Steamed rice cup cake – 缽仔糕 (Bok Jai Go)
Hong Kong is home to a lot of delicious street food. One of them, a classic and traditional “street dessert” is called 缽仔糕 (Bok Jai Go) in Cantonese, literally means “cakes in small bowls”. In English it has many translations such as “red bean cake bowl”, “red bean pudding bowl”, “ steamed rice cup cake”, “steamed red bean pudding”. Locals told me this treat evoke them of childhood memory. Indeed, it’s the perfect after-school treats: cheap, sweet, delicious, filling, convenient and fun to eat.
These red bean bowls are mainly made from three ingredients mixed together: rice flour, rock brown sugar and red beans. Then the mixture is traditionally steamed into small earthen bowls. When you buy one the vendor will skillfully scoop it out of straight from the bowl thanks to a pair of skewers that will serve you as a handle (you can have an idea of the process on the picture above). Most likely when you get one it’s still warm from the steaming process. It’s best eaten warm but it’s ok to eat it cold as well depending on your own taste. The texture is chewy but firm, really close to the pudding one.
Let’s talk flavours! Brown sugar and red bean is the all-time classic version. But nowadays-street hawkers play the creative card and offer more flavours for you to choose from. You can see on the picture below from right to left: brown sugar, green tea, coconut, black sesame all with red beans of course! In the past I also tried white sugar, which is the second most popular version after brown sugar by the way. Nevertheless, I am not a big fan of it and find it too bland. Green tea is nice but the green tea flavour is not sufficiently pronounced. I highly recommend the black sesame and coconut! Coconut because it matches the red bean so nicely and black sesame made the pudding texture more rich and creamier.
If you want to try to make this dessert at home, there’s plenty of recipes on the internet. It’s actually quite simple to make.
Hakka tea cakes – 雞屎藤
No, let’s get more exotic!
That same Sunday I also tried 雞屎藤. In English it’s called Hakka tea cakes or茶粿(Cha Guo) in Cantonese. However, keep in mind that 茶粿(Cha Guo) can designate various types of cakes.
The Chinese characters from the Hakka tea cake “雞屎藤” literally translates to…. “Chicken-feces-vine”. Mmmmm! Chinese definitely have a fair sense of humor when it comes to name their food! I have to say that this treat’s color is self explanatory :p . But no worry, there is neither feces nor chicken, only rice cake made out of a plant called “Paederia”, or Chinese fever vine. This plant is believed to numerous health benefits.
So in some way we can consider this treat to be like a, let’s say “medicinal treat”. In a nutshell, in the Chinese lifestyle, you don’t wait to be sick and then getting cured. Food is considered to be the medicine that keep you healthy or help you to get healthier on an every day basis. Ok, you must think, of course that’s common sense! What that implies it that you give to your body what you know (or think you know) it actually needs. The idea is to prevent or help curing diseases and sometimes you enjoy eating something because it’s good for you, taste coming second.
Let’s come back to our Hakka tea cakes. They are traditionally prepared before and after the Ching Ming Festival (similar to Tomb-Sweeping day in English). Though you can sometimes find them on other occasions. They are made from the Paedaria leaves and sometimes mixed with others types of leaves. All leaves are grounded and mixed with glutinous rice to form the dough then stuffed with fillings (red bean, peanut, sesame) and finally placed on a banana leaf before being steamed. The flavour is really unusual and hard to describe… the sweetness from the filling balance quite well the slightly saltiness from the dough and leaves. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it or disliked it, but it was an interesting experience.
So if by any chance you come across some Hakka tea cakes, try!