Now playing: The Beatles - Wailing Japanese
I frequent Asian markets/stores. The usual store is right here in Fort Collins and it has a large portion of Japanese products, but has many other cuisines as well. I find myself less frequently at the stores in the Denver area...Something I will try and fix. They have really fun products to explore and on a larger scale. Something I would like to do is highlight and explore a product from the shelves of those stores. Some of the items will be old friends and others not so old (to me anyway.) Sometimes things will go the traditional route and sometimes a sort of fusion will take place- East meets West! Here we will start with two products. One is a Japanese product and one is used more in Thai cuisine, but I am bringing them together in a dessert.
A common place to find palm sugar is in a nice plate of Pad Thai- The sweet and salty balancing out. Palm sugar can also be found under the names arenga sugar, or coconut sugar. It is made from the sap of palm trees and these days it is more common that it is from coconut trees. Using this sugar is healthier than other sweet alternatives. Including nutrients such as- Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron and vitamins; B1, B2, B3, B6 and C-not many sugars can claim this. Palm sugar has the lowest on glycemic levels and is a slow release, to avoid sugar rushes and crashes. The flavour of palm sugar is richer and has more depth, as well. It is great to use in baked goods as it has a high burn point.
The product I found and bought was tablespoon sized, easier for measuring. Though it is also found in liquid form, the melting point is low...So, I didn't have any problems incorporating it into my dish.
Palm sugar meet Shuritama-ko:
Shuritama-ko is a sweet rice flour. Water is added to the rice to make it soft, then it is mashed and freeze-died. The freeze-dried product is what I found on the shelf. It is common for this flour to be made into soft, sticky dumplings. Some other dishes that use shiratama-ko are Daifuku, or Mochi.
Shiratama Dango with Kuromitsu
You can follow the directions on the Shiratama-ko package, if you have a good grasp of the Japanese language, otherwise here is a basic recipe for making 12 dumplings:
1 2/3 c. sweet rice flour
1/2 c. water
Add the water slowly to the flour and knead into a soft dough (the general softness of an earlobe.) Form into small oval shaped dumplings and add to boiling water. When the dumplings are floating, they are done. Chill.
2/3 c. dark brown sugar
12 pieces palm sugar
1/2 c. water
Bring all the ingredients to a boil. I used the end of a glass to smash the palm sugar. Cook until the sugars are melted and thicken slightly. Chill.
Combine the chilled ingredients together in a bowl. Baste the dumplings with the syrup. Mine is garnished with freeze-dried strawberries and lemon balm from the garden.
Another traditional Japanese dish is Azuki Shiratama, that has sweet red beans paired with the rice dumplings.