Have you heard of lantern festival? A day when you might see Chinese children carry colourful lanterns, light up candles while the adults gather together and share a pot of tea with mooncakes? Well, I haven’t seen anything like that since I moved to Finland. Back then when I was little, lantern festival was one of the best days in my childhood.
I have the clearest memory when my sister and I were about 7-9 years old. Our primary school held DIY lanterns competition every year. A few days before that, we would run to a soft drinks shop next door and buy its ‘seasonal products’ like lanterns-making materials, and make our own lanterns with those shiny, colourful papers with glue and wires. We were pretty smart back then. I don’t remember much but I’ve always made a chicken lantern. I guess I only knew the shape of a chicken well since we always had chickens in our farm house. Not only lanterns, my sister and I also experienced making our own kites that flew high in the sky! It was so exciting!
About 300 meters away from my grandmother’s house (where I grew up) there is a Chinese temple called 三神庙 (Three gods temple). Each year there would be all kinds of celebration happening and so as lantern festival. Nearly all of the kids in the village, maybe even outside the village would come here together with their lanterns. If I remember right, there was like 100 kids or more. All of us held our lanterns with a bamboo stick, gathered as a giant circle along the basketball field located at the Chinese temple. Everybody waited for the classic song to play, which is 传灯, the direct translation is ‘to pass on the light’, meaning to pass down our culture to the next generation. When the song is played, we walked slowly in a clockwise circle, carefully held our bamboo stick so that the lantern wouldn’t fall, all the way until the song ended. (We supposed to sing a long too but I’ve never learned the lyrics at such age) And the most important part was when the ceremony ended, all of us would be getting a piglet biscuit as reward, and to me it was the best part of all!
Later on, the adults would be setting up the praying ceremony at home. There was a table in the front yard, where there would be mooncakes, fruits, tea and sometimes roasted chicken or pork. And the adults would light up some incense sticks, which is believed that the smoke raised up in the air carried the prayers to the gods. On the other hand, the children would be lighting up more lanterns all over the yard. We also loved to light up all the leftover candles that we had everywhere around the house. The night of lantern festival was one of those very few nights we’re allowed to stay up late.
It was so amazing. Too bad I don’t think our children would ever experience anything like that in the future, by the time when we have one.
Golden syrup, recipe as below.
(Make 19 piglet biscuits)
Recipe referred to Hong Kitchen
(You would need a mold for this dish)
380g Golden syrup*
120ml Peanut oil
1 tbsp Alkaline water
1 Egg york
1) Mix all the ingredients together (except the egg york) until it forms a smooth dough. Cover with cling wrap and let it rest in room temperature for at least 2 hours.
2) Divide the dough into 19 small parts, about 35g each.
3) Dust some flour on the mold (to prevent sticking), press the dough in and flatten the surface. Turn it around and then gently beat it out from the back side of the mold. Repeat until all the dough is used.
4) Place all the piglet biscuits on a baking sheet, bake in 160 celsius oven for 15 minutes. Take it out and brush the biscuits with beaten egg york. Bake for another 10 minutes in the oven.
5) When it is done, take it out from the oven, let it cool completely. Store them in container. Let it rest for at least 3 days before serving.
PS: I know. This is weird but it really works like this. You need to let the biscuit to ‘mature’ for at least 3 days until it is eatable, otherwise they are hard as rocks. I wanted to cheat but it was really not eatable on the first or second day, you can feel it with your fingers. But after 3 days, the biscuits have softened and developed this beautiful, syrupy aromas that make them so irresistible! It really tastes like the one I got back home.
This is the same golden syrup to make traditional Cantonese mooncakes.
*Recipe for Golden Syrup 转化糖浆
(Make just enough for this piglet biscuits recipe)
50ml Fresh lemon juice
1) In a saucepan, add sugar and water, stir and bring to boil. Add lemon juice and bring to boil again. Turn the heat to the lowest.
2) Let the syrup to cook at low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour (without stirring it). When the syrup becomes dark brown in colour and its density is similar to honey, remove from heat. Let it cool completely then store in a clean, air tight jar.
PS: It is suggested to let the golden syrup to ‘mature’ for a certain time before using it, e.g. the longer the better it brings out the aroma, like wine. This golden syrup could keep well in room temperature for up to a year.