LOTUS ROOT NIAN GAO SANDWICHES WITH TANGERINE GLAZE | 莲藕年糕和柑橘糖衣

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Sink your teeth in these crispy festive sweet treats, you won’t stop after one for the gooey-ness

Quick question, what are the sweet things that come to your mind during Chinese New Year? If tangerines, and Nian Gao (sweet sticky rice cake) popped up, then we have a match!✨

Today’s recipe is a modern twist to the deep fried Lotus Root Nian Gao my late 啊嬷 (grandma) used to make for our reunion dinner. This oven-baked crispy crumbed lotus root lend a striking contrast to the melted traditional sweet sticky rice cake. With a sparing swirl of tangerine glaze over them, it gives a desired citrusy flavour for this festive occasion! For a festive gathering with Asian relatives who are obsessed with auspicious symbolisms, the snack holds a few homonyms you can share with them, it will warrant their desire to have more.

  • Tangerines: Wealth, good fortune, and abundant happiness

  • Lotus root: Abundance, the holes represents a mind open to new ideas

  • Nian Gao (sticky rice cake): Increasing prosperity

Now you know what I mean? 😏

This is the first Chinese New Year without my late grandma around, and it wouldn’t be the same as before. I believe in preserving her recipes to reminisce the fond memories we shared together and to leave a trace of her during this occasion.

The traditional version of her Lotus Root Nian Gao consisted of a thick slice of Nian Gao sandwiched between lotus root or any other root vegetables like sweet potatoes and yam, coated them in a thick batter and deep fried till golden brown. The first bite was crispy on the outside, delicate on the inside, and you got the “mozzarella pull” from the melted, and gooey Nian Gao. Usually I stopped after one, satiated by its richness and oiliness that I knew one was enough. Anything more will be less of an indulgence.

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In this space where I am constantly exploring for ways to eat better without compromising the goodness, less oil was used. Both Lotus Root and Nian Gao are sliced about 1 cm each, dipped in a well-beaten egg wash, coated with panko crumbs, brushed with remaining egg wash and baked on a melted ghee base. While you’re waiting, brew a pot of osmanthus tea. Once they are pipping hot from the oven, quickly swirl a wee amount of citrus glaze on the Nian Gao, take a careful bite and a sip of aromatic osmanthus tea!

What is ghee?

  • Ghee is typically made from cow’s milk. It is a highly clarified butter melted from regular butter. When butter is melted, it separates milk solids and liquid fats. Ghee only contains liquid fats as milk solids are removed.

  • Ghee contains lower levels of dairy proteins such as lactose and casein, which may be suitable and better for individuals who are intolerant to lactose and casein. They may use it as a substitute for butter.

  • The nutrient profile of ghee and butter are similar as they are byproducts of cow’s milk. They contain saturated fats, which a moderate amount is still essential for a healthful diet.

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LOTUS ROOT NIAN GAO SANDWICHES WITH TANGERINE GLAZE

Quantity: 22 pieces

Preparation Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 40 mins

Difficulty: 4/10

Diet Notes: Vegetarian

Notes:

  • Choose lotus root that has a firm texture. Cook within one week of purchase.

  • Rinse lotus root with cold water and tangerine thoroughly.

  • Use one hand to dip lotus root nian gao sandwiches in the egg wash and use the other hand to coat it with panko crumbs.

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate lotus root nian gao sandwiches up to 3 days. Be sure to reheat and eat when its hot.

  • You can substitute eggs wash with melted butter, ghee, or olive oil.

INGREDIENTS

  • 300g lotus root, peeled, chopped in 1 cm circles for 22 pieces

  • 300g store bought New Year Nian Gao (wrapped in banana leaves), sliced in 11 squares, approximately 5 cm each.

  • 1 cup panko crumbs (Fry top)

  • ¼ cup plain flour

  • 2 cage-free eggs, beaten

  • 1½ tsp ghee (House brand)

TANGERINE GLAZE

  • 1 mini tangerine, washed thoroughly and peeled

  • 1 tsp mandarin orange rind

  • 5 tbsp powdered sugar (icing sugar)

KITCHEN TOOLS

  • Sieve

  • Baking Sheet

  • Basting Brush

  • Vegetable Peeler

  • Cleaver

  • Kitchen Towel

  • Whisk

ADDITIONAL (optional)

  • 1 litre osmanthus tea (consists of 2 tbsp dried osmanthus from Hock Hua Tonic)

DIRECTIONS

  • Turn on oven to 180°C at upper and lower heat setting. Lay baking sheet on the tray and brush ghee over the surface.

  • Arrange lotus root slices on kitchen towels to pat them dry on both sides. Pour plain flour into sieve and lightly dust over one side of lotus root only. Turn over lotus root to the un-dusted side facing up.

  • Place nian gao on 11 pieces of the un-dusted side of lotus root, and cover with remaining lotus root, with the dusted side facing up. Dip each sandwich into egg wash, followed by panko crumbs. Gently shake excess crumbs and lay them on the baking sheet, with minimal space in between.

  • Brush remaining egg wash on top of the sandwiches. Bake for 40 minutes. Then, bake for another 10 minutes at the upper heat setting. Slice each sandwich into half.

  • For the tangerine glaze, squeeze tangerine juice in a bowl. Remove seeds, and add powdered sugar. Whisk till a smooth flowing consistency. Grate 1 tsp tangerine rind and add into the mixture. Give a quick stir, drizzle a desired amount on the lotus root nian gao sandwiches. Enjoy with a pot of osmanthus tea.

Lots of love,

Ally

VEGAN CRISPY BEANCURD ROLLS W TARO | 脆皮芋头素腐皮卷

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Presenting these beancurd rolls in this unpredictable gloomy weather.

Presenting these beancurd rolls in this unpredictable gloomy weather.

Hello November!

In the last few days of October, broad daylight merely lasted till 1pm. Dazzling sun rays were obscured by the murky, menacing dark clouds. It’s an omen for an unproductive day.

Before I finished putting away the groceries and getting ready to cook, the perpetual rain pelted the balcony window. My shoulders dropped. I knew it would be a promising downpour to conclude the entire day.

I was in a gloomy living room, feeling flustered and exhausted, knowing that my plans for the week have to change, and I could not possibly trust the weather forecast app anymore. The only solution left was to prepare these Vegan Cripsy Beancurd Rolls w Taro, refrigerate them overnight and wake up early to photograph them.

On the next day, my eyes were wide opened at 7am. I sprung off the bed immediately to seize the daylight. It was very unlike my usual self haha.

To my utmost relief and content, I dragged out a ripping hot tray of glossy skinned rolls out from the oven. I picked one up, blew off the steam a couple of times and took a first bite.

“Crack!”

The skin crackled in my mouth and I almost scalded my tongue. “Hurrr…hot”!

My impulse to munch was worth it🤭. Shortly after, I started snapping them as swift as I could!

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You may have seen these beancurd rolls in a dim sum restaurant, where they are stuffed with shrimp’s paste, and diced shrimps. But this version of mine comprises of Lion’s Mane mushroom for the meaty texture, and also kelp for a hint of fishy-ness (in a good way)! It is also the first vegetarian/vegan dim sum I made so that Ryan can savour too:D

I always believe in less oily food =less guilt and disgust.

Unlike the commercial crispy deep fried beancurd rolls, I drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil over the rolls before popping them into the oven. You get the same quality of crisp and texture, but not a pair of greasy lips!

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What are Lion’s Mane mushrooms?

  • Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are also known as Monkey’s Head mushroom (猴头菇) in Chinese or Yamabushitake in Japanese.

  • They are reputed natural nootropics, with medical properties commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

  • Given their white, shaggy appearance that may seem dubious, they taste very similar to meat and seafood for its firm, and springy texture. They are widely used in Asian curries, stir-fry, rendang or even dim sum to serve the vegan/vegetarian individuals.

  • You can purchase them in local vegetarian stores!

What are the nutritional benefits?

  • Increase Nerve Growth Factor levels in the human brain, improves cognitive function and memory.

  • Combat Depression and Anxiety. Lion’s Mane compound helps to decrease inflammation. Inflammation plays a significant role in depression.

  • Improves cardiovascular health and metabolism. Lion’s Mane is thought to reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol.

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VEGAN CRISPY BEANCURD ROLLS (Makes 12 pcs)

VEGAN | GLUTEN-FREE

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1hr 15 mins 

Ingredients

Dipping sauce

  • 4 tbsp Sriracha chilli

  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preparation 

  • Thaw lion’s mane mushrooms and soak them in a boil of hot water to remove excess oil (if they are marinated in a pack).

  • Use a cleaver, chop both ends of taro head. Take a piece of kitchen towel to hold on to taro while peeling skin off with a vegetable peeler. Alternatively, you can also wear a disposable kitchen glove. Any skin contact with taro flesh may cause skin irritation and itchiness.

  • Chop taro into half, and slice them into 8 pieces, about 2 cm thickness.

  • Soak both sides of beancurd sheets in a bowl of warm water for 5 seconds to remove excess salt. 

  • Whisk together ingredients of the dipping sauce, set aside. 

To cook the filling

  • Boil 500ml water in a steamer over medium high heat, lay taro slices on a steamer tray. Put lid on and steam for 25 minutes till soft. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

  • Peel skin off garlic cloves. Drain the mushrooms, give them a quick rinse, and dice them separately. 

  • Heat a non stick frying pan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook garlic for 2 minutes till lightly browned. Add lion’s mane mushroom, and dried kelp strips. Toss and mix for 5 minutes till kelp bulbs expand and soften. Add toasted sesame oil and white pepper, and combine the ingredients for 2 minutes till fragrant. 

  • Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add taro slices, and mash them with a potato masher to combine evenly. Taste, and season with more pepper till desired. 

To assemble beancurd roll

  • Lay out a moist beancurd sheet on your work surface. Add 1½ tbsp of filling on the edge of the sheet closest to you.

  • Gently pull away the edge of the sheet from work surface and roll over the filling.

  • Tuck the filling tight, use your fingers to press both sides to secure and shape the roll. 

  • Fold in the sides, and continue to roll. Dab more water on the beancurd sheet to make them stick. 

  • Take a seaweed strip, dab both ends with water, and wrap over the beancurd roll. 

To cook the beancurd rolls

  • Preheat oven at 200°C. Lay a baking sheet on a tray, arrange beancurd rolls. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over the rolls.

  • Cook for 20 minutes till golden brown and crispy. 

  • Serve beancurd rolls with spicy dipping sauce. 

Notes

  • You may prepare the beancurd rolls a night before and refrigerate them for extra firmness. 

  • Store these beancurd rolls in an air tight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Or store them in a freezer for up to 5 days.  

  • Slice taro in pieces instead of in chunks. A wider surface area ensures the entire piece is cooked evenly.

  • Insert a fork through the taro slices to check whether they are cooked through

Enjoy! Xx

-Ally