Traditional Asian Treats
Photos by Forrest Anderson
You can get any kind of treat you want in the major cities of Southeast Asia, from a plethora of gourmet Asian desserts to ice cream, cookies, cakes and French pastries.
My favorites, however, are the simple traditional ones that have long been standard fare at outdoor restaurants, markets and streetside stands as well as in homes throughout Southeast Asia. Here are recipes for some of them:
Shaved Ice with Fruit
Shaved ice. You can make it with a small ice shaver. They are inexpensive appliance that can be purchased online.
Watermelon, pineapple, peaches, apples or other fruit, sliced. Combinations of different fruits are delicious prepared this way.
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
Ice shavers have small containers in which you can freeze ice, so do that the day before you want to make shaved ice.
Place sliced fruit on small plates. Shave the ice and add it to the fruit. Spoon a tbsp. or two of sweetened condensed milk over it (not too much or it will taste too sweet).
Garnish with chopped peanuts and serve.
Fresh Watermelon Shake
1 cup water
1 tbsp. sugar
4 cups cold, seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve.
1 lb. apples
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup unbleached pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup ice water
1 tsp. vanilla
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup pastry flour
Bowl of ice water with some ice cubes
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
6 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
Peel and core the apples, cut each into wedges and then cut each wedge in half. Place the apple chunks in a bowl of cool water with the lemon juice and set aside.
Mix together the cornstarch, flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk the egg, ice water and vanilla in a small bowl and than stir it into the dry ingredients to form a slightly lumpy batter.
To fry the apples, heat about 3 inches of oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Heat the oven to 275 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain the apples, pat them dry with a towel and toss them with the 1/4 cup flour. Coat the apples with the batter and slide them one by one into the hot oil. Cook them in batches so they don’t stick to one another or cool the oil down, adjusting the heat as necessary until they are crispy golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon to the parchment paper and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the rest of them. Lightly oil a serving platter and place the bowl of ice water in the center of the dining table.
Pour the 1 tbsp. oil into a skillet, reduce the heat under the pan to medium and add the sugar, water and lemon juice. Cover the pan for a few minutes to prevent the caramel from seizing up. Remove the cover and stir the mixture ocasionally with a spatula until the syrup thickens and starts to change color. Stir constantly to keep the sugar from burning as it turns a golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat, quickly mix in the lemon zest and sesame seeds, and toss in the hot fried apples to coat them. Put the caramel-coated apples on the platter and rush them to the table. Have the guests pick up pieces of the apple with chopsticks and dunk them in the icy water before eating them.
Variations: Substitute pineapple, bananas, peaches/nectarines or sweet potatoes for the apples.
1 lb. raw almonds
3 cups vegetable oil
3 tbsp. water
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Heat the oil to medium-high. Fry the almonds in the oil, lowering it to medium heat after putting them in. Drain the almonds on paper towels. Pour the oil out of the wok, wipe it with a paper towel, add the water, sugar and salt and bring it to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the mixture turns to a syrup and thickens, remove the wok from the heat, add the almonds and use a metal spatula to toss them in the syrup. Sprinkle powdered sugar on the nuts and toss again until they are evenly coated. Place the nuts in a bowl and allow them to cool.
Thai Rice Pudding
1¼ cups canned coconut milk
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups steamed rice
2 tsp. allspice
1 oz. butter
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 can pineapple
Steam the rice. Cook the pineapple over medium heat in a skillet until it has caramelized. Set aside.
Add the coconut milk, brown sugar, allspice, butter and pineapple to the rice and stir fry briefly. Serve sprinkled with the cinnamon.
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