Kokeshi Easter Eggs

So it turns out that this week I’m heading over to the place in the world that I love the most…Hawaii!  Hawaii has always been my inspiration and comfort, my home away from home.

If you are familiar with Oahu and the Honolulu area, you probably know about Ala Moana.  There are so many unique Asian and Hawaiian treasures at Ala Moana.  My favorites include the island-style tea shop Lupicia, a colorful mochi stand in their food court called Kansai Yamato, and finally Shirokiya, a Japanese department store with the most amazing selection of kokeshi dolls.

Kokeshi are wooden lacquered Japanese dolls painted in colorful kimonos.  The kimonos range from bright and vibrant to earth-toned and natural looking.  As they are entirely made of wood, the dolls are often quite heavy.  They sometimes have an egg-like shape, which is exactly why I ended up creating these exotic Kokeshi Doll Easter Eggs this year!

What’s intriguing about these Kokeshi Easter Eggs is that they are dyed and decorated with common everyday spices and 2 of my favorite teas, pu-erh and matcha!

Pu-erh Tea is a very dark fermented Chinese black tea, also known as bo-lay in Cantonese.  Many consider pu-erh tea an acquired taste because of its earthy and slightly musty richness.  This is a very dark chocolate colored tea, making it ideal for dyeing eggs.  Using pu-erh to dye eggs gives them a peachy flesh skin tone coloring within a few minutes of boiling.  In a pinch, you can use some rustic brown eggs instead, but since I am never short on tea, I went ahead boiled my white eggs in a concentrated pu-erh tea steep.

Thanks to our friends over in England and Spain, mustard and paprika become the basis for clothing our egg dolls.  The spices give off the most brilliant shades of sunshine yellow and fiery red in the kimonos, especially when they’ve bloomed after being mixed with a bit of corn syrup.  And as you may already know from my Matcha Monday posts, there is nothing better than getting that perfect shade of leaf green color from a good-quality matcha powder.

After the corn syrup paint hardens to a lacquer like shine, it’s time to embellish!  Accessories complete any look, so I’ve dotted pastel flower sprinkles on the kimonos, attaching them with tiny dabs of the same corn syrup used to create the kimonos.  And if you aren’t planning on eating these on the same day, use hollowed out eggs to decorate with (tea dye just the shells), as the corn syrup tends to soften when taken in and out of the fridge (i.e. because of condensation).

With Hawaii on my mind, I added one last flower sprinkle to the left hairline of each Kokeshi Egg.  In Hawaiian culture, a flower over the left ear means that the gal is taken–that is, married or no longer available.  Feel free to switch sides!

I can’t wait to visit Shirokiya in Honolulu this weekend!  Kimonos and kokeshi dolls will be in plenty, and I’ll probably be looking at the beautiful Japanese fabrics and designs thinking of different ways to dress up these Kokeshi Easter Eggs next year.

And as a side note, if you love Japanese tea and culture like I do, my blogger friend, Buri-chan, over at San’in Monogatari has an incredible blog.  She just finished participating in the 2014 World Kimono Competition last week, where according to Buri-chan, casual, formal (tomesode), and flashier (furisode) style kimonos were each judged in different competitions.  Buri-chan tied for 4th place at the event…check out her gorgeous outfit here I’m beginning to wonder if my kokeshi dolls would be cute enough to enter the competition?

Add a bit of Hawaiian flair to your Easter Egg hunt this year!  Natural looking and beach ready, these babes will add just the right touch of sunshine to all your Easter celebrations!

Kokeshi Doll Easter Eggs

Makes 8 eggs.

What You’ll Need:

2 Tbsp loose pu-erh tea

4 cups of water

8 eggs

medium pot for boiling eggs

slotted spoon

tea towel

edible food color marker

1 Tbsp corn syrup, plus extra for glueing on hair, eyes, and flower sprinkles

matcha green tea powder, paprika powder, and mustard powder

black decorating sugar

small bowl or teacup

16 black sesame seeds

1 Tbsp of dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

toothpicks

small bowl filled up 2″ with rice to help with decorating (optional)

 Step-By-Step:

1.)  Boil the Eggs.

Bring water to a boil over high heat and throw in the tea to steep.  Allow the water to continue to boil while the tea is steeping.  When tea looks dark brown, add in eggs and boil for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, turn heat off and let eggs steep an extra 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs from the tea steep onto a tea towel and wipe dry.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.

2..)  Draw the Lines.

There are 3 simple lines you need to draw to create the kokeshi doll.

Using a black food marker, draw a “Y” on the center of an egg.  As you can see, it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Now draw a sweeping hairline/left side hair part on kokeshi above the “Y” and join the edges.

Turn the egg around to its back side.  Draw a big “U” shape, joining the tips of the “U” shape to the point where the “Y” met the hairline that you drew before.

3.)  Make the Kimonos.

Mix the matcha, mustard, or paprika with corn syrup to create a thick-like edible paint.  The ratio is 1 tsp of corn syrup to a 1/2 tsp of the powdered tea or spice.  Gently use your finger to mix a bit of the tea/spice into the corn syrup a little at a time.   The thicker the “paint” the more color the kimonos will have.

Use your finger to apply the tea/spice paint in an even, thin layer in gentle swirl motions.  The kimono should be painted below the “Y” area previously drawn.

Keep the “face” area (where my thumb is) as clean as possible.

In an egg crate or some rice in a small bowl, prop the egg upside down to allow for kimono to dry.  This should take about 2 hours.

4.)  Make the Hair.  

With a fully dried kimono, now create a full looking hairdo for the kokeshi.

Place black sanding sugar in a small bowl or teacup.  Paint the area between the hairline and the “U” shape with a thin layer of plain corn syrup.  You can see below that the kimono paint dripped onto the hair area, which will be easily covered!

Dip the just painted, sticky hair section of kokeshi in the black decorating sugar.  If it is easier for you, you can just paint one side of the hair at a time.  Right side of hair…

Left side of hair…

Feel free to use extra dabs of corn syrup and black sugar to fill in any bald spots.

5.)  Make a Face.  Your kokeshi is now ready to have black sesame eyes.

Use a toothpick to dab a bit of corn syrup onto the location for the eyes on the egg.  You can use the same toothpick now to pick up a black sesame and attach it to the egg.

The Kokeshi Egg Doll is almost finished!

6.)  Give Them Some Style.

Outline the “Y” on the kimonos with melted chocolate, applied in a thin line with a toothpick.

Add some flower sprinkles to the kimono to create a fun print.  And if you are wanting for them to go Hawaiian style, add a flower sprinkle to the right or left side of their hairline.  Attach sprinkles with tiny dabs of corn syrup.

The beautiful Kokeshi Doll Eggs are all dressed and ready to shine!  Happy Easter egg decorating!

 

Cereal Milk Tea Bags

I often get asked for my suggestions on kid friendly teas.  Harney & Sons’ Birthday Tea, Elmwood Inn’s Blueberry Infusion, or even Teavana’s Chocolate Bananas Foster are all great choices for children.  Slightly sweet and non-caffeinated always work best for the kiddos.

Once you taste today’s recipe, it will soon become the next tea that you add to your kid friendly tea list.  Ironically, it’s the most un-tea like tea blend that you will ever find.  And unlike the other blends I’ve mentioned, you can’t buy this tea–you actually have to make it!

Any idea what type of tea it is?  That’s right…Cereal Milk Tea!!

A few years back, when I was rummaging through my fresh copy of David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku Cookbook, I remember thinking how cereal milk was one of the most fascinating and creative culinary ideas ever.  Cereal Milk Panna Cotta?  I’m there!

For a tea lover and cookbook enthusiast like myself, there is no better way to pay homage to Momofuku’s Cereal Milk craze then by creating some Cereal Milk Tea Bags.

The kid’s cereal variety packs are perfect for this project, because you can get a variety of flavors without having to buy so many boxes of cereal.  With these boxes, we also create tea tags which are attached with some multicolored baker’s twine.

You can also use some clear cello bags to package up your tea treats if you plan on giving them out as gifts or favors.  These days, baker’s twine comes in so many bright and beautiful colors and in smaller amounts, so it’s fun to play around with how your finished tea bags will look.

What will make your Cereal Milk Tea Bags memorable and unique is if you pay special attention to the tags that you create with the punch out tool.  I like to choose iconic sections of the cereal box designs so that the finished tea bags look uniform and recognizable.

It’s amazing how an ingredient like kiddy breakfast cereal can somehow become a gourmet item in the hands of a few imaginative chefs.  I know that there are some of you out there saying:  “Hey!  Cereal Tea isn’t really tea!”  You’re partly right…this post has nothing to do with our much-loved Camella Sinensis plant, but it does have to do with the way we’ve come to regularly enjoy tea in clever little filter bags.

Not to worry, I’ll get back to those beautiful green leaves in no time.  For now, I’m going to sit back and relax with an unsophisticated and comforting cup of warm Cereal Milk Tea.  You should do the same!

Cereal Milk Tea

Ingredients:

cereal of your choice

1 cup of milk for each Cereal Tea Bag

Equipment:

tea filters (I used size 2 T-Sacs)

bakers twine, cut into 8″ pieces

mortar & pestle

scissors

stapler

Tablespoon

tag punch (I used 1 13/16″)

thumb tack

cello treat bags (3″ x 4″, if you want to wrap the finished tea bags)

clear tape (if you want to wrap the finished tea bags)

Directions:

1.)  Gather your tools and equipment for making the tea bags.

2.)  Use mortar & pestle to grind down 2 Tbsp of cereal.

3.)  Pour ground cereal into the tea filter.

4.)  Fold down top/unfilled portion of the tea bag.

5.)  Fold right and left corners of the folded tea bag down to the center vertical line of tea bag to form a triangle top tip.

6.)  Fold tip of triangle down to center of edges folded in previously.

7.)  Use stapler to attach twine to folded side of tea bag.  Staple twine to bag about a half centimeter below the top edge of the tea bag.

8.)  Use the punch out tool to create a tag from the cereal box.

9.  Use a thumb tack to create a small hole in the top of the tag.

10.)  Use the thumb tack to push the twine into the tag hole.  Leaving a few inches between the tea bag and the tag, tie a knot in the twine on the uncolored side of the tag, then snip off excess string with scissors.

11.)  Your tea bag is done!  Place each tea bag in a clear cello bag and tape up if you want a more finished look.

12.)  Dunk each Cereal Tea Bag in 1 cup of warm milk, then let steep for several minutes and enjoy!

 

 

Chocolate Chip Matcha Mug Cake

I’m very excited to share with you my Matcha Monday post this week!  I’ve put together a super simple recipe for a Chocolate Chip Matcha Mug Cake that’s a total no brainer to whip up.  Less than 2 minutes in the microwave and you’ll end up with the most delicious and moist matcha cake ever!

This recipe is a nice way to try using matcha as a cooking ingredient for the first time.  You’ll be able to appreciate how cooking with matcha helps to balance out sweeter flavors, which is exactly why you see it used in so many cake and cookie recipes.

If you never try any of the other recipes from my site, I hope you try this one.  It represents everything I love about matcha green tea, where a traditional ingredient is enjoyed in a unique, easy, and modern way.

Chocolate Chip Matcha Mug Cake

Makes 1 mug cake or 2 smaller teacup cakes

Equipment:

microwave safe mug or 1 large mug and 2 smaller teacups

paper towel

fork, for mixing

measuring spoons

tea towel

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp matcha powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

3 Tbsp almond milk

1 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus a bit more for oiling mug/cups

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 drop almond extract

2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips, plus a few more for decorating the top of the mug cake

Directions:

1.)  Lightly coat the inside of the mug/cups with vegetable oil, to create a non-stick inner surface.  You can use a paper towel to do this.

2.)  Place all dry ingredients in the large mug and mix with a fork thoroughly.

3.)  Add the liquid ingredients, then again mix with the fork thoroughly.  Add 2 Tbsp of the chocolate chips, then mix those in so that they are evenly distributed.  At this point, if you prefer to serve the cakes in 2 smaller teacups, divide the batter between the 2 teacups evenly.

4.)  Place the large mug in the microwave and cook on high for 1 minute and 40 seconds.  For 2 smaller teacups, cook them for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

5.)  With a tea towel, carefully remove the hot mug/cups from the microwave.  Scatter the remaining chocolate chips on top of the cake and serve!

 

Spring Vegetable Tartine

Tartine, or French open-faced sandwiches, are some of the most beautiful bites around.  I often make traditional tea sandwiches with fillings like veggie cream cheese in between 2 slices of soft bread, but after a trip to the market this weekend I was inspired to show off some of this season’s freshest bounty with these Spring Vegetable Tartine.

While piling bunches of bright hot pink radishes into my cart, some very beautiful little quail eggs caught my eye.  I never tried quail eggs before, so I was intrigued.  I wondered if their speckled coloring might mean that they were strange or unpleasant tasting.  Sure enough, after some experimentation at home both frying one egg sunny side up and boiling another, I realized that quail eggs taste the same as regular eggs do, perhaps even milder. They are basically the cuter, miniaturized version of regular eggs!

Quail eggs are beautifully and naturally blemished.  Their rustic appeal makes them look almost ornamental, perfect for making spring decorations and centerpieces.  They make me think of pastel colored birds, twiggy nests, and sweet ambient chirping…all of the lovely indications that spring has sprung!

If you are wanting to make egg salad or scrambled eggs, don’t waste your extra pennies on quail eggs.  You want to use these when you are trying to showcase the egg’s delicate flavor and petit size.

I hard-boiled and halved my quail eggs so that I could use them as the main embellishment for my tartine.  Just a bit of simple protein to balance out all the fresh, clean veggie flavors in the sandwiches.  Sprinkle the cut egg with a bit of bright red cayenne pepper or smoked paprika for an extra pop of color and flavor.

These tartine are ideal for Easter Sunday Brunch or a spring-themed afternoon tea. Although they are delicious served without bacon for vegetarians, a light scattering of the savory bits helps to balance out the sweet ricotta and carrots.  Crunchy, creamy, salty, and sweet, these sandwiches allow the best of springtime ingredients to shine.

Tartine can be eaten with your hands like you would a topped cracker, or with a fork and knife.  If your guests prefer the latter, serve them with some Springtime Carrot Cutlery, which make a simple and colorful addition to an Easter-themed table.  Either way, I’m sure your guests will find these lovely open-faced sandwiches irresistible!

Spring Vegetable Tartine

Makes about 12- 5″ tartine.

Ingredients:

1- 15 oz container of part-skim ricotta

6 Tbsp grated carrots, blotted with paper towel to remove excess moisture

6 Tbsp finely chopped celery, blotted with paper towel to remove excess moisture

2 green onions finely sliced

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp hot sauce

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1 loaf french bread, sliced 1/2″ thick

6 quail eggs

5-6 radishes, very thinly sliced

1 green onion sliced thinly, for garnishing

crumbled bacon bits, for garnishing (about 5 slices, cooked until crisp)

cayenne pepper or smoked paprika

Equipment:

small pot

slotted spoon

small bowl

mixing bowl

toaster

Directions:

1.)  Hard boil the quail eggs.  Place them in a small pot with water to cover by 1″.  Bring the water to full rolling boil and continue to boil for 1 minute.  Turn off heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the warm water.  Place them into a small bowl filled with cold water and set aside to allow eggs to cool completely.

2.)  Mix together ricotta, carrots, celery, green onions, lemon juice, olive oil, hot sauce, sugar, black pepper, and salt.

3.)  Peel the cooled eggs.  This is easier when done under water.  Cut the eggs in half using a sharp knife.

4.)  Toast the bread slices, then top each slice with about 2 Tbsp of the veggie ricotta mixture.  Place thinly sliced radishes, sliced green onion, and bacon bits atop the ricotta tartine.  Top each tartine off with a hard-boiled egg half, then sprinkle it with a pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika to finish.  Happy Spring!  Enjoy!

Springtime Carrot Cutlery

It was during the Royal Wedding a few years ago that I found about Party Pieces.  For those of you who don’t know, Party Pieces is a party supply company in the UK, similar to Party City here in the US, except a bit fancier.  What’s more surprising is that it’s owned by Kate Middleton’s parents.

Today’s quick and easy Springtime Carrot Cutlery post is inspired by a glimpse of a photo that I caught on the Party Pieces site.  Nothing too fancy, just a fun little idea for celebrating your upcoming Easter brunch or afternoon tea!

One of the reasons I love afternoon tea is because it isn’t just about the food– it’s about the presentation and feeling of a meal that you are about to share with others.  These cutlery carrots are bright and festive, and help to set the stage for a fresh and bountiful springtime meal.

These utensil sets are very easy to make, and made even more special if you present them in the spirit of springtime harvesting.  You might want to set them atop some multi-colored beans or split peas or even stick them into the beans vertically so that your guests can pluck them out of a garden planter as they start down the Easter buffet.

For a personal place setting, you can also sink the tip of each carrot into a small terra-cotta clay planting pot.  Use your index finger to guide the tip of the carrot into the dried beans.  This will help to firmly plant the cutlery so that it stands upright securely.

Serve up your most delicious Easter meal with these Springtime Carrot Cutlery.  They are sure to make any Easter brunch table that much more cheerful and welcoming!

Springtime Carrot Cutlery

What You’ll Need:

large orange napkins

green plastic spoons, forks, and knives

jute twine or decorative ribbon, cut into 12″ pieces

scissors

Step-By-Step:

1.)  Stack a full set of cutlery with the fork at the top, then the spoon, and finally the knife on the bottom.  Place the stack parallel to the horizontal center line of the napkin, about 1″ below the horizontal center line.  The open side of the napkin should face left.

2.)  Tuck the bottom tip of the napkin over the cutlery stack.

3.)  Roll the stack over (upwards) along with the napkin, making sure the tip of the carrot (the right side of the napkin) rolls up tight and snug.  Roll the left side of the napkin (with the cutlery showing) looser than the right side.

4.)  Continue rolling the napkin up, flipping the cutlery over as needed as you continue to roll.

5.)  Finish rolling until you get a carrot shape with the top tip of the napkin tucked under.

6.)  Rearrange the cutlery to face the front of the carrot as needed.

7.)  Using jute twine, tie a bow snugly against the napkin to hold the carrot cutlery together…done!

Dim Sum Recipe #7: Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings

If you’ve been to a dim sum tea lunch, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a truly carnivorous affair…a pork lover’s fantasy, to put it simply.  The exceptions to this might be some braised tofu or bean curd specialties, some bright green stalks of Chinese broccoli (minus the oyster sauce), or the occasional deep-fried veggie egg roll.  Even many of the desserts are made with animal-based ingredients like lard or gelatin.

Vegetarian dumplings are certainly available at dim sum restaurants, but for some reason they don’t have iconic or distinctive names like Siu Mai or Ha Gao do.  I came across a Vegetarian Dumpling Recipe from an Asian food blog that I love called Coriander & Garlic, written by a gal with the pen name, Swisspris.  After a quick run to the market this weekend and a minimal amount of time in the kitchen, I was in vegetarian dumpling heaven.  The recipe was incredibly delicious and just as tasty as the ones that come off of those hot, steaming dim sum trolleys!

My recipe for Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings is adapted from the Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling recipe over at Coriander & Garlic, with 2 of my favorite ingredients added in:  shiitake mushrooms and, of course…tea!

Fresh shiitake mushrooms are hands down my favorite Chinese vegetable.  I love every bite of them.  They have a meat-like flavor with a dense bite that you can really sink your teeth into.  Since the original recipe at Coriander & Garlic calls for vegetarian oyster sauce (a.k.a. vegetarian stir-fry sauce in the US) which is made with mushroom essence, the shiitakes are a welcome addition here.

I’ve also steamed the dumplings in a strong green tea base.  This steaming method gives a slight tinge of color to the dumpling skins, but more importantly it lends a very gentle, fresh fragrance to the dumplings.

Green teas are often described by tea experts and sommeliers as “vegetal,” which is exactly why I even thought to use the brew for steaming these dumplings.  Today I’m using an organic Chinese green tea called Chun Mee for steaming these veggie pockets. Chun Mee has a bright, grassy flavor with a layer of smokey depth, so it’s the ideal tea for showcasing the delicate Napa cabbage, sweet carrots, and earthy shiitake mushrooms.

Shiitake & Napa Dumplings chun mee

You can steam any dumpling with tea, just chose one that complements the ingredients being used.  For a meat-based dumpling, I would consider using an oolong or even a Chinese black tea, as the flavors in the tea will be stronger, and bold enough to shine through.

Since we are showcasing the dumpling and not the tea by itself, it’s fine to use the more common, supermarket variety of tea here.  The tea bag form also helps to make cleanup much easier.  Save your best quality, full leaf teas for drinking.  The humble (and economical) everyday green tea bag will work great here.

Part of the charm of making dumplings is that you can play around with how you package them up.  My creations have taken on a pointy triangle looking shape, which were a bit easier and faster for me to get right.  Swisspris’ pleated version were so perfectly executed that I just didn’t even want to go there.

Please also check out Coriander & Garlic’s simple recipe for a black vinegar-based dipping sauce to serve with these dumplings.  Puckeringly tasty and healthy, the sauce helps to bring all the mild veggie flavors to life.

Celebrate springtime’s bounty of Chinese vegetables with a batch of steamy Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings!   Thanks to a very delicious recipe adapted from the Coriander & Garlic blog, I’m happy to say that this is a time where both the words healthy and delicious can be used to describe this easy Chinese meal.  Thank you Swisspris!!

Dim Sum Recipe #7:  Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings

Adapted from the Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling recipe at Coriander & Garlic blog. 

Makes about 30 dumplings.

Ingredients:

4 Napa cabbage leaves, sliced thinly

1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded

1 tsp salt

8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and diced into 1/4″ pieces

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp light soy sauce

7 oz of firm tofu, well-drained and squeezed into a course purée

2 Tbsp vegetarian stir-fry sauce (also called vegetarian oyster sauce, I used Lee Kum Kee brand)

1 tsp sesame oil

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp grated garlic

extra Napa cabbage leaves and shiitake mushrooms, for serving on the side (optional)

30 round potsticker wrappers

small cup of water for sealing potstickers

4 cups of water

5 green tea bags (I used Tazo’s Chun Mee)

Equipment:

large strainer

grater, for carrots

large mixing bowl

large bamboo steamer, fitted with perforated parchment paper

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

1 Tablespoon measure

small pastry brush (optional)

large work surface for making dumplings

water thermometer

measuring cup

Directions:

1.)  Place wok on high heat, and add the vegetable oil.  When hot oil starts to shimmer, add all the diced shiitake mushrooms.  Stir-fry the mushrooms for about a minute, then add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the cooking mushrooms.  Continue to cook on high heat until much of the excess moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms look slightly browned.  This will take about 4-5 minutes.  Place the cooked mushrooms into a large bowl to cool, and set aside.

2.)  Place the Napa cabbage and carrot into a large strainer and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt.  Mix the salt in evenly and let this sit for 10 minutes in the sink to drain off excess water from the vegetables.  After 10 minutes, rinse the Napa and carrots in running water, then use your hands to squeeze out any extra moisture in them (this takes some hand/arm strength).

3.)  Add the Napa, carrots, tofu, vegetarian oyster sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, sugar, and garlic to the mushrooms sitting in the mixing bowl.  Mix the ingredients together thoroughly.

4.)  Lay out dumpling wrappers on a large work surface, then fill them with 1 Tbsp of the filling. Use a small pastry brush (or your fingers) to dab the edges of the wrappers with water, then seal the dumplings.  For easier wrapping, it’s helpful to form the filling in a triangle shape before sealing the wrapper edges (please see picture below).

5.)  Place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer lined with perforated parchment, at least a 1/2″ apart from one another.

If you have a double layered steamer and have extra shiitake mushrooms and Napa cabbage, place them in the extra steamer to tea-steam along with the dumplings!

6.)  Place the wok on high heat and add 4 cups of water.  Monitor the water heat with the thermometer.  When the thermometer registers about 175 degrees F, shut off the heat and add the 5 tea bags in to steep.  Leave the tea bags to soak for about 3 minutes, then remove them.

Now bring the tea up to a full rolling boil over high heat.

7.)  Place the steamer of dumplings (and the steamer of shiitake and Napa, if using) over the boiling water to steam for 10 minutes.  Serve the dumplings with black-vinegar dipping sauce and enjoy!

Homemade Green Tea Pocky

Welcome to Matcha Mondays here at Thirsty for Tea!

I’ve finally given into my obsession with matcha.  Inspired with so many ideas for using my favorite green tea powder, I realized that dedicating Mondays to my matcha related posts is best way for me to celebrate this very special ingredient.  After all, a boost of vibrance and some caffeinated pep could only make your Mondays that much better, right?

***Easy Brew Tip for a Frothy cup of Matcha: In a jam jar, add 1/2 – 1 tsp of matcha powder, then add 1 cup of water @ 175 degrees F.  Screw the lid on the jar tightly, and shake for 1-2 minutes like a bartender… your tea will be unbelievably frothy!  Truth be told, this is much more effective than using a matcha whisk, but you should still get one because they are just so unique and beautiful!

Just last weekend, my husband and I visited a Thai restaurant by my parents house in Rowland Heights called Coconut Bay.  Paying for our bill on the way out, I saw the most delightful box of cookies peeping out just in front of the register…Matcha Cream Pocky!  Despite that it was double the price of its chocolate and strawberry counterparts, they instantly became a must-try, must-buy item.  You simply cannot be a tea-obsessed blogger and not report back on green tea flavored Pocky!

Inspired by my love and memories of Pocky as a child, I got to work on my Homemade Chocolate Pocky and Homemade Strawberry Pocky posts last week.  I decided to post this Green Tea Pocky recipe as the last of my 3 part Pocky series because now that we’ve covered the basics we can get a bit more adventurous!

To make Homemade Matcha Pocky, you want to start with the best-quality matcha you can find.  Being able to control the quality of the ingredients you are working with is what makes these biscuits worth making (and eating!) at home.  From the Pocky boxes pictured above, you can see that both the strawberry and matcha varieties are artificially flavored.  Using powdered freeze-dried strawberries (for Homemade Strawberry Pocky) and a brilliant natural matcha (for Homemade Green Tea Pocky), we get the most wholesome flavor and beautiful coloring in our stick biscuits.  There’s simply no need for the fake stuff here.

Black sesame and coconut are the toppings I used for my Homemade Green Tea Pocky.  The savory and slightly roasted taste of black sesame seeds cut through the sweetness of the white chocolate for a well-rounded, umami-inspired bite.

I also chose unsweetened, desiccated coconut to decorate with.  Dried coconut gives a tropical touch to the stick cookies, and a light and fluffy looking finish.  Try not to use regular sweetened shredded coconut here, as the combination will be way too sweet.

A pairing that will probably make you think twice is what I call my “Yin Yang Pocky.”  If you’ve ever visited modern Chinese tea shops (the ones with boba milk tea) you might be familiar with Yuanyang, also known as Hong Kong Style Coffee-Tea. This drink is mostly tea with a bit of coffee added in for a boost in flavor and caffeine.

Not as harsh as coffee and not as mild as tea, this Yuanyang blend strikes the perfect balance between Yin (here, the stronger and darker coffee) and Yang (the lighter and brighter tea).  For my Yin Yang Pocky, I sprinkled gourmet coffee vermicelli sprinkles atop my tea infused biscuit sticks.  These are exceptionally delicious if you love the taste of Yuanyang!

Ok, I think it’s time for me to go on a bit of a Pocky hiatus now.  For you Pocky lovers out there, I hope you’ve had a good time reading my last 3 posts!  Pocky are really the quintessential Asian tea cookie, so nibble away at these lovely biscuits while slowly sipping your favorite brew (might I suggest a thick, hot cup of frothy matcha?).  Keep that happy buzz going until the next Matcha Monday!

Homemade Green Tea Pocky

Makes about 20 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

12 oz package of vanilla candy melts or 11 oz bag white chocolate chips

1 Tbsp matcha powder

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 package of grissini, cut into 5″ pieces with serrated knife to make 20 sticks

matcha powder for dusting

unsweetened, desiccated coconut flakes

black sesame seeds

coffee sprinkles (I used Cacao Barry Coffee Vermicelli)

Equipment:

serrated knife

double boiler

small bowl

rubber spatula

tea towel

small sifter

large baking sheet fitted with parchment paper

small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment paper

tall, narrow drinking glass, at least 6″ tall

Directions:

Step-by-step photos of the dipping process are in my Homemade Chocolate Pocky post!

1.  Fill bottom of double boiler with water, making sure the water doesn’t make contact with the base of the top bowl of the double boiler.  Bring water to a gentle simmer (bring water to boil, then reduce to very low heat).  Place white chocolate or candy melts in top bowl of double boiler.  Using rubber spatula, gently melt the chocolate.  In a small bowl, mix matcha powder with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.  Add this matcha oil/paste to the melting white chocolate and mix in until you get an evenly green colored dipping chocolate.  If you are using white chocolate (not candy coating) you may need to mix in another 1-2 tsp of oil to get a nice dipping consistency.  Remove the bowl of chocolate from heat, and wipe steam off the outside of the bowl with a tea towel.

2.  Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the drinking glass to a height of 4″.

3.  Dip the cut grissini into the melted chocolate leaving the top 1″ undipped.  As you get further along in dipping, you may need to tilt the glass to distribute the chocolate upwards so that you are able to cover all 4″ of each grissini with the chocolate.  Gently shake off any excess chocolate, then place the dipped cookie on the small baking sheet or plate fitted with parchment.  Let the Pocky stick sit here for about a minute to allow any excess chocolate to pool onto the parchment/paper plate.

4.  Transfer the stick to the large parchment lined baking sheet to fully dry.  Repeat the dipping process with the remaining grissini.  If you use white chocolate, the Pocky take about 1 hour to fully dry/harden.  If you use candy melts, they will take about 20 minutes to dry.  In a pinch, you can place the dipped cookies in the fridge to speed up the drying process.  Homemade Pocky are best eaten within a day or two, as the bread sticks tend to soften with time.

Variation:  Generously or lightly scatter desiccated coconut, black sesame seeds, or coffee sprinkles on the dipped Pocky before transferring the cookie sticks to the large parchment lined baking sheet to dry.  Alternatively, you can sift a light dusting of matcha powder atop the drying cookies.  The residual heat of the chocolate will help the the matcha to bloom and intensify in color.