Life's better with cake and a sprinkle of fairy dust
Sometimes baking makes me tear my hair out. Or start crying piteously like an old lady. Oh, and the late, late nights and super early mornings! At times like these, my husband often tells me, dear, forget all this faffing with cake, you should just sell your award-winning… Tau Suan.
To clarify, no, I didn’t win any awards for this dessert. It’s just a term of endearment hubby uses for stuff I make that he actually likes. Which are few and far between. First, the man has a great (by great, I really mean ultra picky) palate. Second, I’m not so hot when it comes to cooking. A few times, I nearly widowed myself with my attempts to cook meat. Seriously.
But Asian desserts, I know a little bit about – from cookbooks, trial and error, and teaching culinary workshops to teenagers, but mainly because I am Asian.
Back to Tau Suan.
The ingredients are store cupboard staples in our home. Except the youtiao (fried crullers). It used to be a pain to have to go to the market in the morning just to buy youtiao, so imagine our delight when Dough Culture decided to open an outlet at the mall round the corner. Fried dough items all day during retail hours is a godsend. I can pick up youtiao after work and make Tau Suan for supper in a jiffy.
Why make your own and not just pick up those plastic “gong” (containers) of ready-made tau suan? For a plethora of reasons. It’s cheap and easy. I’d prefer a mountain of youtiao on my tau suan – it is not a GARNISH, okay? I can make it as organic as I want. I hate plastic “gong”.
150g peeled green beans (Thai is best), washed and drained
4-5 pandan leaves, knotted
600ml of water
Sugar to taste (White or brown sugar both work)
2 tablespoons of potato starch
2 tablespoons of cold water
To serve: Youtiao, snipped into small pieces
1) Boil the water and pandan leaves in a medium-sized saucepan. This bubbles away merrily while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2) In a wok (mine is non-stick as it was the closest to hand, but seasoned cast iron is better), dry roast the beans over medium heat with 2-3 tablespoons of sugar (I used white, but prefer brown) until the sugar has caramelised and coated the beans with a light brown sticky glaze (about 5 mins).
My wok is non-stick and it’s difficult to caramelise sugar as they keep forming crystals. Stick to cast iron or carbon steel.Sugar toughens the skins of the bean and helps the beans to keep their form and not fall apart during boiling later. Caramelisation also gives good flavour and colour.
3) Pour your beans into the pot of pandan water and turn down the heat to a simmer for 10-12 minutes until the beans are just soft enough for your liking. I like mine al dente.
4) Add the rest of your sugar. This is where you taste and adjust accordingly.
5) Make a slurry with the potato starch and water. Turn the beans up to a boil and gradually pour in the slurry, stirring constantly until thickened to your liking. You may not have to use all the slurry.
At this point, if you want to taste the tau suan, use a CLEAN SPOON and no double-dipping! Food hygiene aside, enzymes in our saliva can break down the gelatinised starch molecules and turn your tau suan into one watery mess before you have a chance to serve it.
Serve hot with youtiao.
There. My tau suan recipe. Will I give up cake and sell tau suan? Mmm… Then I’ll have to rename this blog Out Of The Plastic Gong.