Green Tea Butter Cookies: Dragon Year Treats

Chinese new year, for me, has always been about my late grandmother’s pineapple tarts.

The buttery cookies topped with sweet home-made pineapple jam are so firmly connected with the holiday that all other cookies simply cease to exist whenever the lunar new year rolls around.

As much as I love them, I don’t quite have the equipment at hand to make them this year, alas. One must still celebrate, nonetheless. So, in a pinch, I whipped together a batch of buttery shortbread cookies flavored with green tea powder I’d picked up in Singapore and had never used in baking before.

The result? A delicious springtime treat that I may just have to include in my new year cookie rotation in years to come…

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Mooncakes: The Taste of Sweet Rebellion


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You know you’re walking into a hardcore kitchen when the first thing you see is stacks upon stacks of boxes filled with gorgeous home-made mooncakes.

The women on my Dad’s side of the family in Singapore – they’re fearless cooks.

Pineapple tarts, bak-zhang (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves), black vinegar-braised pig’s trotters? They could whip those together with their eyes closed.

Recently, however, the task at hand was Chinese mooncakes, eaten to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls this Saturday.

Now, there are a few old stories that explain the reason for eating these little cakes, which usually are filled with sweet lotus-seed paste and come either with a thin, baked crust or a soft, pliant dough skin that’s scented with pandan, a vanilla-like flavoring used in many Southeast Asian desserts. My favorite is the one of Ming revolutionaries planning to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China during the Yuan dynasty and spreading word via letters baked into mooncakes. (Julia Child would’ve been so proud!)

During my Singaporean girlhood, I’d known the stories, I’d eaten the cakes. As for making them? That seemed so laughably difficult it never once crossed my mind.

It turns out, however, they’re incredibly easy to make — you just need the right teachers.

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A Mouth Full of Booger


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Slowly and carefully, Greg and I chewed, on the verge of both laughter and disgust as we tried to put a name to what it was we were tasting.

“It’s like a bad taco,” Greg said.

“Tequila or margaritas — regurgitated,” I said, thinking suddenly of a college night long, long ago.

It was actually vomit that we were sampling — vomit-flavored jelly beans, to be precise.

When we had passed a display of rather unappetizing-sounding new Jelly Belly flavors at the Fancy Food Show in New York City, we had known it was a silly gimmick but hadn’t been able to resist. And so we spent some unpleasant minutes with mouths full of centipede (which tasted like grass and earth), skunk spray (as billed) and canned dog food (think Chef Boyardee). (Canned dog food and centipede are new this year.)

Drawing the line at Baby Wipes, we decided to walk away while our tastebuds were still intact.

“I still taste Booger in my mouth,” Greg whispered as we slunk away.

Well, somewhat intact, I suppose.

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