Sunday, 17 January 2010

pineapple tarts part one: the jamening

There's a bit of a reputation for Chinese people to not like sweet things. The evidence for this, I suppose, is in our savoury desserts and in our lack of chocolate (...valid points). This fits, I suppose, with the Nyonya kuih, sweets that are not sweet (and are, in fact, savouries), biscuits that are not really sugary. And they are delicious, my very favourite biscuits ever. More favourite than tim tams, before I went vegan!

I don't know how to describe my love of kuih, but I will try, in this way: I just found this clip on the SBS website, and it is a minute and a half of wordless kuih-making, and I spent the entire time filled with longing and delight and want (TO EAT IT ALL).

Often (but not always) made from glutinous rice flour, kuih range from cakes, to biscuits, to wafer thin pastries. And Chinese New Year is the jackpot, mountains of kuih, bright colours and biscuits that melt when you put them on your tongue. Kuih is often vegan, except sometimes you need to watch out for eggwash, or in some of the cakes actual eggs.

This CNY my kuih goal is pineapple tarts. Pineapple tarts come in three forms: closed, rolled open, and open. The first attempt at pineapple tarts began, oddly enough, not with picking a recipe (though that was part of it), but picking a style.

pineapple tarts

I baked all three, and have picked closed. Styled with patience and accuracy, they look like tiny pineapples, and the way the pastry crumbles through your whole mouth is awesome.

However before baking, I first made pineapple jam! You may remember my recent requests that people make jam and then give it to me, because I am not a jam maker. I spent some time searching the shops nearby for pineapple jam, and though I found quince, rosehip, fig, apricot, raspberry, tropical, strawberry and ginger marmalade jams, I was quite unable to locate pineapple jam. So I bought a can of pineapple instead, and made pineapple jam! It was great! Super easy, and it made for jam of perfect consistency to put inside the dough.

And so it was, two firsts in one day, labouriously playing with pineapples. The thing is, I don't even like pineapples - but I love pineapple kuih!

The recipe is not quite finalised, so more to come - I have high hopes that I can make this gluten free (pineapple tarts are one of the few kuih that are not made with rice flour). And expect more CNY posts as we get closer, and I try out more things.


s-j said...

I am so excited by these.

Anonymous said...

These look delicous. And I watched the vid and now I'm hungry!

I'm Philippa O said...

i CANNOT wait to eat these - they were one of my favourite CNY treats in singapore. that and strangers giving you money made the holiday a favourite as a kid :)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe people don't think East and South-East Asian cultures don't have sweets because there isn't any chocolate- since when is masses of sugar and chocolate the only definer of desserts?

Tarts look good though!

Tevere said...

Oh, OM NOM NOM-- pineapple tarts are some of my favourite desserts, and I can't wait to try and make them.

I was surprised when you said there's a popular (mis)conception that Chinese people don't like sweet things. (Not that I think you're wrong, I was just surprised because it never occurred to me.) I guess when I think about it, sure-- we have a lot of not-so-sweet desserts, and chocolate isn't a big thing. But on the other hand-- I have NEVER met quite as much in the way of heavily sugared drinks as I have in Asia, and my overwhelming and abiding impression of Asia is someplace where I deliberately have to order my iced tea as 'without sugar', otherwise it comes with an inch of sugar on the bottom of the glass! I note Yeo is now making 'reduced sugar' boxed drinks, but even that level of sugar is way too much for me (I tried my old favourite chrysanthemum tea the other day, and couldn't get past one sip).

But yeah-- my favourite desserts remain the not-too-sweet jellies: almond jelly (though I've yet to find a vego subsitute with the same texture), mung bean pudding, doufu fa. I love the Portuguese-inspired Macanese egg tarts,, are there vegan versions of those yet?

Kristy said...

sounds great, I don't think I've noticed them in HongKong, are they a Malaysian chinese dessert, or have I been missing out the whole time? Thanks fot trying to de-gluten them!

steph said...


Tevere, Vegetus, yeah, it boggles me too - the sweetness just comes from other things, I feel, especially in Malaysian-Chinese traditions.

Tevere definitely, one of my favourite drinks is the Yeo's soy milk, and it is the sweetest drink ever. DELICIOUSNESS.

Kristy, kuih is a specifically Malaysian thing. So you haven't been missing out! They're Nyonya.

steph said...

Oh and Tevere, have you ever had Milo Ais? It's Milo, filled with ice and MOLTEN SUGAR. I used to love it, but it was the sweetest thing ever.

Tevere said...

Oh man-- Milo ais sounds like genius, but genius of a kind that my stomach might not be able to handle. Have you tried es teler? (Maybe more Indonesian than Malaysian.) You can probably make it without the condensed milk: jackfruit and young coconut and avocado in shaved ice with sweet syrup, delicious! There's an Es Teler 77 on Swanston that probably makes something close to the real deal.

steph said...

Es teler sounds like ais kacang! That's shaved ice with condensed milk, red beans and some sort of jelly cubes.

Milo ais was the best. And then there was Milo dinosaur, which was basically the same except way more OTT.

Tevere said...

Yep, es teler is in the same family as es (ais) kacang! (I must admit I'm not a massive fan of corn and beans in my ices, so I prefer the fruity ones.) Indonesians have a whole variety of icy things, where the ice and condensed milk part usually stays the same but there's variation on fillings and syrup flavour. I'm always amazed at the way they pull off these teetering towers of ice at least 6 inches above the rim of the bowl...nom. Timor also has vendors that go around selling small bowls of various ices, but eating that stuff on the street is possibly asking for trouble.

Anonymous said...

OMG I can't wait!!!! I've been searching everywhere for a recipe for pineapple tarts using rice flour!!!!