Guava Green Tea with Coconut Jelly

On the heels of my Green Tea Jello post this past weekend, comes Guava Green Tea with Coconut Jelly.  Tina, a London-based blogger at The Worktop, dropped me a line the other day wondering if I might have a recipe for Coconut Jelly, the kind you get at boba tea houses sitting at the bottom of your drink.  Coconut Jelly is also one of my hubby’s favorite things to add to his boba drinks, so as the days grow hotter I thought this might be a recipe that you would enjoy as well!

If you’ve been to a boba tea house, jellies are just another option for those who may not want boba tapioca balls in their tea.  To set up the coconut juice and milk, I use agar, a seaweed based gelling ingredient also called kanten in Japanese.  Unlike gelatin, agar is completely plant-based and vegan-friendly.  What’s also great about agar is that it actually sets up at room temperature in much less time than gelatin does, which makes it perfect for warm weather drinks.

I like to lighten up the jelly by using a greater amount of coconut water than coconut milk and by adding a good squeeze of lime juice as well.  This also makes the jelly a naturally harmonious pairing with fruity teas.  If you want even more coconut flavor and have a hammer and some arm strength, crack open a fresh coconut and grate some of coconut meat.  Cut the grated coconut into even smaller bits using a chef’s knife, then throw them into the liquid to boil along with the rest of the ingredients.  And if you want richer flavor, you can switch up the proportions of coconut water and coconut milk (i.e. 1 cup coconut milk to 1/2 cup coconut water).

Thanks again to Tina of The Worktop for inspiring me to make this Guava Green Tea with Coconut Jelly recipe!  Simple and refreshing, there’s no better way to get ready for the summer heat!

Guava Green Tea with Coconut Jelly

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

{Coconut Jelly}

1 cup coconut water

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tsp lime juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp agar flakes

{Guava Green Tea}

4 cups guava nectar, chilled

4 cups green tea, chilled

Equipment:

medium pot

9×9 baking dish

drinking glasses

fat straws

Directions:

1.)  Throw all of the ingredients (except the nectar and tea) into a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Right when the mixture reaches a full-boil, lower the heat to medium and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes or until the agar flakes have dissolved.

2.)  Pour the hot mixture into the baking dish, then place in the fridge to set (this should take about 15-20 minutes).  You can also just leave the mixture to set at room temperature.

3.)  After the jelly has set, cut it into little square bits (think the size of small peas), small enough to fit through a boba straw.  If you are uncertain, try cutting a piece to make sure it fits through the straw, then follow cutting the rest of the coconut jelly the same size.  Coconut jelly isn’t round like boba are, so they need to be cut into smaller pieces to fit through the straw.

4.)  To make the Guava Green Tea, place 3 Tbsp of the cut coconut jelly in a glass.  Fill the glass half full with chilled guava nectar, then top off with chilled green tea.  Add ice to the tea if you prefer, and don’t forget a fat straw to finish!

Kalua Pork Buns

For a dish that’s so flavorful and simple to make, Kalua Pork should really be on your dinner table tonight.  Kalua pork is a Hawaiian island favorite, traditionally made from roasting a whole pig in an underground oven called an imu, which is filled with burning wood and covered with banana and ti leaves.  When made at home, the Kalua Pork is a no fuss recipe that can easily be made healthier, especially with a secret swap out ingredient.
One of the key ingredients for home cooks making Kalua Pork is liquid smoke.  If you’ve ever used it before you know that it’s some pretty potent stuff.  Liquid smoke is made when smoke from burning hickory is condensed into liquid form.  It’s added to Kalua pork to imitate the taste of burning koa wood, the type of wood traditionally used to cook this Hawaiian specialty.  The problem with using liquid smoke is that it’s extremely assertive in its smokey taste and can easily overwhelm a dish if you don’t using it sparingly.  This is where smokey, savory Lapsang Souchong tea comes into the picture.

The leaves of Lapsang Souchong, a black tea, are dried over pinewood fires which is how the tea gets its characteristic smokiness.  Where liquid smoke is bold, and one-note in flavor, the smokey taste of Lapsang Souchong is gentler and more well-rounded.  The tea’s sweeter notes are reminiscent of the layers of banana and ti leaves that are laid over and around the pork while it is roasting away in the imu pit.  Unlike the oddly concocted process used to get liquid smoke flavoring, Lapsang Souchong gets its smokey flavor when tea leaves naturally absorb their ambient smokey environment.  Its taste is one-of-a-kind and something any tea lover shouldn’t miss.

Although it’s common to use the pork shoulder cut to make Kalua Pork, I’ve made also made this recipe with the leaner pork loin cut with great results.  If you are using pork shoulder, make sure to trim off any and all the visible fat on the outer edge of the meat.  With pork loin you can leave some more of the fat on since it’s such a skinny cut of meat.  If you are interested to see the difference between the two, the first picture of this post shows Kalua Pork from a pork loin cut, and the second photo shows the darker meat from the pork shoulder cut (yes, I made it twice…it’s that easy and that good!).

Pickled Red Onions make the perfect finish for this meaty, luscious braised pork.  The onions add a crunchy, bright bite to the small sandwiches and a beautiful punch of hot-pink color as well.  Stuffed into make-ahead steamed Chinese Fold-Over Buns, Kalua Pork makes a tasty tea snack, easy portable lunch, or unexpected gourmet dinner.

Hawaiian Kalua Pork Buns with Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:

{Kalua Pork}

3 lb pork shoulder trimmed of all fat on edges or pork loin

2 tsp Hawaiian salt

2 cups brewed Lapsang Souchong tea (2 Tbsp of loose tea brewed for 5 minutes in 212 degrees F water)

{Pickled Red Onions}

1 medium red onion

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp white sugar

3/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp black pepper

{Chinese Fold-Over Buns}

{Garnishes}

scallions, thinly sliced

cilantro, roughly chopped

Equipment:

crock pot

medium bowl

2 forks

Directions:

1.)  Place trimmed pork shoulder, salt, and tea in the crockpot.  Flip the pork over a few times to distribute the salt evenly, then cover the crockpot with the lid and set on high.  Cook the pork for 3-3 1/2 hours, flipping the meat every hour or so.

2.)  Make the Pickled Red Onions.  Very thinly slice a red onion.  Scatter the salt on the sliced onions and let them sit for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, rinse and drain the onions thoroughly under cold water.  Add the vinegar, sugar, and pepper to the onions and mix until the sugar dissolves.  Place the bowl of pickled onions in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

3.)  When the meat is done, it will pull apart easily into shreds using two forks.  Remove any remaining bits of fat, and shred the entire piece of meat.

4.)  Stuff the shredded Kalua Pork into freshly steamed Chinese Fold-Over Buns, then top with Pickled Red Onions, scallions, and cilantro.  Enjoy!

Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky

Yep, you read it right!  Over this past weekend, I ventured out of my tea-steeped comfort zone and created a Pocky recipe for all those die-hard, peppy coffee lovers out there.  Homemade Pocky always make an elegant cookie to have with a good cup of tea, and these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky are no exception.

Just last year, I decided to completely nix coffee out of my daily regimen.  Tea gave me all the eye-opening effects that coffee did without the jitters, tummy discomfort, withdrawal headaches.  It’s a good thing I did quit too, because despite the fact that I love to cook, I am the seriously the worst coffee maker out there.  Not counting the K-cup brewer that my in-laws got me for Christmas last year, I can somehow manage to ruin every cup of coffee that I make. Sometimes the coffee I brew tastes like dirty dish water and other times it tastes like jet fuel. For some reason, I can never get it right.  That’s when I started using freeze-dried coffee.

As much as Hawaii is bountiful in its tea culture, it’s perhaps even more well-known for its coffee culture.  Much like they do for tea leaves, soil, climate, and altitude all work together to create complexities in coffee bean flavor.  A few years back when I was on the Big Island, I stopped by a coffee plantation high up in the hills of Kona.  Coffee plants thrive in humid, tropical conditions with a good amount of cloud cover.  Whether referring to tea, coffee, or even wine, term terrior is used to describe a plant’s sense of place, the collective effect of environmental factors like climate and geography on the taste of a product.

kona coffee farm

It was when I spotted some freeze-dried coffee in Hawaii that I began formulating this Homemade Coffee Pocky recipe.  Similar to the freeze-dried strawberries I used for my Homemade Strawberry Pocky, these crystals give us a punch of rich coffee flavor without moisture being an issue.  Where it seems like pouring some espresso or coffee extract into your melted dipping chocolate would instantly give you coffee flavored chocolate, I assure you that it won’t!  You’ll end up with a shaggy, clumpy mess, since both are water based.  The only way around this is to use freeze-dried coffee crystals.

The freeze-dried coffee crystals need to be ground into a fine powder before they can be added to the melted white chocolate.  If you add them directly, the crystals never dissolve and you end up with big, noticeable dots on your cookie stick coating.  The sticks would also be way too strong tasting, as each coffee crystal packs a punch of strong coffee flavor.  The solution is to use a mortar and pestle set to pulverize the crystals.  You could also place the crystals in a Ziploc bag, lay the bag on a flat work surface, and press down on the crystals using a large, heavy pan.

I was surprised that after mixing in my coffee powder to the white chocolate, the color of the dipping chocolate wasn’t as tan as I would have hoped.  Alas, I decided to not add any fake food colorings as I knew the taste of these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky were already spot on.

Decorate these confections with some of the same freeze-dried coffee lightly crushed, for a sprinkly look.  Another pretty option is to sift leftover freeze-dried coffee powder over the top of the cookies while the chocolate it is setting up.  The warmth of the chocolate will help the coffee powder to bloom and darken in color.

My favorite variety of these Coffee Pocky are the ones drizzled with chocolate and then scattered with toasted macadamia nut bits.  The salt in the macadamia nuts balances out the sweet coffee chocolate base.  This combination is reminiscent of the chocolate covered macadamia nuts that visitors in Hawaii return from vacation with stacks of.

If I was going to violate my no coffee regimen I was glad to have done it with these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky.  These cookie sticks pack a punch of rich, robust espresso-like flavor, so it’s nice to savor them nibble by nibble.

Back when I made Homemade Green Tea Pocky, I mentioned yuanyang, a popular Chinese drink where coffee is mixed with black tea.  The two flavors are very different, yet amazingly complementary.  Try these Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky with a cup of unflavored, unsweetened black tea, and the next time you’re asked “coffee or tea?” you just might end up asking for both!

Homemade Kona Coffee Pocky

Makes about 20 stick cookies.

Ingredients:

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

1 Tbsp freeze-dried Kona coffee crystals, ground into a fine powder with a mortar & pestle

1 tsp vegetable oil

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

reserved coffee powder, for dusting

reserved coffee crystals, crushed, for sprinkling

chocolate candy melts

macadamia nuts, chopped finely and lightly toasted

Equipment:

mortar & pestle

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

piping bag fitted with #2 tip or fork

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 coffee powder with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.  Add this coffee oil/paste to the melting white chocolate and mix in thoroughly.  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:  Lightly scatter crushed, freeze-dried coffee bits 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 leftover freeze dried coffee powder atop the drying cookies.  The residual heat of the chocolate will help the coffee to bloom and intensify in color.  For Chocolate Macadamia Nut Kona Coffee Pocky, drizzle the dried Coffee Pocky with chocolate candy melts.  Melt the chocolate in a microwave according to package directions. Pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a #2 decorating tip and drizzle across the dipped cookie sticks back and forth crosswise.  You can also use a fork to do this.  Scatter finely chopped and toasted macadamia nuts on top of the drizzled chocolate and allow to fully dry before serving.

Mochi Banana Bread

Madeline, my two-year old niece, is a pretty picky eater.  I don’t live very close to her, so when I do see her (and her mom and dad) a loaf of not-too-sweet banana bread is my offering.  Early on when she couldn’t talk at all, some homemade banana bread was one of the ways I could connect with her.  Once she had a taste, she would start smiling and waving her hands up and down.  The final confirmation of her approval was when she would help herself to another bite by grabbing a mass of the sliced bread out her mom’s hands…score!

I’m convinced that baking banana bread makes any place instantly feel like home, and any person eating it that much more in touch with their inner child.  After all, that yummy smell of bananas whiffing out of the oven is one of the most comforting smells around.

I usually make a very straight forward recipe for banana bread, but this time I decided to make it with a slight Asian twist.  I’ve thrown in a healthy dose of mochiko, or sweet rice flour, to add some body and toothy bounciness to the bread.  I’ve also added in some regular all-purpose wheat flour, as using only sweet rice flour results in a very heavy loaf that’s actually a bit too chewy.  For me, a good banana bread is always tender and only moderately dense, so it’s important to differentiate that the chewiness of this loaf should come from the mochiko and not because the regular flour in the batter has been over mixed.

You’ll notice that this banana bread isn’t super sweet.  If you prefer, you can increase the sugar to a 1/2 cup, but my suggestion is to try it as is and work from there.  You’ll be better able to appreciate the natural sweetness of the bananas this way, especially since you’ll be using 6-7 of them!  And of course, my niece would probably tell you that this is the way she prefers her banana bread (if she could manage to put the words together).

If you love mochi cake and all the soft chewiness that comes with it, you must try this Mochi Banana Bread!  The best I can describe its texture is that it’s as if tender, fragrant banana bread and smooth, chewy mochi cake had a child.  My second best way of describing it is to say it’s like banana bread took a vacation to Hawaii.  Either way, this recipe is both simple and special, and might just become your favorite go-to banana bread recipe!

Mochi Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 mochiko (sweet rice flour)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (about 6-7 medium bananas)

2 eggs, @ room temperature, beaten

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

non-stick spray

Equipment:

9″ x 5″ loaf pan

medium and large mixing bowls

rubber spatula

cooling rack

Directions:

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray loaf pan evenly with non-stick spray.  In a medium bowl, mix together all-purpose flour, sweet rice flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  In a large bowl, mix together mashed bananas, eggs, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla.

2.)  Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until all ingredients are just evenly incorporated, but not over mixed.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

3.)  Bake the loaf for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool until easy to handle, then remove loaf from pan and place directly on cooling rack to finish cooling.

This is Maddie, my niece, on her 2nd birthday.  She is wishing the cake were actually my banana bread because she actually doesn't even like cake!

This is Maddie, my niece, on her 2nd birthday. She is wishing the cake were actually my banana bread because the kid actually doesn’t like cake…go figure!