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Milk, milk ... more milk

By Shi Yingying | China Daily | Updated: 2011-07-04 14:51
Milk, milk ... more milk

Top: Crispy breaded fried milk, ginger juice in milk (bottom, right) and double-skinned milk (bottom, left). Provided to China Daily


The Chinese are not traditional consumers of milk or other dairy products, but in Guangzhou, milk makes good snacks. Shi Yingying reports from Shenzhen.

In China, many of the best chefs come from Guangzhou, and in Guangzhou, many of the best chefs come from Shunde, especially from the district of Daliang. Apart from its famous sons of the kitchen, Daliang is also known for its unique use of milk in its cuisine. Some, like the signature Daliang fried milk with crab meat and pine nuts, is savory, but there are lots of sweet options from other parts of the region.

When ginger meets milk

The very first experience of ginger juice in milk, jiangzhuangnai, is reminiscent of a high school chemistry experiment, except you're sitting at the dining table instead of in the laboratory. It is pure magic as you watch the milk curds form after the ginger juice is added.

No, this is not a concoction created by molecular gastronomists, but rather a centuries-old street food popular all over Guangzhou.

First, the waitress will bring you a bowl, filled to a third with bright yellow ginger juice, intense with heat and smoky spice. Next, a pot of fresh milk heated to 80 C is brought to the table.

The hot milk is gently poured into the bowl of ginger juice, and covered with a lid, under which the alchemy begins. In less than 60 seconds, the milk will have turned to custard, setting into a soft, delicious curd.

Not a huge fan of ginger?

Try this as a soft introduction to the spicy root and be converted by the tender ginger-flavored custard. The warm and velvety curd melts in your mouth and you can taste the heat only as it slides down the throat.

This famous dessert was said to be an accidental discovery. According to folklore, an old woman was suffering from a cough and cold, and her daughter-in-law wanted to serve her some ginger juice to ease her coughing. But she was afraid the traditional cure for coughs may be too spicy, and figured out that some hot milk might temper the heat.

When she added the milk to the ginger, it set, and a new dessert was born.

To make your own, finely grate two teaspoons of ginger onto a piece of muslin or cheesecloth. Squeeze to extract the juice. Add warm full-cream milk, and wait. Sweeten to taste. There is no stirring, mixing or beating. It's just pure chemistry when ginger meets milk.

Double the trouble, twice the joy

Another milk dessert that could give the delicious ginger milk curds competition is another creamy delight with an intriguing name - double-skinned milk or shuangpinai. In terms of taste, this skips the spicy notes of the gingery curds, but makes up for the blandness with a delicate texture enhanced by the addition of egg white.

The egg white adds a touch of luxury, making the dessert richer and more delicate.

The name "double-skinned milk" may already explain the method. As it suggests, the dish is actually simmered milk set with egg white on top of a delicate film of milk skin.

How do you keep the first "skin" whole and top it with a second skin. Therein lies the art. It is double the trouble, but the first taste will convince you that it is worth all the effort.

First, heat 200 ml full-cream milk and simmer gently. A skin will soon form on the surface once the milk is removed from the heat and poured into a bowl. In another bowl, gently beat two egg whites with two teaspoons of sugar until foam forms on the surface.

When the milk in the first bowl is cool enough, use a chopstick to break through the film and pour the egg white mixture on to the milk, taking care not to tear the skin. It will rise to the top again after the second mixture is poured in.

Steam the custard over gentle heat for 15 minutes, and serve hot. It can also be chilled and served cold.

Love fried foods? Try fried milk

Fried milk, zhaxiannai, is another dessert that is popular with the young and young at heart in Guangzhou. It is a sweet, crispy treat with a crunchy crust and a soft milky pudding in the center.

It has its sister dishes all over the world, varying in size and texture. In India, you have the intensely sweet and milky gulab jamun, Italy has latte dolce fritto or crema fritta and in Spain, they call fried milk leche frita.

The names may be exotic, but they are essentially the same - milk is thickened into custard with the help of flour, cornstarch and eggs.

Breaded and fried, the result is a delicate, crispy and crunchy snack with an unexpectedly warm mousse-like center.

Each bite brings an interesting contrast of crunchy breaded crust and soft, velvety center. If everybody loves milk and everybody loves fried food, why not fried milk?

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