Other times, my decision is based on an ingredient I’ve found while out and about. For example, I was super excited when I spied fresh quail’s eggs at my local Harris Farm outlet, and knew I wanted to make something with them. Then I stumbled upon dried persimmons in the local Asian supermarket, and visions of the sweet Leng Chee Kang dessert/ drink that I used to savour at the hawker stalls of Malaysia popped into my head.
Leng Chee Kang varies from stall to stall, and what you get in the bowl depends on where you are. The stall I most often frequented was at the SS2 hawker centre (a suburb in Petaling Jaya), a location based on its proximity to where I lived and worked at the time. I tried to list as many things as I could remember, but bear in mind, it’s been at least 13 or 14 years since I last ate there so my recollection is probably not perfect!
As far as I can recall, the leng chee kang I liked usually had slivers of dried persimmon, dried longans, lotus seeds, Job’s tears, fox nuts, edible lily bulbs, white cloud fungus, strips of agar-agar, and a quail’s egg.
Counterclockwise from the big white thing at the bottom left: Whole dried persimmon, dried longan, lotus seeds, dried lily bulb, fox nuts (with the reddish skin), Job's tears (looks like large barley grains), Lo Han Guo fruit and dried snow fungus.
Actually, I had trouble naming some of those items even though I recognised them visually. Luckily, the packet of dried soup ingredients I bought had the ingredients listed by Latin names, so I could find out more about them.
As for the quail’s eggs, I know it sounds a bit odd, but it’s a very common ingredient in these sorts of dessert soups. Quail’s eggs are readily found in Malaysia, especially at the wet markets. I find it quite amusing that over here in Australia, they are seen as exotic, and you’re considered very la-dee-dah if you buy them. When Mr. Kitchen Hand saw the eggs in the fridge, he’d blurted out, “Oooh, fancy!”.
Boiled quails eggs and rehydrated snow fungus
Knowing the ingredients included in a bowl of leng chee kang and actually knowing how to make leng chee kang were two different matters entirely. I had a vague notion that I needed to make the sweet soup base out of dried longans, then add other ingredients to it. My hunch was confirmed when I looked for recipes and found a post over on a blog called Masak-masak (malay word which means cook-cook). I realised I needed to use a dried fruit called Lo Han Quo as well (sometimes spelt Lo Han Ko or Lo Han Guo. Latin name: Momordica grosvenori ). Next I surfed over to Aunty Lily’s blog and found a recipe for a Lo Han Guo sweet soup.
Rock sugar and sliced dried persimmon. Rinse the persimmon first to get rid of the white coating.
Using these two recipes as reference, I made a sweet soup base for the leng chee kang, boiled the other ingredients separately, then combined them in a bowl when ready to serve.
And I learnt something new on my blog travels too. I remembered that the leng chee kang I used to eat contained something dark brown and slightly gelatinous which I always thought was a type of seaweed. But I came across a post by Pete, and found out that this “stuff” is from a tree called Scaphium spp (Kembang Semangkuk, literal translation = “swells to fill a bowl”). Further googling led me to the name Malva nuts, though they are really seeds. It is the flesh around the seeds that swell up when soaked in water, and this jelly-like flesh is then added to drinks and dessert soups.
You can eat/ drink leng chee kang hot or cold. In Malaysia, I would always have it cold as the surrounding temperatures were usually soaring. But this time, I had the soup warm and it made a wonderful afternoon snack, especially soothing to the sore throat I’d been nursing for the last couple of days.
Snow fungus. Trim off the base (yellowish bit). It tastes of nothing much but has a crunchy texture, almost like very thin cartilage!
According to my Mum, leng chee kang is very “cooling”, thus good for a sore throat. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m no great believer in the heaty/cooling food theory (which exasperates mum quite a lot, earning me the words “Tee-ki” which I think means stubborn/ hard headed). But, I guess the extra fluids and sugar doesn’t hurt in the healing process :)
By the way, you might also come across this dessert spelt Laici Kang (Laici=Lychee). Usually it has the same basic sweet soup base, sometimes without the Lo Han Guo, but with different sorts of add-ins but obviously, lychees are a must.
Thanks for popping by and remember, if you’d like to participate in the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up (#11), do send your entries to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. Muhibbah Monday is a joint project by Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies and yours truly. You can find out more about it here.
Have a great start to the week!
Leng Chee Kang
For the sweet soup base
1 Lo Han Guo fruit, tapped with a rolling pin lightly so it cracks a little
4 dried longans (that’s all that came in my packet of soup mix)
approx. 8 cups of water
2 roughly golf ball sized lumps of rock sugar
Place the Lo Han Guo, dried longans and water in a large saucepan of water and bring to the boil. The Lo Han Guo fruit floats, so lightly cracking it, and pushing it under when you first put it in the pan, helps it to stay half submerged in the water. Turn the heat down adn simmer the fruits until the water turns brown and the flavour is released. It took abotu 40 minutes for me. Taste a spoonful or two from time to time to check if it has reached the flavour you want.
The taste is pretty herbal and may not appeal to everyone. The longer you boil this fruit, the stronger the flavour, and it can verge on bitterness, so I’d advise constant tasting.
When the flavour is to your liking, fish out the Lo Han Guo, but leave the longans in there, and stir in the rock sugar. Stir for a bit and let it simmer for another half hour or so. Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary.
To serve, place desired fillings in a bowl and ladle the warm soup over. Add ice-cubes if desired.
For the ingredients to serve in the soup:
To prepare the snow fungus, soak it in cold water until it is soft. Trim of the base, then boil in plain water until ready (about 20 minutes or so).
To prepare dried persimmon - rinse off the white residue and slice into thin slivers.
Boil quails eggs, about 3 minutes for hard-boiled centres. Cool immediately in a bowl of cold water.
For the other ingredients (choose from any or all of the ones mentioned in the post) - I bought a soup packet from the Asian supermarket that contained small amounts of each ingredient. I boiled everything in lots of water and a lump of rock sugar. Some cooks advocate cooking the lotus seeds separately because they take longer to cook, and this way, you don’t turn the other ingredients to mush. I bunged everything in together because I had such a small quantity. Do remember to remove the green shoots from the middle of the lotus seeds (see this post for a photo).
Packets of Lo Han Guo (bottom-l), dried soup mix (bottom-r), dried persimmon (top-r) and snow fungus(top-left.)