Friday, April 6, 2012

Cha guor - Hakka Tea Cake - 茶果

I recently learnt how to make cha gwo from Ice a friend of mine who lives in Tuen Mun.  Angel, another friend, and I travelled together from Tsim Sha Tsui East to the North-West New-Territories. It was the first time for me to take the West Rail Line of the MTR up to Tuen Mun and also the first time to take the Light Rail Transit. Although I heard a lot about the LRT when it started operation in 1988 I had never had the opportunity to take it before not until that day (when I went to Ice’s home).
Anyway, let’s go back to learning how to make cha gwo!

Tuen Mun Promenade (Far away): Tuen Mun Ferry Pier

Cha guor or chàah-gwó in Cantonese (literally means: tea - fruit) is a Hakka dessert made of glutinous rice and stuffed with a savoury or sweet filling. There are no tea leaves in the preparation of cha gwo contrary to what I first thought. Ice was not sure of the origin of the name but said people like eating this sticky pastry while sipping tea, hence its name.

Tea cakes - chàah-gwo2 - 茶果 

Note: The ratio of glutinous rice flour ( 糯米noh-máih) to wheat flour is 3 to 1.


For dough:
  • 120gr glutinous rice
  • 40gr wheat white flour
  • About ½ cup of boiling water
  • About 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (grape seed) + extra (for greasing leaves and top of cakes)

  • Wok, steaming rack, and a round metal disc with holes (or a steamer pot).
  • Banana leaves (washed, dried and cut into circular shapes).

Ice had prepared for us 3 different fillings the day before:
  1. A mixture of dried shrimps, dried Chinese mushrooms, shredded turnip, and seasoning (in particular rice wine and crystal rock sugar - called bìng-tòhng in Cantonese). I recall that Noel also told me that crystal rock sugar goes very well with turnip – click here to read my post on Noel's turnip cake
  2. A mixture of mashed mung beans and peanuts, and
  3. A red bean paste {with a lovely a tangerine peel after taste}.
  1. Dough: In a large mixing bowl combine the 2 kinds of flour. Pour gradually the boiling water stirring constantly with chopsticks until large crumbs form. Add vegetable oil and knead with your fingers until dough sticks together and forms a ball.
  2. Rice cakes: Flour your hands. Take a small ball of dough and roll it in flour. Press down with your thumb to make a well in the centre of the ball.  Put a little bit of flour in the well. Press gently the dough between your thumb and forefinger turning constantly until a small cup is formed.
Note: The smaller the ball of dough the easier it is to make a nice rice cake.

Shaping the dough ball with your fingers

Filling no.1: Turnip, dried mushrooms & dried shrimps
Closing the edges
Spoon some filling into the cup. Use your thumb and forefinger to slowly pinch the edges closed.
Filling no.2: Mashed mung bean & peanuts

Filling no.3: (Left) Red bean paste. (Right) Red bean (for garnish)
Place each rice cake on slightly greased banana leaf rounds (use vegetable oil and a brush). Arrange the rice cakes on a single layer on the steaming disc (or steamer basket). Fill the wok about half full of water and bring the water to a boil. Place metal disc with rice cakes on the steaming rack, cover and steam for about 8 minutes. Note: Steaming time depends on the thickness of the dough.

Rice cakes arranged on banana leaf rounds
Open lid and poke a hole in each rice cake with a toothpick (to let steam goes out). Close lid and steam for another minute. Open lid and lightly brush with oil each rice cake. Close lid and cook for another minute. Turn off heat and remove meal disc from wok. Serve rice cakes hot or warm.

Cooked Hakka rice cakes (note the alien shape on the left!)
My favourite rice cakes were those with the mung bean and peanut filling. Ice explained me how to make the mixture. I will first practice at home and give the recipe later in another post.

Miam Miam / Yummy / Hóu-hóu-sihk
View from Tuen Mun Promenade

Magnolia blooming in Tuen Mun

 Thank you Ice!  謝謝冰玉! :)

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