Tag Archives: Chinese

ABC Mooncakes (less sugar, vegan, and close to being organic)

Moon festival is my favorite cultural holiday.  My mom and dad call it Chinese Valentine’s Day.  Every year we get to play with lanterns, drink tea, eat mooncakes, and listen to my parents tell us these amazing stories.  There’s a love story behind this holiday, but I can write an entire essay on this so here’s a link if you’re interested.  It’s such a powerful story to my parents that they decided to get married on this holiday, so every year we are also celebrating their anniversary.  The best part about this festival is eating mooncakes.  These delights are sold once a year in decorative tin boxes and they can range anywhere from $20-$50 for a box of four.  The reason why these are so expensive is the fact that it’s hard to make.  Also, there is an ingredient that needs to be prepared a year in advance.  Don’t fret!  I found another method around this.  For this year’s anniversary, I decided to surprise my parents with homemade mooncakes but with a classy and fit twist.  Mooncakes are not healthy.  Think donuts or heavy pastries.  What I did in my recipe was cut the sugar and oil significantly, made it vegan, and I tried to keep majority of my ingredients organic.  Also, I wanted to bring a Filipino flare to my recipe, so I made an ube (aka purple yam) mooncake.  Since the process was long I thought if it doesn’t work out I don’t want to make them again.  Mama Chiang never made mooncakes, so I had to put this to the ultimate test by sending it to Pao Pao (grandma).  I was nervous.  If anyone’s been around longer to know supreme Chinese mooncakes it’s my Pao Pao.  Guess what?  Looks like I’ll be making more of these.  It was a perfect anniversary gift.  My parents loved it!  They were surprised how an ABC (yes, my parents often stereotype me as “American Born Chinese”) is able to make this.  I experimented to make a healthier recipe, so here I present my masterful ABC Mooncakes.

By Shelly Chiang, Makes about 8 mooncakes (considering one serving of the outer dough)

Tools

Mooncake mold – I got this from Brown Cookie

Outer Cake Ingredients

(Note: I made the outer dough 3 times to use up the lotus and ube paste below.  It’s better to make it in small portions because it will make it easier for you to knead the dough.  The outer dough is what makes the mooncake.)

  • 1 cup sifted unbleached cake flour
  • 1/3 cup of golden syrup (This is the ingredient that takes a year to make, but I used Lyle’s Golden Syrup and it turned out great.  I got this from World Market)
  • ½ teaspoon of potassium carbonate (This is what makes the texture of the dough.  You can get this from the Asian Market)
  • 2 tablespoons of organic peanut oil

Outer Cake Instructions (Preparation takes 24-48 hours)

1. Sift cake flour into a large bowl.  Make a crater in the middle of the flour.

2. Pour golden syrup, potassium carbonate, and peanut oil in the crater.

3. Carefully take a rubber spatula and pour the flour from the sides into the middle of the crater.


4. Keep pouring the sides until the dough is formed.


5. Rub some flour on the cutting board and transfer the dough from the bowl.
6. Now knead the dough until its smooth.


7. Roll it into a log and wrap it with plastic wrap.  It’s difficult to form the filling in the dough within a day (texture is not there yet), so you want to place it in the fridge overnight.  For best results, leave it in the fridge for 2 days.

Lotus Paste Ingredients

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 12 oz dried lotus seeds (You can get this at the Asian Market)
  • ½ cup organic peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown rice syrup

Lotus Paste Instructions (Preparation takes 24-48 hours)

1. While you are waiting for your dough, you want to make your Lotus Paste because this takes time to make.  First, soak the dried lotus seeds.  I would say soak it over 24-48 hours for best results.


2. Now you want to remove the green root in the middle of the seeds because it’s bitter.  You may need a partner for this.  Simply pinch the seed and you’ll see the green root.  Remove and keep the halves of the seeds.


3. Place seeds in a pot and fill with water.  You want to boil the seeds on high.  Once it boils, lower the heat to medium.  Since I started in the evening, before I went to sleep I had the stove on low overnight.  You may want to start in the morning or use a crock pot.
4. Once the seeds are soft place this in a food processor.  Blend until it becomes a paste-like texture.


5. Put the paste in a non-stick pot on medium heat and mix half of the sugar and peanut oil.  You want to evenly distribute the sugar and oil, so once it’s blended you want to put the other half of sugar and oil to mix.

6. Once it’s blended mix brown syrup until smooth.
7. Put the lotus paste in a container.  Feel free to add nuts to some of the lotus paste.  I made a few nut mooncakes mixing in almonds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts as a separate filling.

Ube Paste

  • 4 purple yams
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic brown syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of organic coconut milk

Ube Paste Instructions

I made this paste to create a Chinese-Filipino fusion mooncake.  My husband introduced me to Filipino ube desserts in the past and I absolutely love them, so I thought why not make this into a mooncake.

1. Peel the purple yams.

2. Cut purple yams in squares.

3. Boil purple yams on high and then to medium low heat for about one hour.
4. Blend the purple yams in a food processor until it becomes a paste-like texture.
5. Put the paste in a non-stick pot on medium heat and mix half of the sugar and coconut oil.  You want to evenly distribute the sugar and oil, so once it’s blended you want to put the other half of sugar and oil to mix.


6. Once it’s blended mix brown syrup and coconut milk until smooth.  Place the paste in a container.

Mooncake Technique – Now let’s put the two together

1. Before you start, dust your cutting board and the mooncake mold with flour.  Also, spray or oil your baking pan.
2. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop your paste.  Two small scoops should do it.  Form the filling into a compact ball and set aside.


3. Now for the outer dough.  Cut about 2 inches from your roll.

4. Flatten the dough on the palm of your hand.  If needed, flatten further with your fingertips.  The trick is to keep your hands moist, because you don’t want it to stick on your hand.


5. Place the filling in the center of your outer dough and carefully wrap the filling with your fingertips.


6. Dust the filled dough.


7. Carefully place your filled dough in your mooncake mold.  Then use your fingers to evenly press your dough around the mold.


8. Now gently press the mooncake out of the mold.


9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
10. Bake mooncakes for 10 minutes.


11. In the meantime, melt some vegan Earth Balance Butter.
12. Take the mooncakes out and brush them with melted vegan butter.
13. Bake mooncakes for another 10 minutes.
14. Ideally the mooncakes should be consumed in 24-48 hours.
15. Enjoy your mooncakes with jasmine tea.  My favorite brand is Pearl Queen of Jasmine Tea.

DIY Mooncake Packaging

I wrapped my cakes in pretty red tissue paper and raffia ribbon to make it more decorative.  Then I placed my mooncakes in the tin boxes I saved from the last year’s moon festival.  It was a perfect way to package my parent’s anniversary gift.

Mama Chiang

Meet my mom.  She’s so adorable. In celebration of Mother’s Day, I wanted to dedicate this post and Yum-o section to my mom aka Mama Chiang.  I get my foodie inspiration from her.

Before we get into all the yummy food we had for Mother’s day, here’s a couple things to know about my mom that will make you think of eating and cooking food differently.  Every time I’m home I’m amazed to discover something new in Mama Chiang’s kitchen:

My mom is very intricate about her cooking.  She made me a lotus salad and I had no idea she peeled a lotus root piece by piece with an itty bitty knife.  She taught me that cooking requires patience, which is why her meals are made with lots of love.

She measures by eye and taste.  You will not see any measuring cups or spoons in her kitchen, but she’ll use Chinese bowls and soup spoons to measure.  When she teaches me how to cook she’ll tell me something like, “Cut the ginger as big as your pinky finger.”

Before coming to Mama Chiang’s house, she will ask a million questions on what you like to eat, what you can’t eat, or what you are allergic to.  It brings her joy when people are enjoying her food.  This is such good practice for anyone.  People are always grateful when you ask.  It means they’re thinking of you.

Every time I’m home I see exotic vegetables or fruits on the dining table, like these miniature mangos.  They’re smaller than my palm, but so very sweet.

My mom will make use of every ingredient she has.  Nothing goes to waste.  For instance, she will lay orange peels across the kitchen window to ward off any insects.

There’s a smorgasbord of treats when you come to Mama Chiang’s Household.  I found this Vietnamese dessert known as Che Bau Mau in the fridge the other day waiting for me to nosh.  It consists of mung beans, red azuki beans, tapioca pearls, peanuts, and coconut milk.  A blend of salty and sweet flavors.  I just have a small helping because there’s a lot sugar in this.

Now for Mother’s day – We didn’t want my mom in the kitchen, so we ventured to some cool digs.  For brunch we went to Eden Center, the mecca of Vietnamese cuisine in the DMV area.  We went to Lacay Cholon where I got this veggie spring roll – shiitake mushrooms, vermicelli noodles, lettuce and tofu wrapped in rice paper with a side of peanut sauce.

When we got back from shopping I found another exotic item on the dining table – dried red mangos from Hawaii. They’re very different from regular dried mangos.  First of all they’re a vibrant red color, not yellow, and they are slightly sour.

After some gardening and house chores, my mom and I noshed on Chinese crepes (Chang Fun) from China Boy in DC.  You typically see these on dim sum carts and it could be wrapped with a variety of different ingredients.  I like mine plain.  One of the best Chinese crepes I had growing up – soft and chewy.  I like to cut them up and season it with tamari sauce.

Then we shared a vegetarian bun my mom got from Phuoc Loc Bakery & Deli.  This one had cellophane noodles, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and tofu.  Delish!

For dinner we went to Duangrat’s Thai Restaurant.  It has a funny name, but it’s been there since 1987 and they received several awards.  We had no idea this restaurant existed, but now it tops my Thai food list.  We started with Plantain Tempura (coconut & sesame batter).  I’m not a big fan of tempura or plantain, but loved this one.  It was crispy on the outside centered with a warm and soft plantain.

I ordered the vegetarian drunken noodles.  We all enjoyed it.  By the way, every time I go out with my family we always make it family style.  I love this because we are sharing our entrees with each other so we are getting a little bit of everything.

It was a glorious day with good eats around town.  I’m so lucky to have an amazing mom.   It warms my heart to see her happy on this beautiful Mother’s day.  You’ll see more posts on Mama Chiang.  I’ll even document what’s cooking in Mama Chiang’s Kitchen, so you’ll know her unique cooking techniques.  My mom is also prepping her garden, so I can’t wait show the vegetables, herbs, and fruits she planted.