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Kitchen Rescue
The best way to enjoy tikoy

By Reggie Aspiras
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:17:00 01/23/2008

Filed Under: Food

MANILA, Philippines?Every year, at just about this time, I get requests for a tikoy recipe or ways to cook tikoy other than the all too-predictable dipped in egg and fried.

It is 2008 and tikoy letters contain the same request. So, in time for the season when we say Kung Hei Fat Choy, I present tikoy, the best I have tasted in years?a recipe, as well as imaginative ways of preparing it. Thanks to Shang Palace?s genius of a chef, Wu Ki Man.

No Chinese New Year is ever be complete without tikoy. Speaking of which, I have not tasted tikoy as good as Makati Shang?s.

Unlike the others, theirs is completely soft and will not be bothersome even for those with dentures! It is so flavorful that even the regular tikoy variant is so milky. Malinamnam is the most appropriate description?anything else will fall short!

Furthermore, it does not absorb oil when fried. The result is a rice cake so rich in flavor, with perfect texture?so smooth that it melts so delightfully in your mouth. No tug of war among teeth, tongue and throat for this exquisitely done rice cake!

So, if there is a tikoy man in my book, chef Man is the one!

Unfortunately, the chef speaks no word of English. Thank God the ever-reliable Joy Wassmer was there to help while Steve Tai translated.

Tikoy?s significance

?One of the most ubiquitous sights at Chinese New Year bazaars is Chinese New Year cake (also known as Nian Gao, which translates to tikoy),? said Man. ?To the Chinese, the word nian means ?year? while gao means ?higher.? Taken together, the words represent progress in the new lunar calendar year.

?Households believe that nian gao must unfailingly be offered every year to the Kitchen God ... the family ?feeds? the sticky pudding to the Kitchen God one week before Lunar New Year to ensure a report in their favor upon his return to heaven. It is a way of ensuring that the god?s mouth would be too crammed with cake to coherently present a negative report.?

Chef Man added, ?The important thing is to have lots of rice cakes on the eve of Chinese New Year to bring good luck and prosperity. Our colorful fish-shaped version of tikoy signifies auspicious luck according to Chinese beliefs.

?Whatever it is, nian gao is a lip-smacking fare to be enjoyed in the company of friends and family.?

Man?s Basic Tikoy Recipe

300 g glutinous rice flour
300 g brown sugar
150 g corn starch
100 g vegetable oil
200 g water
? c coconut milk

Heat a large vat with vegetable oil.

Stir in ingredients slowly and continue to stir. After mixing all the ingredients well, cook it for at least 1 hour until thick and sticky.

Pour into a deep round dish and cool. After a few hours of cooling, refrigerate.

Recipe makes one standard round tray of tikoy.

Man?s cooking techniques and various ways of serving tikoy:

Cut tikoy into cubes, line them in a steamer and steam for 15 minutes. When the tikoy is hot, transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle top with grated fresh coconut meat and serve.

Our special rice cakes are best enjoyed when sliced into strips (as thick as your pinky finger), wrapped in spring roll wrapper and deep-fried. It is recommended to serve with honey, fruit jam or sprinkled sugar.

The chef further tickled my fancy by describing his New Year menu tagged as the Emperor?s Feast.
Joy W. said, ?This chef is a total perfectionist.? Exactly why this particular menu is one we should all savor. Nothing is spared, no substitutions allowed for his dishes. Thus, his rendition of an Emperor?s feast is one that truly befits royalty.

Perfection is a common practice in the kitchens of Shang Palace but this time I am moved more by curiosity. Apparently, there is a dish that brings luck. It is called Yee Sang, which took them quite a while to perfect since sourcing the authentic ingredients had been difficult.

The dish is described as something that ?brings good fortune with the Chinese custom of Yee Sang. This Chinese salad, made from slices of raw fish, shredded vegetables, herbs and spices, is believed to bring vigor, prosperity, and longevity for the coming year.

?Besides being full of flavor and texture, yee sang is loaded with symbolic meaning,? said Man. The raw ingredients signify the renewal of life, and the sound of the word for fish in Cantonese sounds like the word for prosperity. Family members gather and, together, they toss the salad with their chopsticks, making a wish for abundance and prosperity before enjoying the meal.?

If you ask me, I prefer food to charms and crystals, mouth-open frogs and waving cats. . .
So join me as I eat my way to good fortune, health and wealth. Here?s wishing you the best of the year of the earth rat! Cheers!

Call Shang Makati at 8138888.

E-mail the author at raspiras@inquirer.com.ph

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