a teatray in the sky

學做鳳梨酥 (learning to make pineapple cakes)

Posted in 5D Mark II, Food, Photography, Taiwan by firthefirst on February 21, 2012

much of chinese cooking is, to this day, shrouded in a ninja-like mysteriousness, unless you are a chinese woman over the age of 45, or a chef.  it probably has something to do with the fact that asian mothers are notoriously bad at communicating verbal instructions, and a lot to do with the fact that they don’t measure anything.  how much salt do I put in this?  how long should I soak the meat for?  what is the name of this vegetable?  you feel like you are conducting a telephone survey, but a lousy one, where the answers range from 1 to 5 but the description of the scale is left undetermined.  a typical learning-to-cook exchange may go like this:

dutiful pupil: “does it matter if we use chicken legs or chicken wings for this?”

asian mother: “four.”

confused pupil: “four what?”

asian mother: “uh huh.  and then you add black pepper.”

thoroughly lost pupil: “how much black pepper?”

asian mother: “I don’t know.  two?”

and you wonder why we’d rather stay upstairs and just come down when the food is on the table.  amazingly enough, Tina’s auntie in Taiwan, gatekeeper of the secret wonders of pineapple cake, offered to teach us how to make these treats of the gods.  at her home.  with real recipes.  how could anyone say no to that?  we went, and learned, and ate, and I photographed.  but to keep the ancient secret a secret (and to protect myself from being garroted in my sleep by a black-clad assassin), and to remain consistent with the asian art of teaching cooking, I won’t give you any sort of measurements to go with the photos.

Step 1: chop chop

Step 2: dissection.  separate the cores, juice, and meat of the pineapples

Step 3: simmer and stir

Step 4: smile a lot.  auntie shows how it’s done

Step 5: add some eggs and butter.  make that, a lot of eggs and butter.  and then more butter.  no, really, more butter

Step 6: add special sauce and then reduce.  I can’t tell you what’s in special sauce because, frankly, I just don’t know.

Step 7: more butter.  rub it on your hands and, if you like, your face.

Step 8: roll little logs out of the reduction mix

Step 9: make the little logs into little balls.  weigh them

Step 10: make lots and lots of little balls.  do not eat them Randy

Step 11: wrap the balls in dough

Step 12: pat the dough-wrapped balls into square trays

Step 13: drool a bit.  hide the fact that your eyes are watering with quiet tears of joy

Step 14: bake it like its hot

Step 15: take it out and let it cool.  fend off marauding beasts

Step 16: enjoy … and look good doing it.  Tina demonstrates.  also, now you can shed those joyous tears that you’ve been choking back as you stared longingly into the oven

and that’s all there is to it.  if you’ve somehow read this entire post without knowing what a pineapple cake tastes like, look up your closest asian person in the phone book and ask them where you can get your hands on some.

One Response

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  1. Assia said, on February 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    These look delicious! Well done!

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