Tea cookie search finally yields recipe
THE CHINESE Tea Cookie -- Kong Sui Ban -- has proven an elusive recipe. I have requests on file dating back to 2001, and over the years I've printed several pleas
for the recipe. No one came through until a few weeks ago
, when Gladys Nishioka, Hazel Yee and Robert Chinn all turned up with family recipes.
Chinn reported that he got his "from my sister who got it from mother who got it from my aunt who had written it down while making them with my grandmother."
The best guide, though, was Merry Cris Ho, who has experimented several times with a formula from "Recipes for All Occasions," compiled by the Associated Chinese University Women's Interest Committee in the 1970s.
All the recipes were similar, with basic ingredients save one: wong tong, or Chinese brown sugar (see "Key Ingredient," below, for more on this). I got good results substituting regular brown sugar, but I like the wong tong for the flavor and sense of tradition.
These cookies won't win any beauty contests -- they're nondescript, tan discs -- but the flavor is superior. Don't expect an exact duplicate of what you're used to buying in Chinatown (where they're sometimes sold as "tea cakes"), but the texture's a match and the taste is really, really close.
One baking note: These cookies are typically very large, 3 inches across or even more. You might want to make them smaller -- better for munching.
Chinese Tea Cookies
1 cup water
5 slabs (about 13 ounces) wong tong (Chinese brown sugar)
1/2 cup white sugar
5-1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
Bring water to boil. Break wong tong into pieces and add to water. Stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and stir in white sugar to dissolve.
Whisk together flour and baking powder.
Combine honey and oil; beat in eggs. Add to flour mixture and stir to combine. Add sugar syrup and mix until smooth. Let rest 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with baking parchment.
Scoop dough onto cookie sheets and press flat (about 1/2 inch thick). Cookies should be 3 inches wide for traditional size, but it's OK to make them smaller. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool slightly on cookie sheet, then move cookies to a rack. Makes 20 large cookies.
Note: 1-1/2 cups brown sugar may be used in place of wong tong.
Nutritional information unavailable.
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