02 February


Siu Mai

(Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)

February: Asian Lunar New Year

While out running errands in Hawaii, Islander would sometimes stop in at the nearest 7-Eleven convenience store/gas station to grab a quick snack and fuel up for the road. She would forgo the hot dogs and choose either a manapua/char siu bao or Hawaiian pork hash/siu mai to go with a strawberry Slurpee. One would not normally think that these popular dumplings, which are traditionally rolled out in carts at Chinese/Vietnamese dim sum restaurants, could be found at a grab-and-go shop. But hey, dis is Hawaii nei—and da locals love ’em.

There are not too many 7-Eleven stores in the Texas town where we live. And they understandably sell taquitos instead of Asian dumplings. So Islander makes and freezes her own siu mai. They are ready to steam anytime as snacks/appetizers for when she craves them, when we have company or when we want to celebrate the lunar new year. It’s worth a try to make some siu mai!

Recipe

(Adapted from AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound shrimp, shelled/deveined/minced
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons green onion, chopped (green parts only)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • round dumpling wrappers, defrosted and separated
  • frozen peas and carrots (optional garnish)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the ground pork and minced shrimp with the egg whites.

Add the water chestnuts, green onion and garlic. Add the cornstarch and mix well. Add the soy and oyster sauces.

Sprinkle in the sugar, salt and ground pepper. Stir in the sesame oil and mix until the filling is well combined. In the middle of a dumpling wrapper, generously scoop a rounded tablespoonful of filling. Make a circle with thumb and forefinger and cradle the siu mai between the fingers to form its round shape and flatten the bottom.

Let it sit back on a flat surface and pleat the sides. Place in a mini muffin tin to hold its shape. Continue making the rest of the siu mai. Top the middle of the dumplings with pea or carrot.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to let the filling set and keep its shape.

Line the bottom of a bamboo steamer basket with waxed or parchment paper. Brush a little oil on it. Arrange some siu mai in the basket, leaving some space between them so they do not touch each other (they expand slightly while cooking so the spacing helps to prevent from sticking). Cover and place in a wok that has been filled with a water bath (do not let the water touch the bottom of the steamer basket). Steam for 30 minutes. Remove the covers and carefully remove from the waxed or parchment paper. Serve hot with soy sauce.

Notes

  • Chinese dumplings, such as siu mai, are auspicious foods for the lunar new year. The pastry wrapper represents a container or bag. The pork filling represents abundance (as pigs are big) and luck ahead (as pigs hoof forward and not backward). Hence, may your purse always be filled with a lot of wealth for the coming year.
  • Look for more lunar new year food recipes on our blog by searching under Theme Menus.
  • Kung hee fat choy!

Rose Tea Cupcakes

February 14: Valentine’s Day

“Everything’s coming up roses” on Valentine’s Day! Make something sweet for someone sweet by baking some rose-flavored cupcakes. The ingredients include rose tea and rosewater and the cupcakes are topped with rose-shaped candies.

Roses have long been a symbol of love. Among roses lining the aisle, we were married at the Mystical Rose Oratory at Islander’s alma mater in Hawaii. The name of this chapel with a glorious view of iconic Diamond Head is named after the Blessed Mother Mary. Devotionals to her, the Mystical Rose, are done with a rosary.

Although there are different colors and varieties of roses, red is associated with romantic love. So on this day when love is celebrated, we chose vibrant red candy roses to decorate our lovely cupcakes.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May all our blog readers be blessed with lots of love!

Recipe

For the rose tea cupcakes

  • 2-3 teabags of rose-flavored tea (we used a jasmine-rose tea blend)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 teaspoons rosewater
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt

Directions

Steep the tea bags in the boiling water and allow to cool at room temperature. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Stir in the rose water.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and pinch of salt. Gradually add this flour mixture to the above wet ingredients. Pour in the rose tea. Fold in the yogurt and mix until the batter is smooth. Scoop into 12 cupcake papers in a regular size muffin tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.

For the rosewater buttercream

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon rosewater
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • green food coloring

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and rosewater.

Add a pinch of salt. Thin to a desired frosting consistency with the heavy whipping cream. Frost the tops of the cupcake or pipe swirls (Wilton star tip 1M). Reserve a little frosting for the leaves. Tint with green food coloring. Set aside.

For the candy rose decorations

  • Red candy melts (Wilton brand)
  • Vegetable shortening (to thin, optional)

Directions

Melt the candy melts according to the package. Thin with a tiny bit of vegetable shortening, if necessary. Stir well and fill the rose mold. Refrigerate until firm. Unmold the candy roses.

Place in the center of the cupcakes. Use the remaining green frosting to pipe leaves (Wilton leaf tip #352) on the sides of each candy rose. Chill in the refrigerator to set. Bring to room temperature before serving the rose cupcakes.

Notes

  • Instead of rose-flavored tea in a cupcake, try rosé wine in a cake.
  • Rose water is a milder flavoring than rose extract. Be careful not to add too much to the recipe or it will be too fragrant and bitter.
  • Pretty in pink: Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to the cupcake batter and frosting to make a rose pink hue. Substitute red candy melts for pink ones as the rose topper. Use pink cupcake paper liners.
  • Try the apple roses recipe for another pretty presentation of puff pastry.
  • Search our blog for other Valentine’s Day recipes.

Big Easy King’s Cake

February: Mardi Gras Season

In our neighborhood grocery stores, king’s cakes—rosca de reyes and NOLA*-style knock-offs—have been on sale since Epiphany. Too bad they taste stale, look messy and are overpriced so we do not buy them for our celebrations.

We still like to serve something festive to our friends during Mardi Gras season. So we take the quick and “Big Easy” route by making a mock king’s cake using only a few ingredients: canned cinnamon roll dough (with the enclosed icing) and tri-colored sugars (gold represents “power”, green represents “faith” and purple represents “justice”). Everyone has fun wondering who will find the plastic baby in his or her slice of cinnamon roll cake!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! “Let the good times roll” and indulge in a simple, sugary “Big Easy” king’s cake on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before observing the solemnity and fasts on Ash Wednesday and Lent Fridays.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cans of cinnamon roll dough (we used Pillsbury brand flaky layers with buttercream icing)
  • sugar sprinkles (yellow/gold, green and purple)

Directions

Line a baking pan with foil and mist with cooking spray. Open the cans of cinnamon roll dough and separate the pieces. Flatten slightly. Arrange the pieces in a ring. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, according to the package instructions. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Transfer the cake to a round platter. Insert a plastic baby among the slices. Stir the icing that came in the cans. Spread it evenly over the cake.

Generously sprinkle with the colored sugars, alternating among yellow/gold, green and purple. Decorate with plastic beads (optional). Serve immediately.

Notes

  • *NOLA = New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Some people bake the plastic baby in the cake but we think it might melt and be hazardous. So we place the plastic baby in the cooled cake before frosting and decorating it and let our guests know the tradition before slicing it. The plastic baby represents Baby Jesus hiding from King Herod. Whoever finds it in their slice of cake becomes the king or queen of the day, is blessed with good luck in the coming year and must host the next Mardi Gras party or provide the king’s cake next time.
  • Rosca de reyes is the Latino version of a king’s cake. It is a round, sweet bread decorated with colorful candied fruits. Galette de rois is the French version of a king’s cake. It is also round but varies within the country’s regions and can be filled with almond cream (frangipane) or apples. Try our easy recipe for the latter here.
  • For more recipes to observe the Epiphany-Mardi Gras season, see our list under Theme Menus.

 

« Previous PageNext Page »