After a 10 month hiatus from blogging, I am back and boy am I struggling for words. To summarise , I was expecting and whilst cooking didn’t exactly slow down during my pregnancy, I stuck to what’s familiar. Actually correction, I didn’t really want to experiment with new recipes as pregnancy hormones distorted my taste buds; even foods that I previously loved tasted off to me. Can you believe I couldn’t even stand chocolate for the first two trimesters? And in the non-veg department, I had to force myself to eat red meat when my iron levels went down ( a far cry from the meat-lover I once was) plus ingesting anything dairy would be followed by severe nausea and you know where that ends up at or rather in But as amazingly strange and how quickly these aversions came about, as soon as baby J was born, my taste buds went back to what it used to be; I know this because Milo tasted wonderful again and it stayed in
Well, baby J is keeping me occupied, grounded and entertained these days and I love my little chubby munchkin to bits. With the awesome help of my mom for the first 2 months and now my in-laws, I can once again indulge in some cooking albeit simpler endevours as time will be spent mostly on baby J and also my other passion – crocheting, which I hope to turn into a small enterprise.
Baby J wearing the On Nom (from Cut the Rope) beanie I crocheted
So for baby J’s Full Moon celebration, usually observed by the Chinese when a baby turns one month old, I decided to make the traditional Angku Kueh, translated from hokkien to ‘red tortoise’ glutinous rice cakes. Tortoise because these sticky rice cakes are commonly moulded into a symbolic tortoise shape, which denotes longevity. Traditionally the announcement of a baby boy is symbolized by the giving of tortoise-shaped Angkus and peach-shaped kuehs for girls. These days however, the tortoise shaped moulds are more commonly sold and they come in both wooden and plastic forms. These tender, chewy Angkus are usually filled with a creamy, fragrant and sweet split pea/mung bean paste although you can also find variations such as ground peanuts, red bean and black sesame pastes or sweet shredded coconut fillings. My mother-in-law mentioned that in the past, the Angku skins were made purely from a dough of glutinous rice flour and water but some genius figured out that by adding mashed steam potatoes to the dough, you end up with a more tender skin which doesn’t harden so much when left overnight. I made the Angkus 2 days before baby J’s Full Moon celebration; they will harden slightly especially in cold weather AND definitely in the fridge so it’s just a quick task of re-steaming the Angkus for 3-5 minutes to make it soft and yummy again. To accompany my Angkus, I also dyed some hard-boiled eggs red for my guests; another auspicious symbol to welcome our precious baby boy
(adapted from Nonya Flavours: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine)
(My notes are in italics)
300 g split green beans (mung beans), washed and soaked overnight
2 pandan leaves, knotted
300 g caster sugar (I personally find this amount too sweet so I’ve reduced the sugar to 200 g for my Angkus)
4 tbsp oil (I use extra light olive oil, doesn’t make a difference as it a neutral-tasting cooking oil, you can use peanut oil if you wish)
1/8 tsp orange-red colouring (add more if you prefer a more vibrant skin)
300 ml water (I use warm water)
400 g glutinous rice flour
150 g orange sweet potato, peeled, steamed and mashed (steam for anywhere between 20-30 minutes until soft)
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 banana leaf, cut into rectangles to fit the size of the Angku mould (I use frozen banana leaves; you can find them in asian grocery stores in Melbourne. Thaw and wash thoroughly before cutting)
1 tbsp oil for greasing
- Steam the split green beans and pandan leaves over rapidly boiling water for 30 minutes, or until soft and mushy. Discard pandan leaves.
- Mash the steamed split green beans with a fork, potato masher or blend it in a food processor until smooth.
- Combine the mashed steamed beans, sugar and oil in a wok. Stir continuously over medium heat until beans and sugar becomes thick and binds together, and will not stick to the hands.
- Cool and shape the filling into balls to suit the size of the Angku mould. Keep covered with a damp towel. (I pack my Angkus with filling so my individual rolled up fillings are almost the same size as my dough balls)
- To make the skin, first add the colouring to the water, and mix all the ingredients together and knead, adding the water bit by bit, to get a smooth dough. This can be done in a mixer with a dough hook, or by hand. Divide into suitably sized balls to fit the size of the mould. (The dough should come together smoothly and must not be too soft; if it is, add a bit more glutinous rice flour. Keep dough covered with a damp tea towel to prevent them drying up and cracking)
- To assemble, flatten a piece of dough to 0.5 cm (1/4″) thickness. Put a ball of filling in the center and wrap skin over the filling to cover it completely. Roll lightly between the palms to smoothen the surface.
- Lightly dust Angku kueh mould with glutinous rice flour and press the filled ball of dough into the mould. Knock mould gently against the table to dislodge the Angku and turn it out.
- Place Angku on a lightly greased banana leaf. Steam over medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, opening the lid every 5 minutes to depressurise. (My wooden Angku Kueh mould is quite small so I steam mine for 7 minutes)
- Lightly brush the steamed Angku with oil. When cooled, trim the banana leaf neatly around the base of the Angku with a pair of scissors ( I usually omit this step)
- It is important to lightly grease the Angkus with oil so they don’t stick together. Space them apart on the steaming plate as they will expand during steaming.
- Freshly steamed Angkus are extremely sticky so it’s best to leave them to cool for about 15 minutes before handling and packing them away if not consumed straightaway. Once cooled, these greased Angkus can be stacked together in a container and kept outside under room temperature for 2-3 days. You may also freeze the Angkus for another occasion. Just thaw the Angkus slightly and re-steam over rapidly boiling water for 4-5 minutes.
The Angku Mould my mom bought me from Malaysia
Soaked split green beans/mung beans ready to be steamed and then mashed or blended
Cooking the green bean filling with oil and sugar (this photo was from my first attempt and I didn’t process the steamed green beans into a smooth paste so there were bits of split peas left which some say gives it bit of texture/bite although I myself prefer it smooth)
filled and moulded Angkus, ready to be steamed
Yummy, sticky sweet Angkus. Notice how the colour deepens when the kuehs are cooked