Here is a traditional Chinese/Nonya dessert soup that my mother’s friend made for us last time we were in Malaysia.
It is pretty simple to make, although the ingredients will be foreign to most Western palates:
- Dried longans – the round white fruit with a hole, sometimes called dragon’s eyes
- White fungus – the frilly, translucent white thing in the soup. Also known as snow or silver ear fungus, and is cooked till soft. It grows on trees!
- Ginko nuts – nuts from the ginko tree, some recipes use lotus seed instead
- Red dates – for flavor, color, and sweetness, also known as jujubes (this I did not know!)
- Sugar – rock sugar sweetens the broth without clouding it
- Aromatic flavoring – you can use pandan leaf or ginger. I believe this version had pandan
Although I don’t have my auntie’s specific recipe, it is pretty simple. As most of the ingredients are dried, they are shelf-stable pantry items. Once you have the ingredients, you just need to boil them together till the ingredients have reached your desired level of softness (approximately an hour), sweeten to taste, and enjoy either hot or cold.
This soup is often served at auspicious occasions, such as Chinese New Year or weddings, as it represents hope for a sweet future. It is also considered a healing restorative — although if you are familiar with Chinese cooking, usage of ingredients generally appears more intentional than the Western cooking I learned in America — every food has a purpose.
I found it very enjoyable, a soothing combination of sweet longans, dates, and soft ginko nuts, with the fungus pleasantly chewy, delicately absorbing the various flavors present in the soup. I ate many bowlfuls over the weekend visit!