For a period of time, when I had a craving for this popular Chiu Chow 潮州 dessert, I would urge myself not to. For one thing, I know that it has to be made with abundant of lard and sugar in order to be delicious. For another, I couldn’t recall a good experience of taro paste 芋泥 (some call it yam paste) in the eateries I visited.
Once, I tried it with olive oil in my kitchen, but my appetite almost refused.
And my memory seemed to have isolated the dessert for a while.
Until recently, when an enormous display of in-season taros caught my attention and when my inner voice reminded me of some newly replenished coconut oil in stock, I convinced myself to experiment again.
I lean on the lighter side
This time, the taro paste cheers up my appetite, even with no lard and reduced sugar. Twisted with coconut oil, however, it becomes suitable for vegan and vegetarian. The sweetness of my paste may be on the lighter side, so you may want to increase the sugar amount to 50 or 60 gram if you have a sweet tooth.
A texture resembling a chunky peanut butter
Other than replacing lard with coconut oil, the preparations are fairly traditional – steam the taro, mash it (I did it with the flat side of my Chinese cleaver), then cook it down to a thickened paste with coconut oil and a sweetened ginkgo-nuts-flavored sauce, while retaining some small chunky texture.
Substituting ginkgo nuts
Don’t put off by the presence of ginkgo nuts if they are not available in your place or you have yet to acquire the taste of it. Tell you what, it is also good to me having the paste served only with some pine nuts. You may also consider preparing the paste in advance, briefly reheating it and garnishing it with ginkgo nuts or pine nuts right before serving.
But not baby taro
I used a small half of one large unskinned taro, which is about 500g. Do not choose baby taros for this recipe as they are not starchy enough to make the paste fluffy, but they are a good small eat for the coming Festival…
Which is the Mid-Autumn Festival, falling on September 30 this year.
Everyone, happy Sunday moon watching!
- 400g peeled taro
- ~40g rock sugar
- ~1 cup water
- 15 ginkgo nuts (a spoon or two pine nuts)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 servings (~100ml each)
Peel taro. Remember to wear hand gloves while peeling because contacting uncooked taro may cause itchy skin. Wash, pat dry and cut into about 1/2 cm slices.
Steam taro slices over high heat for about 15 minutes or until it is fork-tender. Mash them with a fork, a cleaver, or a food processor. Don’t worry about not mashing not perfectly smooth as it is this texture that would give us some pleasant bites and extra aroma.
Shell and skin ginkgo nuts like this. In a saucepan, sauté ginkgo nuts with 1 table spoon of coconut oil over low heat for about a minute, or until fragrant. Pour in rock sugar and 2/3 cup water, cook until sugar is dissolved and ginkgo nuts are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Spoon out few pieces of ginkgo nuts for garnishing and leave the rest in the pan. If you are not using ginkgo nuts, simply dissolve sugar in 2/3 cup water.
Put pureed taro into the pan where the sugar is dissolved and add remaining 2 table spoon of coconut oil, stirring constantly again on low heat. Add remaining 1/3 cup of water bit by bit if the paste is too thick, breaking up any lumps by the back of a larger spoon. When the mixture comes to a simmer again and reaches the consistency of peanut butter, remove from heat.
Divide paste in ramekins (or serve in one larger dish), and garnish with ginkgo nuts or pine nuts.
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