Taro Paste is a common and relatively a new filling to see in Chinese pastries, steamed buns and desserts. Chinese pastries are usually filled with some kind of paste whether it be red bean paste, lotus seed paste, black bean paste, black sesame paste, chestnut paste... the list goes on. The taro paste however, is my favourite and the easiest, quickest one to make. Taro (芋头 yù tou) is a starchy root vegetable that originated from Hawaii. It is used in various cuisines such as Hawaiian, African Japanese, Chinese, and almost all Southeast Asian cuisine. The flesh of the root has a murky grey-ish tint to it with specks of purple. When it is cooked, the purple specks tints the entire vegetable giving it a beautiful cloudy-purplish colour. The texture of a taro is like a potato, with a little less moisture and has a distinct taste to it. It has a mildly-sweet, coconut-like flavour which complements many Chinese dishes. It served at Dim sum/Yum Cha restaurants as a filling in the Coconut Pudding Jelly (椰汁糕), Pineapple buns, Steamed buns, baked buns, etc. Taro paste is very exciting to see and taste whenever it is inside a bun because it fits so well, texturally, visually and flavour-wise. Plus, when do you ever get to eat something purple that isn't food coloured?It is so easy to make, you can start filling your cakes, puddings, buns, and even savoury foods with it. You can serve by itself as a dessert which is called ''Or Nee'' which is a bowl of taro paste, topped with a little bit of sugary syrup, and peanuts. You can get taro at all Asian grocery markets. Pandan is the Southeast Asian version of vanilla, but has a completely different profile in taste. You can find the extract in bottles or the leaves frozen in the freezer section, or if you're really lucky, the fresh leaves. But you can use vanilla if you can't find it at your Asian grocery store.
Chinese Sweet Taro Paste (芋泥餡) ''Or Nee'' Filling
Yields: 800 gm of Taro Paste (about 2 1/2 cups)
Preparation Time: 30 min
Cooking time: 10 min
Total Time Required: 40 min
- 900 gm of Taro (2 lbs)
- 75 gm of Sugar (1/3 cup)
- 75 gm of Honey (2 1/2 tbsp)
- 300 mL of Hot water (1 1/4 cups)
- 30 gm of Butter/oil/lard (2 tbsp)
- 2 Pandan leaves or 1 tsp of Pandan extract (**optional** can be substituted with vanilla extract or beans)
- Preheat the steamer. Using latex or rubber gloves to protect your hand, peel (with a vegetable peeler) and cut the taro into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes. Put it in the steamer until tender, about 20 min. You can also boil and drain them in water for 15 min instead of steaming.
- While the taro is cooking, make the syrup. Combine the sugar, honey, hot water and pandan/vanilla (if using) in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely.
- Mash the steamed taro while it is still hot until it resembles a dry powder. Add in the butter/oil/lard and combine. Add the syrup to the mashed taro mixture in 3-4 additions, stirring with either a wooden spoon or spatula until the syrup is absorbed. The final texture should be like soft mashed potatoes.
- Taro root contains calcium oxalate which cause itching to the skin. You may or may not be very sensitive to this, but for precautionary, use rubber/latex gloves when handling taro in its raw state. The calcium oxalate is minimized when cooked and is completely edible.
- Adjust the sweetness of the final product to your need or liking. You may like it sweeter so add more syrup or honey, or you may like it less sweet.
- If the paste seems too dry, add some more boiling water, tablespoon by tablespoon until the desired texture is achieved.
- To help which fat to use here are some guidelines: Butter matches very well if using the paste in sweet baked goods. Flavourless oils match sweet and savoury foods. Lard enhances savoury foods better.