Candied veggies present true challenge
THE making of Chinese candied fruits and vegetables seems a great mystery, appearing to involve some kind of dehydration and, perhaps, magical elves.
If you are Chinese by birth or acquaintance, you've probably had these sugary oddities, at least ceremonially at the Lunar New Year. They're made with lotus root, carrots, squash, ginger, pineapple, water chestnuts and more, sliced and somehow preserved.
Over the years, several people have asked for a recipe, and I've never found one that made sense. But last week, Barbara Ching said she used to follow a recipe that she got from the Gas Co. She'd since lost it, but at least that was a solid clue.
A Gas Co. recipe, tested by resident home economists and widely distributed, would likely be reliable and doable in a home kitchen.
Muriel Miura, a former Gas Co. home economist and a genius when it comes to filing and finding old recipes, happens to be on my speed-dial. In a few hours she had located an old Blue Flame Notebook from 1966 with the recipe that follows.
It's a four-day process that involves simmering the lotus root repeatedly in a sugar syrup. No magical elves, though.
Now, the end result doesn't exactly meet Chinatown standards, but the sweetness and texture are close. I consider it a recipe-work-in-progress and I'm hoping ambitious cooks out there will try it and send me their ideas for improvement.
I had to make some accommodations for the summer humidity. The recipe called for leaving the lotus root out at room temperature all four days, but after one day I was fearing mold, so I opted for refrigeration.
Here it is. I'm sure there are some brave souls out there who will give it a shot, and by next New Year's we'll have it perfected.
Candied Lotus Root
1 pound lotus root, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch crosswise slices
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
Place sliced lotus root in water; set aside.
Combine sugar and water; bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add lotus root; simmer gently 5 minutes.
Remove to a rack set over a pan to catch drippings. Cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Let syrup cool, then cover (don't refrigerate).
The next day, reheat syrup to boiling, add vegetables and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Cool on racks again, then refrigerate. Repeat for 2 more days, until lotus root is firm.
Roll in more sugar and store in airtight containers, refrigerated. Makes 2 to 3 dozen.
Note: Carrots may also be used; peel and slice on the diagonal.
Nutritional information unavailable.
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