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Dried Fruits, Nuts, Seeds and Beans

Dried ingredients such as nuts, seeds and beans are essential base ingredients in many fillings. Here are some of the key ingredients and where I like to use them.

Dried jujube or red Chinese dates

This dried fruit is sweet and chewy when rehydrated. I use it as a garnish on Chinese New Year cake (nian go) for it's red color or add to soups for a subtle sweetness.

Raw peanuts, skin on

These peanuts are delicious fried up with salt or additional seasonings for a snack.

As an ingredient, I usually soak them overnight and add them to my joongs/zhongzhi.

Black sesame seeds

Toast up these tiny seeds and add as an simple garnish.

Grind them up into a paste then add some sugar and butter to make a delicious paste filling for tong yuen/tangyuan, mochi or sesame balls. Better still, add ground peanuts for an over the top sweet filling.

White sesame seeds

Toasted and alone or mixed with toasted black sesame seeds makes a simply elegant garnish.

Grind together with peanuts, sugar and butter for another tong yuen/tangyuan filling option.

Lotus seeds

This ingredient takes a bit more work to make into a paste but oh so worth it. Smooth, sweet and mild, it makes a very elegant filling for sesame balls and moon cakes. It is also delicious whole in a warm dessert soup with red adzuki beans and citrus zest.

Lotus seeds served in dishes or as a candy on Chinese New Year signifies wishes for fertility.

Red adzuki beans

This is the key ingredient in making sweet red bean paste, our favorite filling in sweet steamed baos, sesame balls and mochi.

Try it in moon cakes, tong yuen/tangyuan, in sweet icy drinks and shaved ice in the summer and sweet warm dessert soups in winter! So versatile!

Mung beans

I've seen mung beans sold two ways in the stores. The green ones still have the skins on. They yellow ones are split, no skin, but colored with a yellow dye. I prefer the ease of the yellow but soak and rinse to get as much of the dye off. If I have time I will soak and skim off the green skins from the more natural beans. Either way these tiny beans are essential in joongs/ zhongzhi and can also be made into a sweet paste filling in baos.

Salted fermented black beans

Fermented ingredients add umami to dishes that really can't be described. You can find these in a bag or round paper container in your local Asian market. I usually soak and rinse them to rehydrate and remove excess salt. Then mash them with ginger and garlic and use them to stir fry meats or tofu. They are also a wonderful ingredient to give your homemade chili oil a boost of umami!

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