I’ve been doing quite a bit of cooking lately. The latest endeavor was a mult-course traditional Chinese dinner.
While I had all of the savory courses planned, I was at lost for something to serve as an eye-dazzling and palate-pleasing dessert.
Now, the Chinese (and Asians in general) are not known for their sweet teeth. Most desserts from Asian cultures involve fruit, legumes, seeds, tofu, and other mild-flavored ingredients that Westerners wouldn’t typically associate with meal finales. Instead of added sugar, Asians tend to rely more on the natural sweetness inherent to their ingredients.
This doesn’t mean that Asian desserts have to be dull, unexciting, and ascetic. If any of you are in doubt, you need only to read Pichet Ong’s new-ish cookbook, The Sweet Spot.
Ong, a former pastry chef under Jean Georges Vongerichten, is now owner and chef of P*Ong in New York City. There, he up-ends Western sensibilities about savory and sweet with fusion cuisine projected through Asian lenses.
Lest any of you mistake this post (or any of my posts) as an advertisement, let me be clear: I need an idea, and I go to my cookbooks. Ong came through for me on this particular occasion.
Ong makes a witty play on the Chinese restaurant pracitice of serving orange wedges at the end of a meal. In Ong’s version, oranges are juiced, emptied of their pulp and the rinds are candied. The juice and pulp are then made into a sorbet to which is added pine nuts, to replicate (quite convincingly) seeds. The sorbet is then packed back into the candied orange rinds, frozen, and sliced for a clever Chinese meal-ending trompe l’oeil. The best part: because the rinds have been candied, the entire slice is edible!
My guests were both tricked and treated.