Cook's Nook

Published: Sunday October 19, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday October 19, 2014 MYT 1:38:09 PM

Eat your dates: Stuff 'em, steam 'em, they're very nourishing

In Chinese cuisine, dates are a valuable nourishing ingredient. Here are three recipes to help you eat more dates.


700g (½) Kampung chicken (or use free-range)
40g seedless red dates, halved
25g ginger, shredded
10g dried lily buds, ends trimmed and knotted
4 shallots, peeled
20g hoi chuk
15g yuk chuk
1 tbsp Shao Hsing Hua Tiau rice wine

Sauce (combined)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp pepper
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp water
1 tsp cornflour

Bring a pot of water to boil and scald the chicken for 3–4 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly.

Rub a tablespoon of the sauce evenly all over the chicken. Mix the remaining sauce with the the rest of the ingredients, except the wine.

Arrange the chicken and the rest of the ingredients on a heatproof dish and steam over rapidly boiling water for 30 minutes, drizzling the rice wine over at the last 5 minutes of steaming.

To check if the chicken is cooked, use a fork to poke through the thickest part of the chicken – if the liquid that ooze out is clear, it’s done.

Serve immediately.

Stuffed red dates in salty-sweet syrup


200g red dates (pick the large ones)

Glutinous rice paste
120g glutinous rice flour
1 tbsp wheat starch (tang mien fun)
2½ tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
50ml hot water
100ml water

Salty-sweet syrup
700ml water
150g rock sugar
1 tsp salt
100g shelled gingko nuts, steamed till soft
50g dried longan flesh
3 pandan leaves, shredded and knotted

To prepare dates

Remove seeds from the dates with a small slit – do not cut through. Soak the dates in water for 15 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, sugar and salt. Pour in hot water followed by water, and mix into a soft dough.

Pinch a small piece of dough and stuff it into the date through the slit. Press the dough in gently.

Bring a pot of water to boil and drop the dates in. Cook for 4–5 minutes, or until cooked through. Dish out with a slotted spoon and soak them in ice-cold water.

To prepare syrup

Bring water and all the ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes.

Serve the stuffed dates with the syrup.

Petite rose buns.


10 seedless red dates
2 tbsp caster sugar
Enough hot water

300g low-protein flour, sifted
1 tbsp instant dried yeast
¼ tsp double-action baking powder
35g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
40ml canola oil
125ml evaporated milk
A tinge of rose pink food colouring

To prepare dates

Rinse the red dates thoroughly and place in a small bowl. Add sugar and pour in enough boiling water to cover. Set aside to soak for at least 4-5 hours. After soaking, drain and dry the dates with paper towels. Snip a bit off one end of the dates.

To make dough

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the sifted flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, and salt.

Mix on low speed for 1 minute. With the machine moving still on low speed, add the canola oil in a stream, then the evaporated milk. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and continue to mix for 10 minutes until dough is soft and elastic.

Divide dough into 2 equal parts. Place a portion in an airtight plastic container and cover (tightly) with lid. Leave in a warm place to rest until it has doubled in volume.

To the other portion add a tinge of rose pink food colouring. Sprinkle a little low-protein flour evenly over it. Knead the colour into the dough until the dough is soft. Likewise, place the dough into an airtight plastic container. Cover tightly and leave to rise until doubled.

To shape dough

Punch down the dough and divide each into 10 equal portions. Roll them into balls.

Using a small rolling pin, roll out each ball into a round disc. Place a white disc on the worktop and place a pink one to overlap it slightly (by not more than 1cm). Repeat with another white and pink disc to get a row of 4 overlapping discs. Start rolling firmly from the last disc to form a small sausage roll.

Cut the roll into half and place each, cut side down, on a small square of baking paper, pinching the outer “petals” to keep them in place.

Stick your index finger into the centre of the rosette to open it up a little and insert a date, cut side up. Set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 15-20 minutes.

To steam

Arrange the rose buns on a steaming tray and steam over rapidly boiling water for 8 minutes.

Tags / Keywords: amy beh, dates, recipes, buns, herbal chicken

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