Childhood memories of Lantern Festival / Piglet Biscuits (猪笼饼)

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Have you heard of lantern festival? A day when you might see Chinese children carry colourful lanterns, light up candles while the adults gather together and share a pot of tea with mooncakes? Well, I haven’t seen anything like that since I moved to Finland. Back then when I was little, lantern festival was one of the best days in my childhood.

I have the clearest memory when my sister and I were about 7-9 years old. Our primary school held DIY lanterns competition every year. A few days before that, we would run to a soft drinks shop next door and buy its ‘seasonal products’ like lanterns-making materials, and make our own lanterns with those shiny, colourful papers with glue and wires. We were pretty smart back then. I don’t remember much but I’ve always made a chicken lantern. I guess I only knew the shape of a chicken well since we always had chickens in our farm house. Not only lanterns, my sister and I also experienced making our own kites that flew high in the sky! It was so exciting!

About 300 meters away from my grandmother’s house (where I grew up) there is a Chinese temple called 三神庙 (Three gods temple). Each year there would be all kinds of celebration happening and so as lantern festival. Nearly all of the kids in the village, maybe even outside the village would come here together with their lanterns. If I remember right, there was like 100 kids or more. All of us held our lanterns with a bamboo stick, gathered as a giant circle along the basketball field located at the Chinese temple. Everybody waited for the classic song to play, which is 传灯, the direct translation is ‘to pass on the light’, meaning to pass down our culture to the next generation. When the song is played, we walked slowly in a clockwise circle, carefully held our bamboo stick so that the lantern wouldn’t fall, all the way until the song ended. (We supposed to sing a long too but I’ve never learned the lyrics at such age) And the most important part was when the ceremony ended, all of us would be getting a piglet biscuit as reward, and to me it was the best part of all!

Later on, the adults would be setting up the praying ceremony at home. There was a table in the front yard, where there would be mooncakes, fruits, tea and sometimes roasted chicken or pork. And the adults would light up some incense sticks, which is believed that the smoke raised up in the air carried the prayers to the gods. On the other hand, the children would be lighting up more lanterns all over the yard. We also loved to light up all the leftover candles that we had everywhere around the house. The night of lantern festival was one of those very few nights we’re allowed to stay up late.

It was so amazing. Too bad I don’t think our children would ever experience anything like that in the future, by the time when we have one.

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Golden syrup, recipe as below.

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(Make 19 piglet biscuits)

Recipe referred to Hong Kitchen

(You would need a mold for this dish)

Ingredients:

500g Flour

380g Golden syrup*

120ml Peanut oil

1 tbsp Alkaline water

1 Egg york

Methods:

1) Mix all the ingredients together (except the egg york) until it forms a smooth dough. Cover with cling wrap and let it rest in room temperature for at least 2 hours.

2) Divide the dough into 19 small parts, about 35g each.

3) Dust some flour on the mold (to prevent sticking), press the dough in and flatten the surface. Turn it around and then gently beat it out from the back side of the mold. Repeat until all the dough is used.

4) Place all the piglet biscuits on a baking sheet, bake in 160 celsius oven for 15 minutes. Take it out and brush the biscuits with beaten egg york. Bake for another 10 minutes in the oven.

5) When it is done, take it out from the oven, let it cool completely. Store them in container. Let it rest for at least 3 days before serving.

PS: I know. This is weird but it really works like this. You need to let the biscuit to ‘mature’ for at least 3 days until it is eatable, otherwise they are hard as rocks. I wanted to cheat but it was really not eatable on the first or second day, you can feel it with your fingers. But after 3 days, the biscuits have softened and developed this beautiful, syrupy aromas that make them so irresistible! It really tastes like the one I got back home.

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This is the same golden syrup to make traditional Cantonese mooncakes.

*Recipe for Golden Syrup 转化糖浆

(Make just enough for this piglet biscuits recipe)

Ingredients:

400g Sugar

200ml Water

50ml Fresh lemon juice

Methods:

1) In a saucepan, add sugar and water, stir and bring to boil. Add lemon juice and bring to boil again. Turn the heat to the lowest.

2) Let the syrup to cook at low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour (without stirring it). When the syrup becomes dark brown in colour and its density is similar to honey, remove from heat. Let it cool completely then store in a clean, air tight jar.

PS: It is suggested to let the golden syrup to ‘mature’ for a certain time before using it, e.g. the longer the better it brings out the aroma, like wine. This golden syrup could keep well in room temperature for up to a year. 

Say HELLO to the perfect Meringue/ Mimi’s Chocolate Swirl Meringues

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Hey you, how are you? Hope you are doing alright. Me? I’m okay, just had a double jaw surgery about a couple of weeks ago to fix my biting problem. While recovering from the massive swelling, not being able to bite and chew is killing me. I’m basically eating baby food right now. As a food lover, it’s not so nice. Besides the pain and lack of energy, I do enjoy my 4 weeks sick leave. And this allows me to finally have time to take a break from my busy life, sit in front of my computer and talk to you

Before my surgery, I discovered a super good recipe that I must share with you. I have had a few meringues in my life, mostly from good cafes. You know, those that are loaded, have great atmosphere, good selection of pastries, good terrace facing a garden and etc. In another word, those places that made me feel so good that I must sit down with a cup of coffee and a pie, or a piece of cake. So I have tried their meringues. Looking huge, white, hard, very hard, oh and very sweet, what else should I say? Why on earth would anyone like this kind of a dessert? At that time I didn’t understand.

That day at work, I was out of ideas. But I must come up with a dessert for 20 people, like right now. Didn’t really have the energy to start mixing a cake dough, somehow I felt like making meringue, the first time ever! (Yeah I like taking risk) So I googled and found a recipe from my all time favourite food blogger, Mimi Thorisson, an amazing woman who has beautiful children, dogs, great photographer husband and lives in Medoc. That’d be a perfect dream to many I believe. And she writes awesome blog Manger, sharing marvellous recipes about French cuisine that always blow my mind away. When I found her recipe for meringue, I knew that it is going to turn out great. So I started to take out my eggs and sugar immediately. I had no doubt about it at all.

Not to forget to mention that my electric mixer is broken, I was literally beating a huge load of egg whites with my hands, for 20 people. The weather is cold but I was sweating, as you can imagine. It took 20 minutes more than estimation. 🙂

Everything was worth it when I took my first bite of the fresh meringue. ‘Heavenly! It is heavenly good! Oh my god.’, my colleague repeated. I could not believe that meringue can be so good. (Well, it means that I have had bad ones) I finally realised what a real meringue supposed to taste like. The fragrance of egg white lingered in my mouth wonderfully. Like Mimi wrote, it should be crispy from the outside and soft from the inside. And she was so right. I thought one was too big for me, but I ate 2 in a row. And I made them again and again. No fail.

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Referred to recipe from Manger:
(Make 6 giant servings or 12 medium ones)

6 extra large egg whites (room temperature)
1,5 tsp cornflour (I used potato flour)
2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
320g Icing sugar
A pinch of fine salt

Methods:

1) In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add the potato flour and sugar (1-2 tbsp at a time) gradually and continue whisking. (You should add the sugar in small quantities until the end of the process.)

2) When the egg whites form stiff peaks (Tips: turn the bowl upside down and it should stay nicely in the bowl without dropping to your head), gently fold in the cocoa powder to create nice swirls in the egg whites.

3) With the help of two spoons, spoon the egg whites onto the parchment-lined baking tray. The meringues should be about 10-12 cm large and 6 cm high (for big making ones). ‘Twirl’ your spoon around and finish off with a spiky peak.

4)Finally ‘dust’ some cocoa powder on top of each meringue and (optionally) use a small fork to gently draw a few more swirls

5) Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, switch off the oven, and leave them to cool inside the oven with the door slightly open for 15 minutes.

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For this recipe Mimi has made a chocolate sauce to serve with the meringues. I have tried it but it was a little too sweet for my own preference. I have created an easy raspberry sauce that I thought it goes really well with these meringues. You know, a little kick of sourness and berry flavour together with the sweetness from the meringues. Oh, and the colour too! 😉

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Raspberry sauce:

200g Frozen raspberry

100ml Water

50g Sugar

1 tbsp Potato flour +2 tbsp water for mixing together

Juice of 1/2 lime

Methods:

1) In a saucepan, put in raspberry, water and sugar and bring to boil. Mix well until sugar is dissolved.

2) Squeeze in the lime juice. Slowly pour and stir in the ‘potato flour mixture’ to the saucepan. The sauce should start to thicken up already. Turn off the heat and let it cool completely before serving. Serve with meringues, or other desserts together with fresh berries on top. Voila!

Self-made Marzipan Babies / Organizing a baby shower/ It’s a BOY!

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Yesterday my friend Laura and I organized a baby shower to my sister, Evon who is 9 months pregnant. It was our first time to organize an event like this.  I’m glad that the party went perfectly well without having the possible fuss of sudden baby delivery. Who knows?! I also felt touched to see Evon smiled and laughed so happily, which you could tell from her face all day long. I am glad that many of our friends showed up.  As you know foreigners like us, we don’t really have many friends nor family around, since this is not the place we grew up after all. The stereo type Finnish people are quite introvert and independent that I find it difficult to win their hearts. Therefore every effort they put and time they sacrifice to us, it means so much to us. We are very thankful and will always keep it to our hearts.

Not only that our friends came, they brought drinks, decoration, and gifts like diapers, pacifiers, baby wipes, baby clothes and etc. It was so fun to see those small little things that none of us are familiar with! We also played games like guessing the tummy width and baby names. Despite the reality, my husband and I have been calling the baby ‘Kasimir’ which is a Nordic or Russian name that sounds like Cashmere. 😀 He he he… Evon and her husband have always hated it but since they never tell the baby’s name, Kasimir sounds just fine to us. For food, Laura and I made a table full of Spanish pinchos and omelets as well as Mexican tortilla chips with guacamole.  Laura also made her signature Mango cake, which I have previously modified to a Strawberry version, click here for recipe. To fit the theme, I decided to make baby decoration for the cake. It was my first time ever to make a decor like this. Luckily I have experience playing with clay as a kid, and those baby images found from Google did make me believed that I can make it too. Why not? No tools or what so ever, it’s okay! I used my imagination. 😉

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Big thanks to Ksenia and Laura for sending me the pictures! 🙂

(Make 3 babies)

Ingredients:

80g White color Marzipan

1tsp Cocoa Powder

1tsp Vodka/Gin (More for diluting)

Methods:

1. Knead marzipan until it is soften and workable. Divide in 3 parts to make 3 babies.

2. To make a baby, take 1/3 of divided marzipan and roll into a ball to make a baby head. Use your thumbs to press on the ‘face’ to resemble eye sockets. (See image below)

3. Take 1/4 from the rest of the marzipan and roll into a long strip for making legs and arms. Arms should be thinner and smaller, and legs should be thicker and bigger.

4. Make the rest of the marzipan into the shape of an egg to resemble the body part. Make the lower part of the body rounder and bigger to resemble the tummy. Use fork to make chest lines.

5. Use any left-over or steal a small piece somewhere to make a tiny nose and ears. Use knife and fork to make shapes of the fingers and toes. (Repeat step 1-5 to make another 2 babies)

6. Mix cocoa powder with vodka/gin. Use a toothpick to dip the color and draw eyes and mouth carefully.  Dilute the color by adding more vodka/gin and brush it on the body to make it looks more real.

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Be creative of baby posing! 🙂IMG_2894

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My Malaysian friends said that they looked really scary and would cause them nightmares, while my Finnish friends loved them and said: ‘How cute! How cute!’ You see, cultural differences. But hey, it will work for Halloween too! Be prepared! 😉1383184_10151896756977840_2083112697_n

Chinese Vegetarian Steamed Bun/ 素食叉烧包

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In Malaysia there is a wide range of foods selection for all meal types, some are even available 24 hours. You name it and we got it, and that is one of the things I’m proud of my homeland. Today I’m gonna introduce something that I used to eat as breakfast or snack for anytime of the day. It’s Char Siew Bao, or Barbecue pork bun in direct Chinese translation. Our Chinese ancestors have brought it to Malaysia long time ago from China. But the Malaysian people like them with more dough, whereas in China it is crucial to keep the dough thin, which they also call it Jiao Zi/饺子.

Since I am recently into the ‘eating less meat’ mode, thanks to all the TED Food Matters documentaries about meat industry and health issues, I’m twisting the recipe to a vegetarian version to satisfy my needs and desire for eating these buns.;-) FYI, this is the third time I made it because the first 2 times were complete failures. Wrong yeast, wrong technique, tasted good though, but looked ugly. It takes a lot of practice to get it right especially in the wrapping part.

You can use any type of vegetables for the filling, or with meat if you like as Char Siew/Barbecue pork is the original recipe. Sweet version of the steamed buns are also very popular in Malaysia, normally found in red bean (豆沙包) or lotus-seed paste (莲蓉包), and those can be easily made or found in ethnic stores too.

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(Make 16 medium/ 3” wide buns)

Ingredients for the dough:

2 cups All purpose flour + 1/2 cup for knitting

1 cup Warm water

4 tbsp Sugar

1 tbsp Sesame oil

1 tsp Instant yeast

1 tsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp Salt

Methods:

1. Melt instant yeast into warm water until it bubbled up.

2. Put flour, sugar and salt into a deep bottom bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour, gradually stir in the yeast water to form a dough. Slightly knit and cover with wet towel. Let it raise for 2 hours. (You can put it into the oven with a bowl of hot water beneath it to raise the temperature)

3. When the dough has doubled its size (that’s when it should be really soft in texture), knit the dough on a floured table and add in baking powder and sesame oil. Cover and let it raise for another 30 minutes.

4. Roll dough into a long cylinder shape and cut into half. Each halves can be rolled again and cut into 8 equal pieces, that makes a total of 16 pieces. Make them into balls by hands, and then flattened with wooden roller into round-flat sheets. ( You can also cut the dough into a total of 8 to make 8 big buns).

5. Place about 1 tbsp of the mushroom fillings (see below) into the middle of the sheet and fold it to closure. (There is a video I found teaches you how, click here.) Place each buns on cupcake papers or shaped baking sheets.

6. Let buns rest for 10 minutes and place them to steam with cold water. When the water starts boiling, let it boil for 10 minutes and then remove from heat. REMEMBER: Let the buns to be in the steamer untouched for at least 2-3 minutes before opening the lid. It will prevent the skin of the buns from wrinkling. Served immediately.
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Mushroom fillings:

7-8 Mushrooms, diced

1 Carrot, diced

2 Spring onion stalks, diced

2 Garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp Hoisin sauce

2 tbsp Soy sauce

2 tbsp Sesame oil

1 tbsp of Minced ginger

1 tbsp Shao Xing wine/ cooking wine

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Five spice powder

1,5 tsp Corn starch/ potato flour

150 ml Water

Methods for Mushroom fillings:

1. Heat up oil in wok, fry garlic until slightly brown. Add in ginger and all the vegetables, cook until softened.

2. Season with Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, wine, sugar and five spice powder. Cook the vegetables through (10 min).

3. Mix corn starch with water and stir gradually into the wok to make gravy. Set aside and let it cool before wrapping.

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It helped me when I practiced the wrapping with a piece of kitchen paper! 😀  I didn’t waste any of my precious dough.

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My amateur bun making ❤

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