If you’re as much of a dim sum lover as I am, you must have tried just about every item on the dim sum cart. And you must have tried taro puffs at least once. Me? I rarely have dim sum without taro puffs. If it’s not on the cart and has to be ordered a la carte, I order them a la carte. That’s how crazy I am am about taro puffs. It’s been a long time ambition to make them at home but I was unable to muster enough courage until today.
There. The proof of my first attempt at cooking taro puffs. Granted they’re not perfect — I should have boiled the taro for another 10 minutes before draining and mashing them — but the first hurdle has been overcome. Fear. The fear that it’s too complicated for my cooking skills. I’ve thrown that fear our of the kitchen window. Or, perhaps, flushed it down the prep sink. Next time, it’ll be even better — bolder and better. Still, the first attempt is not bad at all. In fact, the taro puffs were pretty good — so good, I wondered what the fear was all about. Want to see how I cooked the taro puffs?
- 500 grams taro peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons shortening (lard is traditional but I used Crisco)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dispersed in 2 tablespoons of warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of baking soda
- a drizzle of sesame seed oil
- additional cornstarch for dusting
- 2 cups cooking oil for deep frying
- Place the peeled taro in a pan, add enough water to cover, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until very tender. How tender? A fork or knife inserted at the thickest part of the largest piece should go through easily and without resistance.
- Mash the boiled taro. Add the shortening, starch solution, sugar, salt, pepper, sesame seed oil and baking soda to mashed taro and mix well.
- Transfer the taro to a flat work surface and knead until pliable, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Place the kneaded taro in a bowl, cover with a damp towel to prevent it from drying, and let rest while you make the filling.
- To the ground pork, add 1 tbsp. of cornstarch and 1 tbsp. of water. Mix well.
- Heat 2 tbsps. of cooking oil in a work, add the pork and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown. Season with salt, pepper and about 1 tsp. of sugar. Add the peas and chopped chili, continue cooking for another minute, pour in the sesame seed oil then turn off the heat. Transfer the pork and peas mixture to a shallow bowl to allow to cool a bit.
- Place about 2 tbsps. of the taro mixture on the palm of your hand. Flatten and spread. Curve your hand to create a “bowl”. Spoon 1 tbsp. of the pork filling at the center of the taro mixture.
- Gather the edges of the taro mixture and close to seal the pork filling.
- You now have one taro ball with pork and peas filling.
- Repeat until all the taro mixture has been used up.
- Sprinkle the taro balls with cornstarch then start heating the cooking oil for deep frying.
- This is the stage where the taro balls become taro puffs. As the taro balls come in contact with the hot oil, the surface puffs as it turns crisp. Fry the taro balls over high heat until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels.
- If you will look closely at the deep-fried taro balls, the surface of the taro balls is no longer smooth. Rather, there is a fine lace-like pattern all over. If you prefer a more pronounced lace-like pattern, make the taro mixture less stiff by adding more water and shortening.
- A well made taro puff does not get squished when pierced with a fork. It shouldn’t be soggy either.