Chinese New Year is a season for savoring cakes here in Hong Kong, turnip cakes, taro cakes, sticky rice cakes, all kinds of Chinese cakes you can name. Because the words ‘cake (糕)’ and ‘high’ in Chinese (Cantonese) both pronounces as ‘gou’, so the connotations of prestige and rising derived from ‘high’ are also imposed on ‘cake’, which is thus regarded as a symbolic food for bringing goodwill.
In a few days, the Chinese New Year and the Valentine’s Day are going to conflate on February 14, 2010. This is a cake recipe, at the same time this cake is also a dessert. I just find it to be a nice co-incidence to prepare this water chestnut cake (ma tai gou 馬蹄糕 in Cantonese) for the two festivals, which rarely come together on the same day. Anyway, this cake is easy and quick to make; with all the ingredients handy, the preparations can be done in about an hour (steaming time included) or even less than an hour if you are a seasoned cook. Besides, it can be prepared in advance and stored in fridge for up to a week.
- 70g water chestnut powder
- 4 pcs fresh water chestnut (or from canned) – here is another recipe for using water chestnuts
- 70g rock sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 tsp custard powder (dissolved by 2 tsp water)
- These portions of ingredients altogether fit well into my rectangular baking dish of 17(W)x11(D)x4(H)cm
- Custard Powder is Optional
- I like to have this firm-jelly-like water chestnut cake looked translucent and slightly yellowish, therefore rock sugar (for transparency) and custard powder (for the yellow color) are used. If not, just omit the custard powder and substitute rock sugar by brown sugar, which will give the cake a brownish appearance.
Grease the dish for steaming. Wash water chestnuts; peel and dice them right before cooking, if not, soak the peeled water chestnuts in water to avoid turning rusty.
Dissolve water chestnut powder with one cup of water (cold water). Put diced water chestnuts, sugar with the remaining one cup of water into a pot, bring to boil.
As soon as the liquid boils and the sugar dissolves, turn off heat. Immediately, stir in the dissolved water chestnut powder and custard powder. Like using corn starch for thickening, if the powder settles to the bottom, give it a good stir before mixing it into the hot water. Stir well with efforts to achieve a lump-free and pasty mixture.
Pour the mixture into the dish, flatten it into the same height.
In a wok, set up a rack to hold the dish above 4 cups of water, cover and steam for 15 minutes over high heat. To make sure if it is perfectly done, insert a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.
Serving the Cake
Steaming : After steamed, let cool the cake for about 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. After stored in fridge, steam the cake again if to serve hot again. Or, it is also good to serve cold.
Pan Frying : After cooled and sliced, they can be re-heated and caramelized by pan-frying. And this is the way the famous Cantonese dim sum – pan-fried water chestnut cake – is prepared. If it is the first time you pan-fry chestnut cake slices, try to do it with a small portion first and see how it works out in your pan. Their sugary content can cause easy sticking, but a decent pan that is heated hot enough shall help. Adding corn starch (about 1/10 of the total powder) shall make the cake firmer and easier to fry, I didn’t do this because I love to have the pure taste of water chestnuts.
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