While this traditional Teochew dessert called Orr Nee Pek Qwee ( 芋泥 白果 -Sweet Taro with Ginkgo Nut) originated from Gua Mah's recipe often requires somewhat rare and expensive ingredients and time consuming preparation, I managed to make the dessert last weekend. A friend had recently given us a kilo bag of ginkgo nuts collected from the ground of an old garden. It was unequivocally clear to us that such a rare find reserved a good treat. Although ginkgo are now easy available in the Asian grocery stores around Sydney, they are sold dried, frozen or canned. However, the fresh nuts are seasonal and not easy to find in their fresh form. I was told that the spongy outer covering of the ginkgo fruit was extremely odoriferous and luckily it was removed before the nuts were given to me. I was only left to cracked the nut case with a nutcracker; for the inner skin, I dropped the shelled nuts into hot water on the stove for a few minutes to loosen skins, then rub skins away (in the water) with my fingers when it was still warm. Ginkgo nuts are particularly esteemed in East Asian countries and are used in traditional Chinese food and they are believed to have health benefits. The Japanese cooks add Ginkgo nuts (called ginnan) to a popular steamed egg dish called chawanmushi.
Ginkgo nuts have a slight bitter taste and to overcome the bitterness, I candied the ginkgo to be used for this dessert. Here is how you candied the ginko nuts;
Candied Ginkgo Nuts Recipe:
In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add the ginkgo nuts and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes. Drain away the water and rinse a few times in cold water ( this helps to remove the bitterness) Drain in a colander and set aside. Combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Decrease the heat to medium low and add the ginkgo nuts. Simmer for 30 minute or until the ginkgo nut are cooked and caramelised into a shiny golden colour. At this point, the ginkgo nuts will have absorbed most of the syrup. Be careful not to burn. Set aside to cool and to be used as garnish for the sweet taro dessert.
Recipe: Sweet Taro and Ginkgo Dessert (Orr Nee, 芋泥 /白果 )
1/2 cup cooking oil or margerine( original recipe calls for lard)
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup candied ginkgo
Peel taro and slice into thin pieces. Steam taro until tender. Put taro in a deep bowl and set aside to cool. Mashed taro with a potatoe masher until smooth. Press the mashed taro through a sieve with a spoon and discard any fiberous taro left in the sieve. Heat oil in a deep sauce pan. Add mashed taro and stir until oil and taro are blended. Gradually add 6 cups of water into the taro misture and continue to stir and cook for 20 minutes over low heat until thick. Add sugar and stir for another couple of minute. Serve warm with candied ginkgo topping.