Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fat go (Prosperity cakes)

Fat go

This year, I decided to try my hand at making something Chinese for my in-laws' Chinese New Year gathering (despite the fact that I'm white and haven't tried making Chinese food in my life, other than occasionally playing sous-chef for my husband). After all, chocolate cookies aren't exactly traditional Chinese food.

But what is traditional Chinese food, when it comes to desserts? The main dishes would all be covered, after all, not to mention that it's hard to transport regular food 3 hours by car and have it hold up well. The thing is, Chinese cuisine doesn't really do much for desserts -- maybe Mandarin oranges, or almond cookies, but that's about it most of the time. But upon consulting Google, I did turn up a couple of traditional Chinese foods that my mother-in-law was familiar with, and I ended up settling on the more appetizing-sounding of the two: Fat go (pronounced "faht go"), which are steamed cakes made with rice flour.

Off to the Asian supermarket I went, and once I had the needed supplies, I put together this simple recipe, put the cups of batter in the steamer and crossed my fingers.

Ingredients Dissolving brown candy Steaming away

The result was... disappointing. For one, they're supposed to pop up over the top of the cupcake papers and split open -- the splits are said to symbolize Buddha's smile, meaning that he is smiling upon your efforts, and the more sections the cake split into, the luckier you are. But my first attempts didn't split at all, just rose straight up. And on top of that, I wasn't sure if they tasted alright, either. Having never eaten these before, I wasn't sure if the flavor and texture were right: The flavor was sweet, like brown sugar (unsurprisingly), but the texture was oddly grainy and crumbly, like eating soft sand, if that makes sense. But then again, that might just be what rice flour does when you steam it into a raised cake.

My husband taste-tested them for me, and he thought they were fine, though he admitted that he hadn't eaten them since he was a young child, so he was straining to remember what they're supposed to taste like. So the flavor was alright, though not my cup of tea. As for the shape, a friend on Twitter had recently mentioned that ramekins, which I'd used to support the batter-filled papers, are ceramic and therefore a good insulator, not a great conductor of heat. Thinking of this, I tried making the cakes again, this time putting the papers inside of tinfoil cups I formed using an empty ramekin. For added insurance, I also bought new baking powder and cranked up the stove burner as high as it would go.

Success! All of my cakes split this time, some into as many as five sections. A few even got so carried away that they bumped into the bottom of the steamer basket above them -- oops.

In the end, my in-laws seemed to like these alright -- they seem to have come out fairly well, as a pretty decent reproduction of fat gos. But y'know, even if they were correctly made, nobody seemed all that thrilled about them, and I have to say, they're not really something that I found that appetizing -- I think it was that odd, crumbly texture more than anything. So I'd say that this is a good recipe, but regardless, I may not make it again.

Fat Go (Prosperity Cakes)
From Random Cuisine

3/4 c water
1 1/2 block Chinese brown candy
1 c rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp water

1. Set up your steamer over a pot of hot water. Form tinfoil cups using a ramekin as a mold, then fill each with a cupcake paper. (Red would be the best color to use, since it's a lucky color in Chinese culture, but I was using blue papers since I was just testing the recipe when I took the photos and didn't want to run out of red papers for later on.)
2. Measure out the rice flour into a good-sized bowl and the baking powder into a ramekin.
3. Put the water and brown candy in a small pan and cook until the candy is all dissolved.
4. Pour the melted candy into the rice flour and whisk until no lumps remain. At this point, turn up the heat under your steamer setup to high.
5. Pour the water into the baking powder, stir to combine (it will fizz, don't be alarmed), then pour into the batter and whisk together.
6. Fill the cupcake papers almost full, then place them into your steamer and put on the lid. (This recipe will only make about five cakes at a time. But if you double or triple the recipe, the baking powder might lose effectiveness as it sits in the batter, so I'd recommend just making a batch at a time.)
7. Steam for 15-20 minutes -- do not open the steamer while they are cooking.
8. Remove from steamer and let cool.