Marathon 26.2


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Authentic Asian Cooking (Taiwanese Ba wan Tips)

Normally, I blog about my knitting and crocheting. I have finished a few big projects since my last post but today's blog will be about cooking. Lately, I have been doing alot of authentic cooking. I think it started off with wanting to make some chinese curry pastry and that has snowballed into so much more. I have made steam pork buns, egg rolls, braised tofu, stir fry eggplant, braised eggs w/ beef, red bean filled mochi, soybean sprout side dish and radish salad.

Here are some great sites I found for authentic asian cooking:,,,, and the you tube video "How to Make Mochi" in 30 minutes or less by Intelliot. Thanks to all these great sites and video.

After making all these dishes, I had a sudden craving for my aunt's Taiwanese ba-wan (meatball). Because I live so far away from a large asian community I have to make most of the food myself. Getting some of the ingredients were tricky such as the potato flour. After a few failed attempted to find the right flour, I ended up buying it on line. When the flour arrived, I was so excited to make it. My first experience was a disaster where the skin did not get hard.

My aunt had heard about my disaster and called me to give me a few pointers. She does not use "sweet potato" flour. Yes, potato flour and sweet potato flour are not the same. Instead, she said she uses tapioca flour. Great, tapioca flour is more accessible for me to get. (I discovered that there was a small asian market an hour away vs. the 2 hour drive to the larger asian market).

I purchased several bags of tapioca flour yesterday so I was ready to try again. After cooking up my ingredients, I was ready to make the meat ball again. This time, I thought I would only make 2 at a time to ensure the skin would get hard. The skin on these 2 ba-wan was much harder so I proceeded to make 4 more. I later realize that the skin was not quite hard enough and added 2 more cups of tapioca to the mix. The 3rd batch was better but after trying to remove the ba-wan from the bowl, it still fell apart. To my disappointment and 4-5 hours of work, I tossed the remaining batter and all but the last of the ba wan I made. I was discouraged.

This morning, I decided I will make only half the batch. I still have plenty of meat filling left so why not? One last try. Previously, I had been using the "glutious" rice flour but this time, I used "Mochiko" sweet rice flour. 1/2 cup of it with 2 cups of water. I brought it to a boil, stirring constantly. It gets to be very thick after a few minutes. I turned off the heat and added 2 cups of tapioca starch. The mixture gets to be very thick (see tip below). I then spread some on the bottom of the bowl, add meat filling, spread more mixture on top and steam for 10 minutes! Success at last :).

Here are the lessons I learned:

1. Use Mochiko sweet rice flour. It makes a big difference, not glutious rice flour in the green package.

2. The consistency has to be thick. How thick? Thick to where it's getting hard to stir. It's sticky yet thick. Harder than new playdo. Almost like dough, thick yet still pliable.

3. Water works wonders! A. When assembling, you can even spread this mixture using your fingers and water! It really keeps it from sticking. B. Let the ba-wan cool after cooking and loosen with a butter knife. Add a bunch of water to it and it will loosen up, come right out of the bowl without falling apart. What a great trick I learned! (Don't worry about adding too much water to the mixture, go ahead add water! It comes right off the ba-wan).

There you go, after much help from my cousin (Debbie), my aunt, countless website (some mentioned above), research and experiment, my ba-wan is a success. If I had known those 3 little things tips, it would of made it a lot easier. But would I had learned all these great lessons?

I hope these tips will be helpful to someone who is making this delicious dish! Sorry, I did not post the recipe.

My ba-wan without sauce:

I thought I would also post a picture of my mochi w/ red bean paste. These mochi are coated with potato starch instead of coconut flakes. So delicous!!!