Cold food. That's pretty much all that has been on my mind this past week. While July is a great time of the year in the Northeast for buying and eating fresh fruit, trying to turn those fruits into any sort of baked goods is another story. Really, just the mere thought of turning on the stove or oven makes me break out into a sweat.
(Like many New Yorkers, I don't have central AC and my one wonky unit is only able to cool down the apartment after sundown, i.e. after 8:30pm.)
So for my meals lately, I've had to been creative with cooking things that don't actually involve cooking, if you define cooking as something that involves the application of heat. But there is great fruit dessert you can make for which the only hot thing needed is the hot water that comes out of your tap.
The last time I posted a dessert on this blog might be over a year an a half ago, so this is long overdue. This is a dessert that comes straight out of my cookbook and one that I've taught many times in dim sum classes over the years.
While Chinese cuisines aren't known for desserts, there are a few gems, mostly originating in Cantonese cooking. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Hong Kong's agricultural industry was just taking off, the island territory was importing a lot of evaporated milk as a stable dairy source, along with other canned products. In later years, as Hong Kong quickly modernized, canned products went from necessities to nostalgic cultural mainstays. Even today, with such a wide variety of homegrown food and rare imported products available, Hong Kongers still love their Spam, Horlicks, and Ovaltine.
My favorite dessert that comes out of this HK love affair with canned products is mango pudding. It's cold, creamy, yet very light, with the intense flavor and aroma of super ripe mangoes. Think of it as a Chinese panna cotta. These days, many places in HK and the US alike get creative and use other tropical fruits, such as passionfruit pudding, lychee pudding, and even durian pudding (tolerable for up to two bites). But mango is still the classic go-to flavor.
At home, mango pudding is incredibly easy to make as long as you have a blender or food processor. And the patience to wait 2 hrs for it to chill.
In Hong Kong, chilled mango pudding is the perfect dessert in the subtropical climate, especially in the summer. And because the inside of my apartment feels pretty insane right now too, this the only thing I can think of eating for dessert other than plain fruit and ice cream from the store. When you make this dessert, just be sure to use ripe mangoes, as they will be much sweeter and juicier than unripe mangoes.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 2 large ripe mangoes (make abouts 2 cups mango puree)
- ½ cup hot water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- Fresh mango slices, raspberries, or kiwi slices for garnish, optional
Peel the mangoes and slice the flesh of the mango from the pit. Put the slices into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
In a large glass bowl, add the gelatin to hot water and stir until dissolved. Let the gelatin mixture stand for about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and evaporated milk and and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the mango puree and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into ramekins, wine glasses, or small shallow dishes. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight. After the pudding is chilled, you can garnish with fresh mango slices, raspberries or kiwis (if using).