Cooking with Alison

Archive for the ‘Asian Desserts’ Category

Birds Nest Soup Recipe

In Asian, Asian Desserts, Other Asian Foods on February 1, 2015 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 6)

Dried birds’ nests (also known as swallows’ nests) are considered a Chinese delicacy.  Bird’s nests are believed to have many health benefits, including improving overall health and combating signs of aging.  There are 3 different types of bird’s nest and they can be distinguished by their differing colours.  The colours are, in order of increasing price, white, yellow (shown in the photos below), and red.  Some people say that drinking a few spoonfuls of birds’ nest each day will keep you looking young and feeling healthy.

Bird’s nest is most commonly used to make a Chinese sweet dessert soup.  After being boiled, bird’s nest becomes gelatinous in texture.  It is pretty much flavourless.  Here is my mom’s simple recipe for bird’s nest soup.  Alternatively, we also make the birds’ nest without the rock sugar and then mix a few spoonfuls of it into a bowl of warm milk.  I love drinking it with milk just before bed.

Inside view of a dried bird’s nest

Outside view of a dried bird’s nest

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Malaysian Layered Kueh Recipe

In Asian Desserts, Desserts on May 15, 2014 at am

Kueh is one of my favourite Malaysian desserts.  It is steamed, mildly flavoured, soft, chewy, and slightly sticky.  Here is a recipe for a 7, 8, or 9 layer (your choice), 2 colour kueh.  The main flavours to this kueh are coconut and pandan.


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Like Pomelo Fruit? Then You’ll Love Oroblanco (USA) or Sweetie Grapefruits (Israel)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Asian Desserts, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To, Other Asian Foods on March 29, 2014 at am

Pomelo is a very large citrus fruit that tastes like a sweeter, milder grapefruit (photo not shown).  Not only does pomelo taste better than grapefruit, it’s also much much easier to peel and eat.  I didn’t think that it could get any better with citrus fruit, but I was proven very wrong when I discovered Israel’s sweetie grapefruit (also known as oroblanco in the USA).  When I first tasted it, I thought, this tastes even better than a pomelo, sweeter and juicier, almost like a mix of pomelo and grapefruit.  Sure enough, I later learned that the sweetie grapefruit is, in fact, a cross between the pomelo and the white grapefruit.  I really hope you’re able to find this in your local grocery store.  When picking a sweetie grapefruit, the skin should be green and should smell citrusy.  Also, the fruit should be heavy and somewhat soft when pressed.

You peel a sweetie grapefruit the same way you peel a pomelo:  Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the fruit.  Make sure that you cut all the way through the thick rind.  Then peel the rind off in large slices.  Then use your hands to pull the fruit apart so that you have two halfs with exposed flesh.  Pull each lobe of flesh away from the white pith and enjoy.

Other must try fruits include:  mangosteen (see here).



Hong Kong Egg Tarts Recipe

In Asian Desserts, Pies & Tarts on June 28, 2012 at am

Chinese (Cantonese) egg tarts are subtly sweet snacks/desserts that consist of a egg custard filling (notpudding-y) that is baked in pastry shells that are either flaky puff pastry or soft, shortcrust pastry.  Eventually, I will make the pastry from scratch, but for now, the store bought puff pastry tart shells work beautifully and make these egg tarts one of the quickest and easiest desserts to put together.  My family thought that these were even better than the ones that we buy from Chinese bakeries.  Now that I know how easy they are to make, I’ll never buy them again.

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Best Jien Duy Recipe (Chinese Deep Fried Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste)

In Asian Desserts on January 27, 2012 at pm

Jien duy are deep fried, sesame seed coated, glutinous rice balls with a sweet red bean paste filling.  These homemade jien duy are the best that I have ever had and I’ve even tried the jien duy in China.  These are crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, and they have a perfectly thin layer of sticky and chewy glutinous rice flour.  These are best when served warm and the day that they were made.  They’re surprisingly easy to make, but getting the oil to the right temperature can be a bit tricky.

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Baked Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Cake Variation)

In Asian Desserts on January 22, 2012 at am

Happy Chinese New Year!  “Nian gao” or “leen go” (translation: year cake) is a cake that is traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year.  It has a soft, dense, sticky and chewy texture and is not meant to be very sweet.  Traditionally, it is vegan and steamed.  See the traditional recipe here.  However, the non-traditional, non-vegan baked variation tastes even better (in my opinion).  This baked version combines a Western cake-like crust with the traditional sticky and chewy middle.  Traditional nian gao / leen go is usually made in 9″ or 10″ pie plates, but for the baked version, I prefer to make small individual sized cakes, because the crispy edges are the best part.  These make cute gifts for Chinese new year and are great for introducing people to Chinese new year cake, because nian gao could be considered an acquired taste.  Baked nian gao tastes best when served hot.

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Chinese Mango Pudding Recipe (Mango Bo Deen)

In Asian Desserts on September 26, 2011 at am


Unlike custardy or bread puddings, Chinese mango pudding (mango bo deen) is more like a fruity and creamy jello.  It is a popular dim sum (tea time) dessert that is best served cold with evaporated milk.  I believe it originated in Hong Kong.  It is one of my favourite Chinese desserts.  It is very easy to make and it is the perfect light and cool finish to a heavy or spicy meal.  I especially love having it in the summer time.  I was inspired to make it when my sister and I were served a very disappointing mango bo deen at an expensive and high class Chinese restaurant.  My sister, who doesn’t like mango puddings, said that my mango bo deen was good… for a mango bo deen.  😉  Update: I recently made these again using mango nectar instead of 100% mango juice, and everyone agreed that it was the best mango pudding they had ever had.

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Candied Tamarind

In Asian Desserts on May 5, 2011 at pm

I’ve used tamarind paste for southeast Asian and Indian cooking.  (See more info on cooking with tamarind here.)  I like its unique, tart taste and, although I try periodically, it is too strong and too sour [for my taste] to eat raw.  So when I discovered candied whole tamarind (sold as “sweet and sour tamarind”), I was very eager to try it.  I love the naturalness of this chewy, not-so-sweet candy, because it only contains 3 ingredients:  tamarind fruit, sugar, and salt.  It’s perfect for people with a lot of food allergies or restrictions.  The acquired taste of the tamarind is subdued in this candy, so it’s a great way to introduce someone to this fruit.  Just be sure not to bite into the rock hard seeds.  Luckily, they are large and easy to spot in this pod-like fruit.  Note that the candied whole tamarind (shell removed) is not the same thing as the more commonly available, chewy balls of tamarind candy that are made with tamarind juice, sugar, and water.  I prefer candied whole tamarind because it is lower in sugar content and processed more naturally.  Unfortunately, it seems to be impossible to find fresh tamarind where I live.  So for now, I’ll resort to buying the store bought candy.

Chinese New Year Steamed Cake (nian gao)

In Asian Desserts on February 3, 2011 at am

Nian gao is a steamed cake that is traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year.  During the 2 week long celebration, nian gao is often given and received as gifts.  It is a vegan cake made with glutinous rice flour (also known as sticky rice flour).  Since it does not contain eggs or baking powder/soda, it has a chewy, dense, and slightly sticky texture.  It really only tastes good when served hot, either from the steamer or pan fried (see photo below).  Also, note that nian gao is not meant to be very sweet (but you can use more sugar if you’d like).  There are variations of nian gao that you could try (ie. using coconut milk) and there are very good baked nian gao cakes too (see my recipe here).  The recipe below is for the plain, traditional steamed cake.

(Another steamed cake that is often enjoyed at Chinese New Year is turnip cake.  See my improved recipe here.)

Photo below:  Slices of the nian gao are coated in raw egg and pan fried in a little bit of oil.  But some people prefer to omit the egg and pan fry the nian gao directly in the oil.

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Black Sesame Dumplings (tong yuen / tang yuan)

In Asian Desserts on February 14, 2010 at pm

Other than being Valentine’s Day, February 14 was the first day of Chinese New Year, 2010.  During the 15 day celebration, people traditionally make and/or eat tong yuen (tang yuan), which are sweet glutinous dumplings that are filled with a sweet black sesame paste.  They are boiled and served in hot water.

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Chinese Almond Cookies

In Asian Desserts on January 27, 2010 at pm
Chinese Almond Cookies are one of my favourite chinese cookies.  I liked these even more long after they were baked because then they were crunchy (and probably stale) like the store bought ones that I’m used to  🙂

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