Though I did not wake up to the sound of firecrackers at midnight this year, there was definitely something festive in the air as I got out of bed late on Chinese New Year. Each year of the Chinese lunar calendar is represented by one of 12 animal symbols of the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar. 2013 marks the arrival of the Water Snake, which Chinese astrology considers powerful and associated with the notion of Karma. I hope that the Year of the Snake starts on a positive note and the coming days are filled with luck, wealth and happiness for all of us.
Celebrated by millions of people worlwide, the festival’s main purpose is to bring together whole families around the same table for a common meal. While I already had my gato lacire, sipek and gato crabe purchased well in advanced, I felt there was somthing lacking. And to make up for the missing ‘homemade’ touch, I did a Steamed Egg Cake/ Ji Dan Gao, which is basically a sponge cake cooked at high pressure in a humid environment. The recipe, from The Little Teochew, closely mimics the soft, fluffy texture of the cakes sold in the streets of Chinatown and some of the Chinese-owned family businesses/laboutik sinoi in some parts of Mauritius where the art of making traditional sweets from family recipes has not been lost over generations and still lives on today.
CHINESE STEAMED EGG CAKE
220 g eggs, excluding weight of shells or about 4 large eggs
210 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
230 g cake flour or top flour, sifted 2 or 3 times
6 tbs Cream Soda or 7-Up or Sprite
- Whisk the eggs till frothy, then start adding sugar a little by little, to ensure it is well-incorporated.
- Add vanilla extract and continue beating until the batter becomes very pale, thick and creamy.
- Meanwhile, heat up water in a wok, pot or steamer until it comes to a gentle boil.
- Do make sure it is large enough to fit the cake tin and has space for the batter to rise and the steam to circulate.
- Fold in the flour in thirds, alternating with the soda, and ending with flour. Once there are no streaks of flour, stop.
- To steam, either pour mixture into a bamboo steamer lined with greaseproof paper or a 6 or 7-inch lined baking tin.
- Pop it into the wok, pot or steamer – then cover – and steam on high for 30mins.
- Once done, place the cake on a rack and allow to cool slightly before slicing.
Happy Chinese New Year!