Sunday, July 27, 2008

Winter comfort food - orr nee

It is right in the heart of winter here now, with heavy morning frosts and our water taps froze a couple of times last week. But not just because it is cold and one's thoughts automatically wander to warm rich food, I have been yearning on and off the last few years to have a teo chew (chau zhou) yam dessert my grandmother used to make. It is not commonly found but it can be bought at a few selected stalls in Singapore. I bought a serve the last time we were back but it just wasn't the same. Only hers and a few Teochew restaurants just taste right.

Unfortunately, my grandmother is now bedridden and doesn't communicate anymore, so I am unable to let her know how much I miss her or her cooking. Well I guess I could but realistically I am not sure that she would understand. The worst part about being this far away from the place I grew up in is that each time I return, she seemed that much more frail and the last two years, she couldn't recognise me anymore. The previous years when I held her hand, she still squeezed it although she didn't say much. And of course even 6 or 7 years ago, I could still talk to her on the telephone.

Anyway, the last time in Sydney, I actually bought a taro (purple yam) and decided to have a hand at making it. I always knew that the original recipe would be quite unhealthy as it calls for copius amounts of lard and sugar. I decided to research it on the internet. A google search of "orr nee", "or nee" and "yam paste" brought about some recipe results. The simplest of which was found on Rasa Malaysia's blog. Although there is a great picture from wikipedia here

It is sometimes made without pumpkin but it is very often made with ginko nuts. I didn't have any gingko nuts but for those interested, there is a recipe here for those with access to ginko nuts.

Taro Paste country healthy style

1 Taro (about 500-600 gms)- cubed
1 cup soy milk
half cup castor sugar
2 tbsp peanut oil
water as desired

Some recipes suggest to boil the taro pieces but I know my grandma used to steam them. I microwaved them until tender. I then transferred them into a large saucepan and started mashing them and adding some water, the soy milk and caster sugar and oil slowly over a low heat until it was a smooth paste. For those who would prefer a much smoother and richer (and more authentic) taste, lard or more oil can be used in the place of the water and soy milk. Sugar can also be added to the desired taste, however, the main aim of the taro is to get the rich tasty texture and the sugar enhances rather than dominates the flavour.

Or nee is sometimes made with coconut milk or served with a splash of coconut milk. This is probably the southeast asian version. Amazingly coconut milk is difficult to find in the country. Most supermarts sell coconut cream but not milk.

I enjoyed mine with a splash more soy milk which added to the nutty taste. While it didn't taste like grandma's it was enough to remind me of home and was definitely comforting! Always served hot, to me it is like hot ice-cream!

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At 12:19 PM, Blogger Lillin said...


I tried this recipe, but failed.

How long did you microwave the taro cubes for? Mine doesn't seem "mash-able"...

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Lillin

did you add a tiny bit of water to the bottom of your microwave container? I treated it like potatoes, microwaving on high for about 3 minutes at a time, I probably went about 3 to 4 rounds of that until they were fork tender.


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