Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sea Coconut Snow Fungus Pear Soup Dessert

I came across some fresh, deshelled sea coconut the other day and snatched some into my basket without second thought. A curiously exotic ingredient originally endemic to the Seychelles Islands, the sea coconut has always conjured images of a mythical tree growing on the bottom of the sea - that is, until I finally googled it.

Faintly tangy and sweet, the milky white flesh of these slippery gems give an interestingly firm bite that yields to the teeth with a subtle crunch. In Cantonese cuisine, sea coconut is often simmered in soups both savory and sweet, highly regarded for its medicinal properties to ease dry coughs and to nourish the lungs.

Treat your body to a healthy, soothing dessert!
With the flu and chilly weather that's been going around in Hong Kong lately, it only seems opportune to cook up some nourishing sea coconut tong sui (糖水). Literally "sugar water", tong sui is a Cantonese specialty - not a toothache-inducing syrupy bog per se - but rather a lightly sweetened broth of nutritional goodness. In Hong Kong, tong sui is a proper dessert, served hot or cold, a typical way of ending a meal.

Here, the thinly sliced sea coconut is paired with snow fungus (雪耳/銀耳/雲耳), a powerful, beautifying tonic, along with crisp, sweet Chinese white pears (雪梨/水晶梨/鴨梨). Adding lotus seeds (蓮子) and lily bulbs (百合) further enhances the cough-soothing and yin-nourishing benefits of the soup. Sweeten moderately with rock sugar at the end. Enjoy hot or serve chilled for a very refreshing treat in summer!

To prepare...
4 sea coconuts, deshelled, thinly sliced
3 Chinese white pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 head snow fungus
Lotus seeds
Lily bulb (dried or 1 small fresh bulb)
8 cups water
Rock sugar, to taste
Gojiberries, for garnish

1. Soak snow fungus in water for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Divide fungus into smaller pieces with kitchen scissors and discard the tough core. Rinse well with water.

2. Place sea coconut, diced pear, snow fungus, lotus seeds, lily bulb, and water in large pot. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 1 1/2 hours, covered.

3. Add rock sugar and stir to fully dissolve. Taste and adjust sweetness as desired. Turn heat off. Garnish with gojiberries and serve warm or chilled!

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