Scent of the season

By Pauline D. Loh ( Shanghai Star ) Updated: 2014-09-19 11:06:17

Scent of the season

Getting into the chef's head

Scent of the season

Fry up,slim down 

In the epicurean traditions of Jiangnan, the culinary and cultural border south of the Yangtze River, osmanthus is widely used in cooking, although usually in sweets and desserts.

The most well-known dish combines the best ingredients of the season — candied osmanthus flowers, lotus roots and sticky or glutinous rice.

After summer, the lotus flowers would have wilted and by autumn, their roots are ready to be harvested. As the mid-autumn moon shines full and bright, cooks would scrub the lotus roots, fill the cavities with sticky rice and patiently simmer the roots in osmanthus scented syrup until they are tender. The lotus roots are then cooled, sometimes chilled, and cut into slices for the dining table, glistening with candied osmanthus sauce and a tactile delight with their sweet chewiness.

Recently, Western pastry chefs in Shanghai have also adopted the osmanthus as a major flavoring — for the very French macarons! More modern Chinese desserts include osmanthus-flavored jellies, osmanthus custard and rice cakes, and osmanthus puddings. In the encroaching global village, culinary and cultural influences inevitably merge, but if there is one flavor that stands out as uniquely Chinese, it has to be the osmanthus. For that alone, it deserves a toast — with osmanthus wine, of course.

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