Friday, June 11, 2010

Are n't we lucky to find Kao Luck in Sydney Market.

Mention kao luck (chestnut) and most Singaporeans think of bak chung (rice dumpling) or hawkers roasting and selling their chestnuts on the street corners, the delicious scent permeating the air with the aroma and memory of the sweet and velvety taste of this popular end of the year treat.When I was a child it was very easy to find the hawkers with their wooden carts parked in the street corners, working hard with a big shovel to stir the chestnuts with blacken gravels in the wok.Once again it's the time of year in Sydney where chestnuts are easily available especially in the Asian grocery stores. Although, a lot of imported Chinese ready-to-eat roasted chestnuts which are packed in plastic packs are sold in the Asian grocery stores, I simply love the freshly harvested chestnuts and having them roasted at home.When you purchase chestnuts, be sure to look for glossy, firm and lovely nuts. They should feel heavy for their size. If they feel light, then they are not fresh and are drying out.Prior to cooking you must slit the skin of the chestnut to avoid exploding during cooking. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a small 'X' on the flat side of a chestnut. Cut just deep enough to get through the outer skin and the pellicle (inner skin). Roast in a hot oven 200°C (400°F) for 20 minutes until they feel soft. Better still, cook chestnuts over a brazier or open fire, or you could put them over a gas flame until they begin to pop and the outer husk becomes slightly burnt.

If you plan to use your chestnuts as a bak chung filling or pork/chicken stew recipes, you can boil them. Using a paring knife, remove the outer shell. Place shelled chestnuts into a pot with the hot water in order to remove the pellicle that most likely did not come off with the shell. This is the inevitable and necessary labour intensive part of the process. Without removing the membrane, it leaves a bitter or astringent taste.If the water has cooled, bring the water again to the boil and remove from the hot water and place in tea towel. Peel away the pellicle while still quite hot. Now they are ready for cooking.


  1. Oh you've changed layout! Oh these chestnuts sure do bring back good memories! When I went back to hong kong last year to accompany my sister for her wedding banquet I remember by the train stations there will sure be hawkers selling freshly roasted chestnuts!! I made sure every time we pass by we buy a big bag of them! It was so good to sit down as a family and peel them together! It's a shame we can't find those hawkers here.. But I guess that's why it makes it extra special when we can roast our own.. Did you know they sell them peeled and 'roasted' as snacks in Asian grocery stores? It's a good snack but it sure can't beat the freshly roasted ones. :D

  2. i have given up with these fresh chestnuts. they are usually quite dry when they are on the store's shelf so they have to be soaked before roasting. I have come to depend on the ready-to-eat type.

  3. Hi bebi.j,
    I was in Macau during winter in the Northern hemisphere and very much intrigued by a hawker using a machine looking like a mini cement mixer to roast the chestnuts. Yes, nothing can beat the good old fashion way of buying and enjoying freshly roasted chestnuts by the street hawker in the winter months in Asia.

  4. Hi Lily,
    We agree that nothing beats the freshly harvested chestnut but the inevitable and necessary labour intensive part is to remove the inner skin of the chestnut. Try getting the bigger ones and slice off the inner skin with a sharp knife.