fortune. Nian means both ‘sticky’ and ‘year’, and gao can mean ‘cake’ and ‘to rise up’. It is a must at Lunar New Year’s time to wish for a family that is stuck together and for good luck in the coming year. There are many different recipes for this dessert. Next week, we’ll attempt to make a more modern version, which uses an oven instead of the steamer, an apparatus not found in many Western kitchens.

From Japan

Sakura mochi (Chomeiji mochi) Tokyo style

Sakura mochi (Chomeiji mochi) Tokyo style

Sakura, cherry blossoms, are the true sign of spring in Japan. Once the delicate pink and white blossoms appear, people come out in droves to eat, drink and make merry under their beautiful shade. Sakura mochi is a traditional dessert enjoyed at this time of year. There are two types of sakura mochi: Kanto (Tokyo) style and Kansai (Kyoto) style. The Kanto style (pictured) is made from rice flour cooked into pancakes, while the Kansai style is made from coarsely pounded glutinous rice. Both are dyed to look pink and are filled with red bean paste, like the Chinese rice balls. On the outside is a salted sakura leaf, which gives a light sakura aroma and (if you decide to eat it) gives a salty kick that contrasts deliciously with the light sweetness of the red beans.

Gyung dan, sweet rice balls with various coatings

From Korea

Made for special occasions in Korea, gyung dan are sticky rice balls that are easy to prepare and come in endless variations. For example, you can try dry coatings such as  black and white sesame seeds, roasted soybean powder and cinnamon and sugar. Or, like the Chinese and Japanese sweets, fill them with red bean paste. Try experimenting with these delicious little treats. You just might create a new favorite!

If you’ve noticed, a common ingredient in all of these desserts is sticky rice. Actually, all of these desserts are made with sticky rice flour (a.k.a. glutinous rice flour, sweet rice flour), an ingredient that you can easily pick up at any Asian supermarket. If you want to prepare for the next few weeks cooking lessons, go out and pick some up. To ask for the flour by name in the language you are studying, see the list below.

In Chinese, glutinous rice is known as nuòmǐ (糯米). The flour is called mǐ fěn (米粉)
In Japan, its called mochigome (もち米). The flour is called mochiko (もちこ).
In Korea, its called chapssal (찹쌀). The flour is called ssalgaru (쌀가루).

Be Back Next Week! K-chan (^。^)

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