February 20, 2010

My Lunar New Year’s Eve and Day 1, Plus Green Pea Cookies 我的年三十晚、大年初一與豌豆酥

The Lunar New Year (農歷新年) of 2010 is rather unique to me. It’s my first Lunar New Year  celebrated back in Malaysia in 3 years. But, it’s also my first Lunar New Year celebrated with the loss of a loved one in 15 years. It just feels different this time; it’s a rather short one.

Under the influence of Confucianism (儒家思想), my family has been observing 1-year mourning over the loss of my grandpa since Father’s Day last year. However, most of my relatives are urban dwellers who race against time while juggling between family and work. We hardly have time to do some visiting. So, Lunar New Year seems like the only opportunity for us to catch up with each other. We still join in the festivities – but less elaborately.

Reunion dinner is a must for many Chinese. We call it 團圓飯 (pronunciation in Mandarin: tuan yuan fan / Cantonese: too-WIN yoo-WIN fahn), in which 圓 means “round.” For us, beauty, happiness and perfection equate roundness, which is so true of family reunion. It’s such a beautiful thing and a complete entity on its own. I feel so blessed with constant shower of love and attention from my loved ones.

My elder baby brother helping himself with the food on our reunion dinner table. (Sorry for the lousy shot!)

Last year, I was invited to join the feast by my Chinese professor from Shenyang, Liaoning (遼寧沈陽). Being away from home, an occasional gathering such as this lessened my homesickness in friends’ company. It got even more fun when our American and other international friends came and reveled away with us. Authentic northeastern Chinese dishes (東北菜) were served. There was a bit of culture shock, but we learned a lot from each other. I even remember our friends saying, “Man, this is the best food I’ve ever had!” I miss you guys!

As a northern Chinese herself, my Chinese professor was one of those who introduced me to the art and joy of eating Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi (餃子). Jiaozi form an essential part of the Northern cuisines. My family is of southern Chinese descent. So, we weren’t too familiar with jiaozi. Because we aren’t big eaters, we just prepared more food, in greater variety, than what we’d usually have (大魚大肉). For us southern Chinese descendants, there’s got to be a plate of chicken or pork, fish or shrimps, vegetable and a big pot of soup on the table. Just to share with you though it’s sort of embarrassing, I tried to make boiled jiaozi – but they flopped! They looked downright ugly and unappetizing, but they tasted good. This won’t be my first ever attempt. I know it takes practice to perfect my wrapping and shaping skills. So, more jiaozi and gyoza (鍋貼) to come in the future! Argh …!

Ugly ducklings: my jiaozi

Beauties: my professor's home-made jiaozi

On the next morning, we turned into vegetarians just for that 1 hour. It’s been a tradition in our house. My mom got up early to make her version of Buddha's delight (羅漢齋) and soup dessert (or tong sui 糖水 in Cantonese.) They were all good old home-cookin’. (Yes, you heard me right! We love sweet runny desserts. LOL! Learn more about it here and here.)

My mom dishing up her tong sui right before we had breakfast that Morning.

The dessert was a soup sweetened with palm sugar and it had glutinous rice balls (湯圓), lotus seeds (蓮子), ginkgo nuts (白果) and dried longan (桂圓). It’s unusual; it’s my mom’s blend of stuff. On the other hand, the medley consists of edible fungi and algae, dried bean curd (腐竹) and vegetables — and perhaps, there are more that I can’t recall now – that are stir-fried together. (Hey, I should try cook this up one day and share with you all. We’ll see …) One thing for sure is it didn’t have any of the five pungent spices forbidden in Buddhism (五葷): garlic, onion, shallot, scallion, and Chinese chives. They are thought to easily provoke human’s sexual desire. Well, true or not? You’ll be the judge, yea?

Buddha's delight, or Law Hon Zah-eey 羅漢齋

So, besides being a troublemaker, what else would a snoopy Pei-Lin be doing in the kitchen?
Picture courtesy of Starstore.com

我終于在年三十晚收工了!(Mission accomplished on New Year’s Eve!) My Lunar New Year bake-a-thon officially ended on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. I worked on New Year’s Eve! Dang! We’ve been told to paint ourselves red every New Year. Ironically, one-half of my body was enrobed in black while the other half in gray. See, I totally forgot about this unspoken rule. But, that didn’t bother my family much. In the end, I became the Pillsbury Doughboy wannabe! Hahaha …! I became literally in “white,” thanks to the whirlwinds of flour from making jiaozi and these irresistibly yummy cookies!

We’ve got a neighbor who’s a darn good baker. She’s good enough to sell her goodies, leaving people craving for more of her signature pineapple tarts (黃梨餅) and green pea cookies (豌豆酥). I can’t recall when, but I remember she introduced these little emeralds to us a few years ago. Too bad, she will never, ever share her knowledge and recipes with others. What’s worse, she criticizes what others have made and offered her even though the food itself is good, which sounds discouraging. Her tastes are too classy for a commoner like me, eh? She once told us, “All these are from my hard-earned money.” I do respect her stance on that, but what about all the bloggers who have been so willingly and generously sharing experience, knowledge and recipes with the rest of us! I even shut my mouth up as a secret food blogosphere admirer for 2 years! Tsk, tsk!

So, we love her green pea cookies. But, it’s just such a pain to spend USD8 for a jar of these cookies. (Yes, I’m stingy! ;P) Deep down, I know they aren’t difficult to make: It’s about patience, persistence and will. Boy, it was such a happy accident when I chanced upon Swee San’s recipe.

In Malaysia and Singapore, roasted and salted dried peas are a popular snack that are commonly found and sold by the local Indians. Once cooked and cooled, these peas turn crunchy and keep real well at room temperature. We snack on them like how you’d to M&M's. That said, green pea-ness is what green pea cookies (豌豆酥) are about. Duh! So, how can you tell if it’s a good one?

These little emeralds should look green – the natural way – due to the ground green peas. They will cast a spell on you with their highly addictive nuttiness – even children wouldn’t say “yuck” to green peas, like my peas-hating brothers. The cookies have to be sweet and outright salty. They stay intact in your hand; they fall apart in your mouth. They slowly dissolve as they reach your throat. They even surprise you with a lil’ crunch here and there, thanks to the green peas.

Swee San, thank you for sharing such a fabulous recipe! My family ate 1/3 of the batch and gave the rest to my vegetarian aunt as a gift (見面禮) for the New Year. She loves it, too!

On the next post, I’m going to share with you some of the special moments from my Lunar New Year this year. Till then, stay tuned! As for now, here’s the recipe for the yummilicious green pea cookies. Thanks once again, Swee San, for sharing this great recipe.

Green Pea Cookies 豌豆酥 (Adapted from Swee San's)

140 g unsalted dried green peas

30 g powdered sugar

30 g powdered sugar
1 tsp salt
*Omit salt if you're using salted dried green peas*
170 g plain/all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cornstarch

100 mL neutral-flavored oil, or more -- please adjust the quantity accordingly
*I used rice bran-canola oil. Peanut and sunflower seed oil works, too! But no olive and palm oil, please!*

1 slightly beaten egg yolk, for glazing (optional)
**Milk works, too, especially for vegetarians who don't take eggs. The downside is the peas aren't going to stick to the top of the cookies real well. So, just leave out the extra peas, which are meant for garnishing**

Enough dried green peas, for garnishing
  1. In a wok (or something similar), constantly stir to roast the peas over low heat, till some sort of nutty aroma starts to seep out. Turn off the heat and let the peas cool completely. This additional step yields cookies that smell and taste much better.
  2. Once the peas have cooled completely, in a food processor or something with similar functions, thoroughly pulverize them together with 30 g powdered sugar. You won't end up entirely with real fine green pea meal, but that's OK. After all, you're going to need those specks of peas for that added aesthetic value and a little crunch along the way, right?
  3. Combine (A) together and sift well, then stir in the mixture of green pea meal and powdered sugar until evenly combined
  4. Gradually stir the oil into the dry mixture -- mixing as you pour in the oil -- until a dough has formed, i.e. one that stays intact and won't crumble. However, don't use too much oil because you may wind up with a very sticky and wet dough
    ***It took me close to 200 mL oil. All these depend on the quality of the ingredients you use. I didn't use any store-bought green pea flour, which is finer and greener in color -- less aromatic, too.***
  5. Divide the dough by 10 g, then roll each out to get the shape of a ball; arrange them those "green balls" on parchment-lined baking trays
    ****I started out by weighing the first few ones to get 10 g each exactly. Then, I got lazy and just eye-balled. Hey, talking about efficiency ...****
  6. Glaze those "green balls" with slightly beaten egg yolk, then stick one dried pea onto the center of each cookie -- press the pea down slightly to "lock it in place." If you're using milk to glaze the cookies, leave out the extra peas for garnishing entirely.
  7. Bake at 170C for 15 minutes until the surface of the cookies has turned golden in color
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them onto cooling racks to let cool completely before storing or serving.
    Store the cookies in an airtight container. They keep pretty well.


Angie's Recipes said...

That whole table of delicious dishes...love jiaozi :-)

I must try your pea cookies, as they look spring and delicious.

Chow and Chatter said...

oh wow love learning about your culture these cookies are so cool, Pei Lin would you like to do a guest post for chow and chatter it would be wonderful Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Hi! These look really interesting. I was wonder why one can't use olive oil in these? Is it a science thing or is the taste just unpleasant? Thanks. =)

Blessed Homemaker said...

Very similar recipe to what I've made but mine was way too sweet to my liking despite reducing sugar. Also, I couldn't shape them into balls as the dough was rather crumbly so I had to use the cutters instead.

Yours look great with the extra green pea as garnishing ;-)

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

Oh, they are pretty alright! You always get good shots, Pei-Lin. :) Love the candid shots you took of your family too. :)

zurin said...

Green pea cookies look good. Iv never tried ..maybe I will.

Anncoo said...

I have never made this before. Looks pretty and nice clicks.

perry said...

... wah! salted. peas. more-or-less-shortbread. Is there a button those don't hit? (--sounds almost as good as yolked!mooncake. almost.)

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

Gong Xi Fa Cai, all dishes look delicious..

Su-yin said...

I've actually never heard of green pea cookies, can you believe it? That said, I tried these green tea crackers this year and they're yum. They remind me of Double Decker, minus the prawn/chicken flavour.

Thanks for sharing the recipe for the green tea cookies. :)

tigerfish said...

Oh, look at all the goodies, my goodness. And love that comic...so close to my heart...hahhaha!

Jennifer Carden said...

We love to experiment with peas, check out our pea pops check out our version here, http://thetoddlercafe.blogspot.com/2009/06/sneak-peek-at-stones-soup-corner.html
I'm going to try these cookies for a New Years party, thanks.

MaryMoh said...

What a spread of good food! Love that pea cookies. Look very delicious. Hope I can find the dried green peas here.

pigpigscorner said...

How I miss celebrating CNY at home! It's just not the same celebrating it abroad. Love the pea cookies, nice colour!

homeladychef said...

Hi! Pei-lin!

Looks like you have a feastful CNY! I am amazed at how you could find time to bake cookies with your hectic schedule. For myself, I just couldn't help it but to rely on someone's mercy to give me some home-baked cookies! (normally my students' mums would give :p)

To answer to your question and to kill your curiosity, CY is Not Thai, haha... He's 100% SG Chinese, just that his parents stay in Bangkok so we have to visit Bangkok quite often. ;)

Swee San said...

sweet.. glad u liked it :) thanks for the link & love the extra green pea on top ;)

noobcook said...

your green pea cookies look way better than the ones I bought at Bengawan solo hehe Looks like you had a great feast, n your jiao zi looks good!

Anonymous said...

Hi.. I happened to bump into your blog from Lily's blog.

You're a such great story teller. I really like the way you post the stories with the wonderful pictures and recipes!!

Will keep visiting your blog!!

faithy, the baker said...

you make the most interesting things ever! I wonder how green pea cookies taste like...wish i was your neighbor and you can pass me some to try! :)

Jo said...

What a fabulour spread for CNY. Plus this greeen pea cookie is so unusual. I've only had green peas by itself as a snack .. never in a cookie.

Anh said...

What a feast! I miss celebrating CNY in an Asian country. It's so boring here in Oz!!

Kate at Serendipity said...

These look amazing. Every single one of them. You dumplings look like Italian ravioli to me. Not like your professor's dumplings, but still very appetizing!

I love the idea of pea cookies. when we were in Japan we found the food amazing, full of combinations we'd never thought of, like pea cookies. This makes me want to go to China.

Happy New Year!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Again, I'm so sorry for getting back to you this late! But, I really appreciate the kind feedback that you've given me! You've made my day, you know!

@Angie: Thank you for dropping by! I love jiaozi though I didn't grow up with it! They're absolutely yummy! Oh, yes! Please try it! Lemme know how it turns out for you! Can't wait to read your blog post about the cookies!

@Rebecca: Thanks a lot for the kind words! You've made my day! It's always been part of me sharing my culture with others. Cultural learning is such a fun thing to do! I think I acquired this habit when I was in the States. Yes, I'd love to guest-post on yours! We shall talk about it via emails, yea?

@Anonymous: First of all, I'm really sorry for such a late reply! I didn't mean to. =( ... Oh, it isn't really scientific! It's just that we consider olive oil is a kind of "scented/flavored" oil. So, if you were to use it for these cookies, they're gonna taste a little off. Can you get the picture? Please lemme know if you have any other questions! I'd be more than happy to help you, as long as they're within my capability to do so. Thank you so much for coming, too! You've really made my day.

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Again, I'm so sorry for getting back to you this late! But, I really appreciate the kind feedback that you've given me! You've made my day, you know!

@Blessed Homemaker: Thanks so much for sharing your experience with another recipe for the same cookies. Crumbly!? Maybe you just needed to mix in more oil till the mass can be gathered into a dough that actually stays intact!? I think for most of the recipes, they're fairly similar. (I'm sure reducing the sugar wasn't the problem, too.) Oh, but I'm sure yours tasted just as good. Aren't these cookies nice!? So addictive ...

@Ju: Thank you so much for the encouraging words! You've made my day! =) You take good shots, too!

@Zurin: Hey! Yea, I know what you mean. I didn't grow up having green pea cookies in our festive cookie jars, too! I think they're a recent phenomenon that just started to take a hold of us a few years back. Before that, I bet they were unheard of. Please blog about it if you ever get to try, K? Take care till then!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Again, I'm so sorry for getting back to you this late! But, I really appreciate the kind feedback that you've given me! You've made my day, you know!

@Anncoo: Perhaps it's time for you to give these green nutty cookies a shot!? LOL! Whatever you're pursuing, we love reading about your kitchen adventure! ;)

@perry: LOL! Boy, I really love the way you describe the cookies! So creative! Maybe you ought to consider being a food writer! And thank you so much for the encouraging words! You've cheered me up from a grumpy and sleep-deprived day!

@Sonia: Thank you, dear! I'm sure yours was great one! We had such a fabulous time together that afternoon! Hope we can organize such an excursion again! Let's cross our fingers ...

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Again, I'm so sorry for getting back to you this late! But, I really appreciate the kind feedback that you've given me! You've made my day, you know!

@Su-yin: Nope, I ain't surprised at that! No worries! Green pea cookies are a fairly new phenomenon. I didn't grow up with them either. Somehow, they started to pop up out of nowhere a few years ago before I left for the States. (Shame on me, I didn't even know how to fry an egg at that time.) Yea, yea ... Those green pea crackers used to be my fave before I placed a ban on mass-produced and commercially manufactured titbits! Hahaha ...! Home-made goodies are already doing no good to my waist ... You're welcome! It's such fun sharing with people who have the same interests! ;) Thanks for sharing the ricotta pancake recipe, too!

@tigerfish: Thank you! Oh, I love Peanuts, too ... So cheery! ;)

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Again, I'm so sorry for getting back to you this late! But, I really appreciate the kind feedback that you've given me! You've made my day, you know!

@Jennifer Carden: Hello from Malaysia! Thanks for stopping by first of all! Oh, your pea pops look incredible! I've never seen or heard such a treat. I've bookmarked it. I just need the time to make it. (Too busy with life!) So, did you get to try out the cookie recipe? How was it?

@MaryMoh: Thanks so much for the lovely words! I hope you can get a hold of roasted green peas in the U.K. Otherwise, I think maybe you should lug some home when you come back for a visit next time. So sorry to hear that! =(

@Anne & Jeff: I know, I know what you mean! I felt exactly the same when I was in the States for 3 years! Though we had small festivities, we still failed to capture THE CNY Spirit from home. Sad, huh!? How I wish you both can have some of these cookies!

@homeladychef: You're so lucky to have students' moms giving you free home-made CNY cookies!! Argh! Hahaha ...! But, I don't mind making them anyway, thanks to my itchy brain and hands! Whatever that may be, you & CY make such a lovely couple! I love to read about your collaboration!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Again, I'm so sorry for getting back to you this late! But, I really appreciate the kind feedback that you've given me! You've made my day, you know!

@Swee San: Thank you so much for sharing the recipe! You've made my CNY a better one with these cookies! Hahaha! It was so nice talking to you ladies that day! Miss you!

@Anonymous: Thank you so much for the encouraging words & feedback! You know how much do these words mean to me!? It goes a long way! Thank you! I'm not gonna stop here! You have a great one. (I'm holding on to these words so dearly to my heart. Thanks! They're a force that's gonna get me going!)

@Faithy: Thanks so much, sweetie! Oh, I hope you could have had some of the cookies! I don't mind having you as neighbor so that I get to try all your cakes & macarons, too! LOL! So, same here, eh?

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Again, I'm so sorry for getting back to you this late! But, I really appreciate the kind feedback that you've given me! You've made my day, you know!

@Jo: Thanks so much! Maybe you can try bake some for yourself just to have a taste of these green cookies? I remember your kuih bangkit ... They look so professionally made, too!

@Anh: Thank you for stopping by! I understand perfectly what you mean because I'd been through that myself for a total of 3 years! (Well, I was a student back in the States.) Perfectly described: boring and cold. LOL! I'm so sorry for you! Maybe should come back for a visit next year!

@Kate: Thank you so much for the comforting words! LOL! Nah ... my dumplings are ... er ... Hahaha! I don't even wanna look at them! Too ugly! Yea, traveling really is like a living classroom! Not monotonous at all! Wish I can visit China, too! Japan, too! I was barely in Tokyo (Chiba) for 24 hours due to flight delay. =( Miss the goodies & friendliness there ...

Anonymous said...

Nice fill someone in on and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you on your information.

p&k said...

Loved this recipe! And your shots of the cookies are so stellar . . . inspired me to try my own, which I did with my 3 y.o. son. Here's our post about it:


And a question: were your peas salted or plain?


Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

@Anonymous: Thank you! You've made my day! I'd never thought my write-up would actually be a great help in doing school assignments! Hahaha ...!

@Kim: Glad that you gave the recipe a shot. I'd think that for people who aren't used to this savory cookie idea, that was a huge step you'd chosen to take here!

Your cookies look so cute!! Hahaha! Wonderful job to both you and Moyer! I can see a baker in him! Who knows, he may just take over your oven sooner than you think! Oh, I used (plain) unsalted dried green peas.

Thank you so much for the encouraging words and for dropping by my blog! Glad that I have spread the joy out to different parts of the world! =) You've just made my day. (Well, I had a tiring day at work.)

Keep up with the great work! Don't stop inspiring others, including me!

Have a great one!


dolphing said...

I like this green pea cookies very much. I will add into my next year cookies list. Thanks ^^.

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Hey, dolphing! Thank you for dropping by! Hope you get to try making the cookies next year! Hope you'll like them! =)

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