Monday, September 17, 2018

Fig leaf ice cream chez Huang

I’ve always been fascinated by two things in this recipe: the startlingly seductive flavor of fig leaves (which is Italian) and the use of cornstarch (which is Chinese, as well as from other parts of the world too, if we’re being honest).

Ok, three things: This can be a totally vegan ice cream and still be incredibly delicious.

Cornstarch here acts like egg yolks usually do in an ice cream: it makes the texture smoother, it miniaturizes the ice crystals, and it provides a satisfyingly creamy texture. 

My husband grew up on a series of military compounds in Taiwan, as his father was a colonel in the air force. J.H. has always had a pronounced sweet tooth, just like his father, and so ice cream of sorts was a more or less regular treat when he was a kid. 

The thing is, you couldn’t find ice cream in a store, and no one had ice cream trucks or, of course, ice cream makers, but what they did have was stores that would freeze your ice cream. You just had to provide the mix.

My husband remembers riding on a bicycle with his father and carrying two large tins filled with whatever Mom had whipped up. It sometimes was a mixture of powdered dry milk (a gift of the Americans then stationed on the island) boiled up with cornstarch and sugar to make a simple ice cream base, very similar to what we have here today. At other times soymilk or fruit juice took the place of milk, but cornstarch was always involved because that’s what gave the frozen dessert heft and texture. 
We're talking about amazing fragrance

Sometimes it was nothing more than sugar water cooked with cornstarch when the cupboards were empty. But with four little kids always craving something cold and sweet hanging around the house, his mother really couldn’t go wrong, no matter what she made. 

Freezing the ice cream was another thing altogether. It depended upon pure brawn and lots of experience. The liquid was poured into large pans set over ice (and probably salt, like an old-fashioned ice cream maker), and then this was stirred constantly with big spatulas until it froze up. Then the ice cream was packed back into the tins and rushed home by bicycle to feed the hungry hordes.

I have to point out that I have no idea why people don’t use cornstarch in their ice creams. Take one taste and you’ll agree. This is like silk, and it is less heavy, so you can eat more. Yay.

I’ve been entranced with the idea of fig leaves in ice cream for decades, ever since I first read about it in an old cookbook. I mean, fig leaves under a hot sun smell amazing. There are notes of vanilla, coconut, even nuts in there. You can toast them first, if you like, to get a (duh) toastier flavor, but it’s not necessary. 

I was visiting my friend Cynthia in Santa Rosa yesterday, and she shared some of her Brown Turkish figs topped with Humboldt Fog cheese, which pretty much sent me over the moon. And then I stepped out into her yard, checked out the tree, and went gaga over their bounty. 
Brown Turkish fig leaves

I took some cuttings, which I hope will eventually turn into little trees of my own. But what happened - my story does have a point, I promise - was that I trimmed off the leaves and left them on the kitchen counter. And it was like I had opened a spice drawer... their aromas became more insistent and seductive the longer they dried. And so I had to do something wonderful with them, and of course that involved dessert.

The milk and the sweetener in this recipe are open to interpretation. Today I used cashew milk and nut cream to emphasize the lightness of this figgy aroma and also to play off of its inherent nuttiness. Dairy works perfectly, as does pretty much anything reasonable. 

For the sugar I like agave syrup, again because it has a lighter flavor than honey, but also doesn’t make my mouth sour like sugar tends to do, and I do love the slight caramel tone that it gives the ice cream. I’ve toned down the sweetness, naturally, but you can amp it up. 

Add toasted coconut or nuts, if you like, or sprinkle the ice cream with something like reduced balsamic vinegar, saba, or even melted fig jam. Serve it with fresh or broiled or grilled figs. The possibilities are endless, really. Just be sure to do this before the first cold winds turn the fig leaves yellow. And get yourself a friend with a fig tree or two.

You can even make this vegan!
Fig leaf ice cream chez Huang
Huángjiā wúhuāguŏyè bīngqílín 黃家無花果葉冰淇淋
Taiwan Military Families cuisine crossed with Italian traditions
Makes about 1 quart | 1 liter

8 fresh or dried fig leaves, washed and stems removed
2 cups | 500 ml milk of any kind (dairy, nut, or coconut)
3 heaping tablespoons | 30 g cornstarch
2 cups | 500 ml cream of any kind (dairy, nut, or coconut)
Good pinch of sea salt
½ cup | 125 ml agave syrup, or other sweetener to taste

1. Place the fig leaves in a heavy saucepan and add the milk. Bring the milk almost to a boil over medium heat. When bubbles form along the edge, remove the pan from the heat and cover it for at least 15 minutes. Taste the milk, and if you want a stronger flavor, let the leaves steep longer. Strain out the leaves and discard them.

2. Put the cornstarch in a pitcher or bowl and slowly stir in the cream with a whisk so that you don’t have any lumps. Whisk in the infused milk, salt, and agave syrup into the cream, and then return this to the pan. 

Heat the leaves in your milk
3. Set the pan over medium heat and stir the bottom constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming and the bottom from burning. When the mixture is almost ready to boil, it will have thickened up and have the texture of sour cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more sugar or salt or whatever else you want at this point.

4. Pour the thickened mixture through a sieve into a heatproof bowl or pitcher and let it cool down completely, and then refrigerate until cold. It will form a skin on top, but that’s all right – this will disappear when it’s churned.

5. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker. Remove it to a freezer-safe container and freeze it for a day or two to develop its flavor. Serve with whatever sounds good. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sichuan-style mung bean sheets

As the warm weather begins to taper off, I begin to think of all the summer foods I should have talked about earlier but somehow didn’t. This is one of them.

Today’s recipe features a staple in my kitchen: mung bean sheets. Called lāpí 拉皮or fĕnpí 粉皮 in Mandarin, these are translucent rounds made from mung bean starch, dried into plate-sized circles, and sold in the same aisle as dried noodles and so forth. 

The most famous brands come from Tianjin, but they are beloved in many parts of China, particularly the north and in Sichuan. 

One thing you should remember with these mung bean sheets is that they are always a hundred times better when they have just been soaked. 

Seriously beautiful in their dried state
They are especially satiny when hot, as you will taste in this amazing casserole. And so, even though theoretically you may toss these with sesame oil and refrigerate in a plastic bag, they will never be quite as soft and silky as they once were.

So, if you are not feeding a bunch of people, cut this recipe down by half or even a third. 

Leftovers are a bit of a pain in the butt because you are faced with a dilemma: if you microwave the noodles in order to restore them to a semblance of slithery softness, the cucumbers and green onions will wither down into a weird mush.

With a floral beauty when plumped up
One way or the other, this is not going to be that pleasant. That is why you should make only what you are pretty sure you’re going to finish in one meal.

The good news is that this is delicious on so many levels, not only for its taste, but also for the lovely textural fireworks. Consider putting this on a bed of baby lettuces for a refreshing salad. Or, if you want to be more traditional, offer this as an appetizer before a Sichuanese meal. 

A note on the sauce: be sure it’s an oil-based one if you’re getting something at the store. Look at the ingredient list, which should start out with two words: chilies and oil. Fermented sauces will not work here. 

The best of all worlds is one where you make your own chile goop, like this one or this one. Trust me, these are things you should have in your arsenal at all times. 

Sichuan-style mung bean sheets
Sìchuān liángbàn lāpí 四川涼拌拉皮
What to look for
Serves 8 as an appetizer

Bean sheets:
3 sheets dried mung bean sheets (fenpi)
Boiling water to cover
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 

Chicken and vegetables:
12 ounces | 300 g cooked, boneless chicken
2 Persian (or other small seedless) cucumbers, or 1 large cucumber
1 or 2 green onions

½ cup | 125 ml chile goop (homemade or something that is oil-based, rather than fermented)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup | 60 ml peanut butter
2 tablespoons sesame oil or chile oil
2 tablespoons dark vinegar (like balsamic)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce

Lots of crunch
¼ cup | 30 g toasted sesame seeds
Small bunch of cilantro, optional

1. Place the dried mung bean sheets in a large work bowl and pour the boiling water over them to cover. The sheets will begin to soften in a few minutes, so if any areas are sticking above the water, use your tongs to jab them down under. Allow the sheets to soak and rehydrate for about half an hour while you prepare the rest of the meal. (If you are making this a couple hours ahead of time, soak the mung bean strips during the last hour so that they don't become an unmanageable tangle.)

2. Shred or cut the chicken into thin strips. (You can remove the skin, if you like, but I enjoy the added texture and flavor that skin can bring.) You can either chill the chicken or warm it slightly in the microwave; I prefer the latter, but it’s up to you.
Tossed and ready to eat

3. Trim the ends off of the cucumbers and split them lengthwise before cutting them in half across the middle; cut each piece into thin strips. Cut the green onions into thin shreds. 

4. Mix together the dressing ingredients and keep at room temperature.

5. Drain the mung bean sheets and pour cold water over them, but do this carefully; they will have turned completely clear at this point and are rather fragile. You probably won't have to cut them since they tend to fall apart into bite-sized pieces all by themselves. Gently toss them with the bit of sesame oil to keep them from sticking together.

5. Just before serving, layer the mung bean sheets on your serving platter, then the cucumbers, green onions, and chicken, and pour half of the dressing over the top. Garnish with the sesame seeds and optional cilantro, and have the extra dressing on the side for anyone who cares for more.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Chilled tapioca pearl and strawberry tamales

Yes, I know. Chinese tamales are as to the Dragon Boat Festival as peppermint candies are to Christmas. But still, just as with those candies, we can – and should – be allowed to enjoy them whenever we want, holiday or not.

Today's sweet tamales are a divine treat for both the dog days of summer and the sweaty beginnings of autumn. 

This is a new and delightful Taiwanese spin on traditional Chinese tamales, which are almost invariably made with sticky rice. 

Instead, we use tiny pearl tapioca (which are different from Western tapioca, btw), and they gum up perfectly here to form bouncy little pillows that are insanely good when they are cold. While still hot, though, the tapioca is too soft and messy to even unwrap, so have patience for that brief chilling process, although I have been known (ahem) to sneak one or three while they are just slightly warm. I only have so much willpower.
Ready to wrap

Another twist is my very own: instead of red bean paste, I’ve used strawberry jam and toasted walnuts. I mean, I like sweet bean paste to a certain extent, but it can get rather monotonous, especially if you are a Chinese food junkie. 

But strawberry jam? It’s absolutely perfect here. That luscious fruitiness bordered with just an edge of tartness makes these refreshing on a hot day. Plus, the jam fools around with the tapioca as it cooks, winding its way into some of the centermost pearls and rendering them even lighter and gooier.

The other little lagniappe in here is toasted walnuts. I like my sweets to have as many interesting textures as possible, and walnuts really fit the bill. They ground the jam and turn this into a very sophisticated dessert or afternoon snack. And by toasting them I get rid of any resident tannins and make them both mellow and more deeply flavored.

Serve these up while the weather is still exhaustingly hot. 
Fluff-up pearl tapioca

Chilled tapioca pearl and strawberry tamales
Xīgŭmĭ căoméi bīngzòng 西谷米草莓冰粽
Makes 10 or so

1 cup | 200 g tiny tapioca pearls (the Chinese ones, not Western tapioca)
Cool water, as needed
10 dried bamboo leaves for wrapping
Very hot water, as needed
1 tablespoon neutral oil, like canola
2 teaspoons agave syrup or honey
10 tablespoons | 300 g strawberry jam
¼ cup | 25 g toasted walnuts, broken
Kitchen twine

1. Place the tapioca pearls in a medium work bowl and cover with cold tap water by about 1 inch | 2 cm. Let the tapioca soak until it swells up, about 20 minutes. Drain the tapioca well and toss with the oil and agave syrup or honey. Divide it into 10 portions.

Incipient deliciousness
2. While the tapioca is soaking, place the dried bamboo leaves in a large bowl and cover with very hot tap water. When they are soft and pliable, rinse and wipe them off, and then cut off the stem ends.

3. Have kitchen string ready, as well as a large steamer of any kind. (I usually use a kettle with a steamer insert.)

4. Working on one at a time, fold a leaf with the smooth dark side on the inside into a cone, as shown here. Be sure that you have that little fold on the bottom, since that is key to keeping the tapioca tucked away. 

5. Place half of a portion of the prepared tapioca in the bottom of the cone, add a tablespoon of the jam and a sprinkling of the walnuts, and then cover the filling with the rest of the tapioca. Fold the leaf over to enclose the tapioca and lightly wrap kitchen twine around the center. Be sure not to wrap these tightly, as the leaf will explode as the tapioca expands, and you will have a big mess on your hands. Repeat with the rest of the leaves, tapioca, and filling until you have 10 or so tamales. (Don’t worry if you have more or less than 10. They’ll still taste good.)

'Sago rice'
6. When the water under your steamer is boiling, place the tamales in there and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Steam the tamales for around 30 minutes, checking and refilling the steamer with boiling water as needed. Remove the tamales, bring them to room temperature, and refrigerate in a plastic bag. To serve, simply unwrap and enjoy. 

Note for all the language nerds out there: Tapioca pearls are traditionally called Xīgòngmĭ 西貢米 (Saigon rice), but recently I've seen this being rendered as xīgŭmĭ 西谷米 (I'm guessing that's a transliteration of 'sago' rice). Either one is correct. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Oolong gelée with fruit syrups

This is one of my favorite go-to recipes when the weather gets brutally sticky. And I am an old hand at dealing with the sodden end of summer, for nothing is as hot and humid as August in Taiwan. Unless it’s September in Taiwan.

I used to indulge in this delicate gelée when I worked at the history museum. On those days when it was too hot to work or even string a couple of thoughts together, my gal pals would grab me and a taxi for a quick trip to a local teahouse on Yuanling Street on the other side of the Presidential Palace.

There we could hide upstairs in an air-conditioned room, munch on snacks, and eat oolong tea gelée drizzled with sour plum syrup.

Once we were sufficiently refreshed and gossiped out, we’d then try to sneak back to work before we were missed. Sometimes this worked, other days we got chewed out. But it was worth it.

This snack is just as delicious and cooling as it sounds. The tea coalesces into a hazy and opaque olive cloud, its gentle bitterness and floral notes forming the perfect foil for the puckery-sweet-salty-smoky flavors of the syrup. 

Dissolving into puddles
Unlike the black tea gelée of a couple of weeks ago, this is a very delicate confection that won’t obey your desires to keep it nicely squared up and Jello-y. Instead, you’ll be confronted with a soft custard consistency that is in its own way quite charming.

What I do is cut the gelée into cubes and then hope for the best. I spoon the puddles into the bottom of the serving bowls and then gently slide any cooperative bits on top so that it looks a tad more tidy. But no worries if you don’t end up with a single angle in your gelée because the texture and flavor will win over any doubting spectators.

The reason why you don’t have a firm gelatin here is (I think) due to the enzymes in the semi-fermented oolong tea. 

This is also the reason why you can’t make gelée out of green, or unfermented, teas. I’ve tried. Lord knows. 

But every time I end up with a liquid on top and a thick mass on the bottom that looks and feels like a breast implant. Don’t ask me how I know this. Floral teas like chrysanthemum would work, but do avoid green teas like Longjing or Biluochun, unless you want to try to prove me wrong. 

Now when it comes to this recipe, be warned that since only two ingredients are featured here, you will have to spring for the best. 

So, hunt down some really good tea that’s both fresh and fragrant – you can brew the tea leaves once more, by the way, and that extra cup of oolong tea will be terrific over ice. 

My usual brand of syrups
The sour plum and passion fruit syrup are concentrates sold in Chinese markets, and the best ones come from Taiwan. My favorite brand is Chin Hun.

The sour plum is usually reserved chilled sour plum infusion (suānméitāng 酸梅湯), a classic Beijing-style beverage seasoned with things like tart black plums, hawthorn fruit, and licorice root. 

In Taiwan, the passion fruit syrup usually ends up on shaved ice and other treats. Like ice cream. So this is an ingredient you really want to have in your pantry. It has those crunchy black seeds in it, which give it a terrific texture and a special beauty.

You can also use frozen juice concentrates, thinned-out jams, a good honey with some osmanthus syrup stirred in (yum), or whatever makes you happy. Whatever you decide on, please make sure it is relatively thick, because then it will sidle up to the jelled tea and form the perfect marriage of flavors and textures.

Oolong Tea Gelée with Sour Plum or Passion Fruit Syrup
Sour plum syrup in the mix
Wūlóngchá dòng  烏龍茶凍
Makes 6 cups | 1.5 liters

½ cup | 30 g good quality oolong tea
4 cups (1 liter) almost boiling water


2 cups | 500 ml cool water
3 envelopes | 3 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin

Sour plum concentrate or passion fruit concentrate, as much as is desired, or honey or what have you

Oolong tea comes in little pellets
1. Make a very strong brew using the oolong tea and very hot water. Give the leaves time to fully steep – at least 10 minutes, but longer is better, and strain it out into a heatproof pitcher or bowl. Brew more tea, if necessary, so that you have 4 cups | 1 liter tea.

2. While the tea is steeping, sprinkle the gelatin over the top of the cool water in a medium work bowl, and then allow it to soften and bloom. 

3. Microwave the tea until it is almost at the boiling point and then stir the gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Set the bowl aside to cool and chill it for at least 4 hours or (preferably) overnight. Scoop the soft gelée into serving bowls, pour a ribbon of the sour plum concentrate on top, and serve.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Homemade osmanthus blossom syrup

One of the almost indefinably delicious aromas in classical Chinese cookery is the perfumed essence of osmanthus blossoms, aka sweet olive (I guess because the leaves look a bit like an olive's). 

Like so much of what goes on in Chinese kitchens, I’m astonished that few people ever even heard of this, much less tried it.

You sometimes can find osmanthus blossom syrup in Chinese grocery stores, but it’s not a given. 

Plus, the quality has seriously deteriorated over the years, for I can taste chemical undertones in many of them nowadays. Plus, the labels say things like “rock sugar” or “honey,” and I seriously doubt it.
Dried osmanthus blossoms

Plus (and here’s the big giveaway), it’s all syrup with relatively few blossoms. 

This translates to little flavor, probably an overload of salt, and more than likely a big old helping of corn syrup.

But I’m here to tell you that you can make this at home with a minimum of effort. Like so many preserved things, it does take a bit of patience while you wait for time to work its magic. And so, do what I do and make a double or triple batch so that you can indulge in one jar while the rest sits quietly in the dark.

Your obligatory closeup
Now, where do you get osmanthus blossoms? The best source is a busy, reputable Chinese herbal shop.

Dealers in pretty much every Chinese herb and spice, these traditional stores – often handed down from generation to generation – take pride in the quality of their wares. 

They’ll usually also offer you a sniff of whatever you’re buying, if you ask nicely, so that you can be assured that you’re getting the best. As with good stores everywhere, repeat customers get treated with love, so cultivate your relationships here.

You can also plant a couple of osmanthus trees and/or bushes in your yard if you have the space. They live forever and are covered with magnificent sprays of white or yellow blossoms in autumn. 

Portrait with rock sugar
The fragrance is astounding, and I usually find these plants by following my nose, rather than looking for the flowers. If you are lucky enough to hunt someone down with a prolific tree who is also incredibly generous (another reason to grow your own), you will be rewarded with the most delicious syrup ever. In fact, what you'll end up with is not really syrup per se, but rather blossoms soaked in syrup, which translates to a real wallop of flavor. (Guihua jiang is sometimes called osmanthus jam, but it's not really jam, either. Concoction? Infusion? Bottled nirvana? Edible perfume?)

I’ve done something a tad unusual here to amp up the flavors a bit, since even the best herbalist shops don’t always have really aromatic blossoms for sale. 

What I do is this: when the syrup has been steamed for 45 minutes or so, and I’ve stirred in the honey, I take a tiny taste. If it needs a bit of oomph, in goes a touch of St. Germain liqueur.

Just steam these together
St. Germain takes its aroma from elderberry flowers, another one of my favorites, and another easily grown plant. 

If you love this liqueur, you can turn it into cocktails, as well as use it to flavor things like cakes and ices. Plus, that bottle looks just so darned pretty…

By the by, I'm kind of guessing that this sauce hails from Zhejiang.

My problem has been that guihua jiang is used in many of the more elegant banquet cuisines of China - especially in the north and east - but the osmanthus blossom has such pride of place in Zhejiang's deliciously aromatic dishes with their subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) sweet vibrations, that I'd place my money on Hangzhou or someplace like that.

Solid blossoms, solid flavor
You'll find lots of uses for this on this blog (just use the Search box on the right), as well as in All Under Heaven. This recipe is simply spectacular.

Osmanthus blossom syrup
Zìzhì guìhuā jiàng 自製桂花醬
Zhejiang (probably)
Makes about 8 ounces | 125 ml

½ cup | 30 g dried osmanthus blossoms
30 g yellow rock sugar (about the size of a small chicken egg)
¾ teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons | 90 ml pale honey (like clover)
2 tablespoons | 30 ml St. Germain liqueur, optional

Secret ingredient
1. Rinse the blossoms and place them in a heatproof bowl. Top them with the rock sugar and salt, and then steam them for about 45 minutes, or until the sugar has more or less disappeared. (Any small chunks will eventually dissolve as the sauce sits.) Remove the bowl from the steamer and let it cool down until you can handle it easily.

2. Add the honey and optional liqueur. Mix the sauce thoroughly, taste, and adjust with more salt, liqueur, or honey as desired. 

3. Scrape the sauce into a sterile jar (around 8-ounces | 125 ml), cover, label and date the jar, and set it aside in a dark pantry for as long as you can stand it, as the flavors develop over time.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Black tea gelée

It’s so hot just everywhere that today we’re going to look at something soothing, cool, and easy to make. This one of those dishes that ought to be wildly popular, but few folks seem to have ever heard of it, much less had a chance to fall in love with it: black tea gelée.

First off, this screams Hong Kong through and through, simply because it is such a perfect Chinese riff on a British classic: black tea with milk and sugar. 

The first time I really understood the passion such a simple drink can induce was in, of course, Hong Kong. During my first couple of years in Taiwan, I would take little R&R trips over to the then-colony and indulge in things like red wine, good coffee, buttery pastries, artichokes, cheesecake, and tequila… you know, the six pillars of any sensible diet. 

No prettier place in the world back then
At that time, my favorite hotel in the world was the Star Ferry YMCA. It was cheap, it was convenient, and the older section was in full retro mode, with rattan furniture, slowly rotating ceiling fans, and Forties-style upholstery covered with hibiscuses. 

Up on the roof was a restaurant that overlooked the harbor, back when the harbor was still heartbreakingly beautiful. There were sampans, junks with massive sails, and floating restaurants… so romantic and now so totally gone.

Good tea makes all the difference
But anyway, back to the food. I’d have a proper English breakfast there, one of those gut busters replete with bangers, eggs, tomatoes, and enough food to keep me going until dinner. I’d be sure and have cup after cup of my sweet tea to wash it all down, and pretty soon this turned into a major addiction.

They showed old movies there on the rooftop, like Casablanca, and it’s also the first place I got to watch Roots, and both times I sobbed my way through pots and pots of tea and tried to understand why I didn’t live permanently in such an amazing place as Hong Kong. (Answer: Mandarin. Oh well.) 

So, I have more than a bit of an emotional connection to milk tea, and when it’s hotter than blazes out, this is a great way to chill out in every possible way.

Qimen black tea
Any good tea works here, and you can make the tea as strong as you like. In addition to personal taste, this all depends upon the variety and quality of the tea. 

I prefer my tea British-level strong, so be forewarned. I've used a wonderfully fruity tea here from Fujian called Qimen. The flavors are very complex, and although it doesn't stand up to repeated dunkings like some other teas, that first round is out of this world.

You can make the tea jelly a couple of days ahead of time and spoon out as much as you want, then decorate it with sweetened condensed milk or cream or what-have-you. When you see a particularly hot week on the horizon, consider stashing a couple of bowls in the fridge to keep you sane and happy.

This makes a lot, but then again, it goes down like lightning.

Black tea gelée
Cool, shimmering, luscious
Hóngchá dòng 紅茶凍
Hong Kong
Makes 6 cups | 1.5 liters, serves 8 to 12

½ cup | 25 g really good black tea leaves (Fujian’s Qimen is great)
4 cups | 1 liter boiling water
3 tablespoons powdered gelatin
2 cups | 500 ml cool water
Condensed milk, as desired

1. Place the tea leaves in a small strainer and run water over them for a few seconds to rinse them off. Dump them into a large measuring cup and pour the boiling water over the tea. Cover the tea and let it steep for around 10 minutes. If you like an even stronger flavor, brew them for as long as you like, and then microwave the tea until it is once again very hot.

My hot weather breakfast, too
2. While the tea is steeping, pour the cool water into an 8-cup | 2 liter pan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cool water so that it has time to completely soften. 

3. Strain the hot tea into the gelatin and stir gently to dissolve the powder. Let the liquid come to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for six or so hours until solid.

4. Just before serving, cut the gelatin into tiny cubes. Scoop them into (preferably) clear glass cups or bowls, and then drizzle the condensed milk over the top. 

Photo of Hong Kong Harbor from Hong Kong Free Press