For my Second Project Food Blog Challenge, I am asked to step out of my comfort zone and investigate a new cuisine. So, for a few days, I have been reading up on Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai foods. Steeped in a history and culture rarely deeply explored in western life, it has been an eye opener.
These little gems are a blending of two cultures. And no where in the Asian world are two cultures more in contrast than on the tiny island of Hong Kong. Just slightly larger than Manhattan, but A population density nearly 25% higher (Manhattan - @71,000 people per square mile; Hong Kong 0 @92,000 people per square mile).
The history of the island is deep, rich and fascinating. For centuries, a prosperous fishing village that became a focal point of the Opium Wars of the 19th Century. Due to it's location and deep water ports, back when the sun never set on the Union Jack, Great Britain "leased" the island and it's population (how do you lease a population??? Certainly a question that needs further exploration) for 99 years. Beginning in 1997, "control" of the island was granted to the People's Republic of China, with a charter that grants largely autonomous rule for the next 50 years.
One interesting date fascinated me. I spent an hour surfing around the web to get the story of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII (the second war to end all wars). The battle for Hong Kong started with an air attack on December 8th, 1941. Yes, an incredibly well planned, and devastatingly well executed attack on the United States controlled island of Hawaii (Pearl harbor) was followed up within hours by an equally devastating attack on British controlled territory. During the 3 years of Japanese occupation, 1/2 of the civilian population of the island was killed or transported to prison camps, never to be heard from again (presumed killed).
But I am digressing from the recipe. But, next time I get a Jones for reading a history book (I get them sometimes, History major in college), I plan to hunt down a history of Hong Kong.
But, let's get back to the cookies... These are NOT Chinese cuisine, but are a hybrid of British shortbread cookie (served at formal British Teas), seasoned with an Asian spice to please their Chinese guests (whose tea services are equally important to their culture).
Many of the posh Hong Kong hotels still serve a High tea service, and these cookies are a part of that ritual.
Here's what I did...
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tsp Almond Extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
- Whip butter until creamy (go Kitchenaid!!!), beat in sugar and Almond Extract.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour and five spice. With motor running, add the flour mix to the butter 1/4 cup at a time. Blend completely.
- VERY IMPORTANT, wrap dough in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Press dough into cookie molds, or roll into a sheet 1/3rd inch thick. Pick a cookie cutter and go at it... If you like a sweeter shortbread cookie, top with decorative sugar (I do and did)
- Transfer cookies to parchment paper lined baking sheet , bake until lightly brown, about 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool!
A very distinctive taste. The five spice is gentle, but there. Difficult to identify, not unpleasant at all. The cookies taste of Almond more than the other spices, but again... An unidentifiable treat.
A BIG thumbs up on these cookies.
These were served as a dessert for my Asian inspired meal. I also made some Vietnamese style Spring Rolls and an Okinawan Soba noodle dish... And those are posts for another time!