I’m very impressionable when it comes to traditional holidays and festivities. Even though my family has never been too enthusiastic about lunar new year celebrations, traditions and cultures taught me a few mandatory things for this auspicious time of year. Even though I was rather busy last weekend, I did manage to squeeze in enough time to make a couple of new year cakes.
“Cake” is a loose translation of all the savoury and sweet round puddings we eat for new year celebration. In Cantonese, such puddings are called Go which share the same pronunciation as tall or height. They are enjoyed as much for taste as the implied well wishes of promotion in career or children growing taller. Cake is a rather generic term to describe all these round puck puddings. They can be made with rice flour, starch, grated vegetable, agar agar, tapioca, or beans for a range of various texture. Soft, sticky, starchy, delicate, creamy…you can take your pick. I always make a batch of steamed daikon cake 臘味蘿蔔糕 since it is a family favourite. As for the sweet selection, there are quite a few that I like. This year, I went for something less labour intensive. Enter my personal favourite Coconut Pudding with Yellow Split Peas 椰汁馬荳糕.
Coconut pudding and I went way back. If my memory is correct, I learned to make it before I was even a teenager. Kingsford cornstarch has a recipe for coconut pudding printed on the side of the iconic yellow box and that was the recipe I went by. Back then, the pudding tasted of rich coconut milk and the unmistakable texture of cooked cornstarch studded with tender yellow split peas. I can’t say I am a fan now but I was quite proud of my accomplishment back then.
These days, I want a little more finesse in my coconut split pea pudding and that came in the guise of agar agar. This seaweed derivative can set liquid to solid at room temperature with a characteristic crunch that is quite refreshing for summer dessert. When used in combination with cornstarch, the pudding result in a very pleasant texture that straddles between toothsome and creamy. If you want to get into the festive spirit, celebration lasts for ten consecutive days so you have plenty of time! Happy Lunar New Year!
Coconut Pudding with Yellow Split Peas 椰汁馬荳糕
yields 2 6” rounds
- 100g dried yellow split pea, rinsed and picked over
- 1000mL water
- 15g agar agar
- 75g cornstarch
- 250mL coconut milk
- 200mL milk
- 125g sugar
- Put split peas in a small saucepan and covered with an inch of water. Bring to boil and turn down the heat to simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until peas are tender. Drain and set aside.
- While peas are cooking, fill a medium saucepan with water and agar agar. Let the seaweed soak and soften.
- Rinse two 6” round cake pans with cold water and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornstarch, coconut milk, and milk until no lumps are visible.
- Bring the water and softened agar agar to boil. Cook until the agar agar dissolves while stirring continuously. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Give the cornstarch slurry a final stir and add it all at once to the agar agar mixture. Keep stirring until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Stir in drained split peas. Divide pudding between the two prepared cake pans and smooth the top. Let it cool down at room temperature and chill completely in the fridge overnight. You can unmould it before serving or simply cut out slices directly in the pan.