Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dog nipples dipped in syrup?! Why, yes please...

To help celebrate the Year of the Snake, which starts this Sunday (Feb. 10), I've been looking into the meaning of the name of sachima, the sweet pastry that is more like a Chinese Rice Krispies Treat than anything else I can think of. This is something that is as much a part of northern Chinese celebrations this time of year as peppermint cookies are to Christmas around my house.

"Why all this fuss about a name?" you ask. 

Exactly. You would think that a rose is a rose is a rose, right? But not when horses are sanded, dog nipples are dipped in syrup, and tall tales send you in twelve different directions all at once, most with dead ends and shaggy dog stories mucking up the trail.

You'll see what I mean when you read "A Chinese New Year Treat Wrapped in Mystery" in today's Zester Daily...

"During my eight years in Taiwan, I learned to adore Chinese food in all its permutations. One sweet snack I loved in particular would start showing up in the local pastry shops as Chinese New Year rolled around. This was the only time when squares of sachima could be eaten in a perfectly fresh state, the strips of fried dough collapsing at each bite, the syrup still gooey and luscious, the raisins sweet and tender.

"I had been told that these were traditional Beijing treats, and I took that as gospel for a long time. But the name always confused me, as it made no sense in Chinese. Most stores displayed signs that said 沙其馬 shāqímǎ, which literally means “sand his horse” -- hardly a mouthwatering image. So I started looking into this, and the more I looked, the weirder things got...."

(Read the rest here on Zester Daily. And this also includes a detailed recipe and slideshow on making your own New Year treats. Put on your sweatpants and celebrate the Year of the Snake in style and comfort!)