Friday, 14 December 2012

Lotus Seed Soup – Sweet Sustenance

Having a bowl of Chinese dessert as supper was a norm for me when I was a kid. Being Cantonese, there was a staple of varieties that I could pick from -- sweet potato soup, barley & bean curd skin soup, red bean soup etc.

Food preparation would start almost immediately after dinner, for some dishes would take hours to cook and simmer. However, I also have a soft spot for desserts from other dialect groups. For these, I would wonder around the streets in Chinatown, hopping from one dessert stall to another for my pick. There is one particular dessert that was hard to come by, even today… Teochew style Sweet Lotus Seed Soup.

Being young and totally naïve about economics, I always wondered why it was so scarce. As I grew up, I realized lotus seeds were considered an expensive item, and in those days when the income of most people was meager, it would be considered a luxury to have a full bowl of lotus seed as a meal.

In Singapore today, people are much more affluent compared to the 60s, but somehow the standard of food has gone in the opposite direction. So, it is back to my kitchen whenever I have the urge to eat a bowl of Sweet Lotus Seed Paste.

Sweet Lotus Seed Soup

Dried lotus seeds                    300 g, soaked and peeled
Water                                      1000 ml
Dried lotus leaf                       30 g
Castor sugar                            6 tbsp, with 3 tbsp of water
Rock sugar                              160 g
Tapioca flour                           3 tbsp, mixed with 6 tbsp of water

1.    Boil lotus seeds in 600 ml of water and dried lotus leaf for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove lotus leaf and set aside.
2.    Meanwhile, simmer castor sugar and water until it caramelizes to a light golden brown hue; do not stir the mixture before it caramelizes. Add the remaining water, rock sugar and let it boil for 5 minutes.
3.    Combine both mixtures and stir thoroughly.
4.    Let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Add tapioca mixture gradually to the simmering lotus seed soup and stir continually until it reaches the right consistency. The paste should be slightly gluey and thick.
5.    Serve it hot.

Note: Dried lotus leaf can be replaced with fresh pandan leaves.