Monday, 23 January 2012

Konnyaku Fish


Happy Lunar New Year!

It's the first day of Chinese New Year today, and like all Chinese festive days, it's a day marked with great emphasis on family, well-wishes, traditions and practices.  Naturally, a great festive day cannot go without food - and CNY foods are always given wonderful names of blessings.

In Chinese, one of the food items that cannot be left out of the banquet table is the fish, for 'fish' in Chinese sounds like 'Abundance' (Yu).  The Southern Chinese eat a dish called Yu Sheng, which is raw fish salad, because it sounds like "abundance increase".  A New Year greeting, "年年有余" (nian nian you yu) means "Every year, there's abundance", but at the same time, it sounds like "Every year, there's fish".

Today's dessert is wonderfully simple to make - 15 mins tops, plus an hour to set - and is a perfect end to any CNY feast. ;)  I first had it when my brother's girlfriend served it at our family Reunion Dinner.  Since then, I've made 3 batches of this for CNY dinners. ;)  You can also make this to serve your guests when they come a-visiting. :)

1 sachet/packet, plain Konnyaku Powder - gather the ingredients following the instructions on the packet for making the required amount of jelly for the mould you have
2 to 3 tsp* Sweet Osmanthus Flower aka 桂花 (Gui Hua) - easily obtained from any Chinese Medicine shop
1 to 2 tbsp* Wolfberry aka Goji berry aka 枸杞 - also easily obtained from any Chinese Medicine shop
Fish Jelly Mould

*depends on the amount of water in the Konnyaku Powder indicated on the packet.  Generally, about 1 teaspoon of Osmanthus flower for about 180-250ml of water.  If you'd like less speckled fishes, add less.  As for wolfberries, I estimate based on number of fish moulds I have... see Method step 4. ;)


  1. Steep the Osmanthus Flower and Wolfberry into the required amount of hot water for about a minute and then strain the flowers and berries out.  The water is then used to boil in a saucepan for making the Konnyaku jelly.  Do not throw the flowers and berries out though - you'll need them for the jelly later.
  2. Prepare the jelly according to the packet's instruction.  In place of water, you'll have to use the water you strained from the flowers and berries.  Follow the amount of sugar instructed by your jelly packet.
  3. When jelly is almost ready, put the flowers and berries back into the saucepan and give it a stir to mix it all in.
  4. Ladle out the berries and flowers into the fish mould.  I'll count out the berries in each mould to be  2 (if the mould is very small) because 2 is an even number and the Chinese believe that 'good things come in pairs'... also because it sounds like 'easy'; 6 because 6 sounds like 'prosperity'; 8 because 8 sounds like 'to prosper'; or 10 because 10 connotes completion to the Chinese.  I'll be careful to have even numbers because odd numbers are considered unlucky, and 4, which sounds like 'death' is also avoided.
  5. Allow the jelly to cool for a few minutes before putting it in the fridge to set.  Konnyaku jelly sets very fast, and would be ready in about an hour's time.
  6. Remove from mould and serve the fish in pairs... again, the whole idea of even numbers.
I hope you'll try this dessert soon, because not only is it easy to make, sounds good, it's also good for the body too.  The Osmanthus has a light peachy fragrance, and is suppose to be good for the skin, aids digestion, and has a calming effect on the consumer.  Wolfberries are good for the eyes and boost the immune system... and Konnyaku is a high in fiber, aids digestion and apparently has the ability to clean toxins in the intestines.  Therefore, it's the perfect food for the CNY festivities!

Here's wishing everyone a blessed, healthful New Year! :)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Pineapple Tarts

The Sign that Chinese New Year is upon us!
The reason for my video on the rubbing in method with a pastry blender is simple - I've been making pineapple tarts! :)

I can't remember when I began making pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year, but I know that the recipe that I've only ever used is the one belonging to Joyce aka Dutchess-of-Cookalot.

She has a recipe for the pineapple jam, but I prefer to use the ready-packs available at Phoon Huat, and tweak them.

But her recipe for the pastry!!! OH!

I love her pastry recipe for its simplicity and result.  There are so many recipes out there with ingredients like custard powder, milk powder, corn flour, and even cheese!  And in a myraid of teaspoonfuls and half teaspoonfuls that clutters what is a very simple shortbread pastry.

The whole pineapple tart eating experience after baking these all these years is simple:
Enough crunch and crumbly buttery pastry, to enhance the chewy, fragrant, sweet-sourish, sticky mouthfeel of the pineapple jam.  A hint of spices hits the nose.  And all in one satisfying mouthful of pineapple tart.

The effort put into such a satisfying endpoint is certainly worth it.  And with a bit of organisation, making these wonderful festive biscuits isn't that difficult.

The Pineapple Jam (To be prepared a day in advance)
1 packet AAA Pineapple Paste from Phoon Huat (This gives a sweet-sourish taste)
1 packet Premium Pineapple Paste from Phoon Huat (This gives a smoother texture to the overall jam)
2x 1.5" sticks of Cinnamon
10 cloves
1 Star Anise
Hot Water (about 1/2 cup - depends on how firm you want the overall jam to be)


  1. Mix all the ingredients in a large microwave safe bowl.  I use a pastry cutter to mix my ingredients because of the hot water, and when it's sufficiently cooled, I get my hands in there to squish the jam and spices together.
  2. Microwave the mixture for about 3 minutes to get hot, but not cooking.  Then leave it aside to cool down.
  3. Put it in the fridge overnight for the spices to enhance the jam further.

Once that's done, I roll 1 measuring teaspoonful of the jam, making sure to remove any black bits (stems of the pineapples) or spices that might be in the jam.  These pineapple balls are put onto a large tray, in neat rows, and then the tray is wrapped in clear plastic before returning to the fridge.
Jam in neat rows, and all the other parts of the tarts in progress

The Pastry (To be made a day in advance)
I usually make the pastry a day in advance to give it sufficient time to rest.  Also, because the weather is hot, the pastry can be very tricky to punch out, so preparing the pastry ahead and allowing it to cool sufficiently is a good idea.


340g Plain Flour
½ tsp Salt
1 tbsp Icing Sugar
250g Butter, cold (I used unsalted, but if you're using salted, you may reduce the amount of salt in the recipe)
1 Egg Yolk
25ml Ice-cold Water
1 tsp Vanilla Essence

Rolled Pineapple Jam

1 Beaten Egg+Water, for glazing


  1. Put salt in the bowl, then sift flour and icing sugar into it. Rub in cold butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs (See video).
  2. Mix in the egg yolk, ice-cold water and essence. Mix well to form a dough. Place in a plastic bag or plastic box and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  I usually leave it overnight. 
  3. Roll pastry out to 0.5 cm thickness between 2 baking papers, and either cut out or punch out the pineapple tart mould with a tart cutter.  Place the tarts on a lined baking tray.
  4. Return the tart to the freezer to harden.  This way, when glazing with the egg wash, the tart doesn't lose its shape.
  5. After the egg wash, fill each piece of cut-out pastry with the rolled pineapple jam filling.  Lightly shape the pineapple jam so that it sits nicely in the pastry, and the tarts look uniform.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 180°C for at least 20 minutes.  If you want a more golden look to the tarts, reduce the temperature to 170°C and continue to bake for another 5 minutes or until you achieve the colour you want.  Then remove the tray and allow the tarts to cool before storing in air-tight containers.
I use a punch mould.

After freezing the tarts, I apply an egg wash.  By the time the tarts are glazed, the pastry is softened by the heat.

After putting the pineapple jam balls on the glazed tarts, it's ready to go into the oven.

Ta-da!  Time to cool down and store in airtight boxes.

But beware of Knaves of Hearts, who will steal your tarts! ;)

Have a blessed year of baking and cooking and sharing your bounties with your family and loved ones! :)

Pastry Cutter/Blender

My first video demonstration! ;)

Please (try to) ignore the background sounds.  Edna was practising on her piano, and Ezra was playing with the pots and pans... *sighs*

This demonstration is on the use of a pastry cutter to rub in cold butter into flour for making shortbread pastry and piecrust pastry.  To achieve light and crumbly pastry, cold butter (and cold cold ingredients, especially water) are necessary to prevent the butter from melting.

Here's the video, beginning with a block of butter from the fridge: