A sort of “tong sui”

It’s nice to eat a good hunk of beef but you want a light dessert, too.
~ Arthur Fiedler

Long before I fully awoke to the pleasures of raspberry brownies, crème brûlée and affogatos, I ate a variety of tong sui for dessert. Tong sui, literally translated as “sugar water”, is an inclusive term for sweet, warm soups or custards served as dessert in Cantonese cuisine. I still think Hong Kong is the best place to go for this, though I noticed many places selling this in Singapore on my last visit there too.

Supposedly, they are meant to help moderate your body temperature, cooling your body in summer and warding off chills in winter.

You can google “tong sui” for more comprehensive photos and descriptions of it, but common tong sui include a deep, rich black sesame paste, dou-hua (a satin-smooth tofu pudding), red bean soup, steamed milk custard, gui-ling-gao (I really don’t know what this is, but it’s a black jelly with a unique taste – probably not the thing to launch your tong sui experience)… all of these, I feel, are perfect when you don’t want something too sweet, heavy or rich (as decadent desserts in the Western world often are).

This morning, I awoke to the sound of heavy rain and decided to try making a simplified, impromptu version of something akin to a sweet potato and ginger variation of “tong sui” (hopefully not too far off from the real thing!)

    3 pandan leaves*
    1 small kumara/sweet potato
    Small knob of ginger
    2 tbsp light brown sugar**
    * or dried red dates, unsure of quantity
    ** or brown sugar slabs or rock sugar, unsure of quantity
    Method to my madness:
    In a small saucepan, bring water to the boil.
    Meanwhile, peel the ginger knob and kumara. Slice ginger, and chop kumara into bite-sized pieces. Wash and tie the pandan leaves into a knot.
    Add the ginger, kumara and pandan to the boiling water – leaving enough water to just cover the surface of the ingredients (approximately 1 cup?). Add in the sugar. Stir gently.
    Cook for 10-15 minutes, until kumara is soft. Discard pandan knot, and pour enough of the soup into a small bowl. This can be consumed hot or cold, I am having mine hot today as it is a cold rainy morning!
    Yields 1 serving.

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