There are things you should learn after living in five major cities across four different countries, right? Yeah, cultural things, scholarly insights, social wisdom or at the very least pick up a few words in a new language that conveniently means nicely asking the dude who just stole your cab to shove it up his
beep (that’s always useful). Having lived in exactly that many different places, three of which all happened in the past decade, I can tell you on the the top of my head that what I learnt is… what is it that I’m suppose to learn again?
Oh yeah, insightful things. OK, here it goes… if there’s anything I learnt is that I used to dream of a life spent in different places of the world and look where I am now, so be careful of what you wish for. OH PLUS, did you know that MacDonald’s have “local specials” on their menu for difference countries? If you have ever stopped at McDonald’s when you travel (I don’t but let’s just say HYPOTHETICALLY you did…), you’d notice all these wild things that you wouldn’t imagine being on its menu. Like “rice bowl” in Taiwan to name one… When I first moved to… you-know-where, I found my much needed, soothing familiarity in McD’s 24-hr delivery service like how babies would suck on their old, stinky blankets for comfort (well, this plus locating the nearest Starbucks… a little tip for the-first-thing-to-do-after-moving-to-a-horrid-country). But…
… listen to this, on my first attempt to order I found that they don’t have APPLE PIES here! Yeah, I KNOW! What the hell?! They took away the apple that puts the “a” in “McDonald’s”! And instead, they replaced it with this… taro pie? OK… ok… let me rationalize it a bit. Taro being a root vegetable just like sweet potato is usually used for desserts in Asia for its distinct aroma, flavor and its faintly purple hue that frankly, most people adore (including me). So I guess it can’t be a bad idea… and I tried… and SERIOUSLY, it isn’t a bad idea AT ALL! It reminds me why taro is such a unique and wonderful root vegetable which makes me wonder why it isn’t utilized as much as its cousin – sweet potato in western pastries. And who’ve thought that it’d be McDonald’s in Beijing that lit the light bulb?
Yeah so I guess you could say that this pie is inspired by McDonald’s… I can’t believe I said that. Did I accidentally let my not-so-secret love for trashy food-franchises get too far? I hope it isn’t too late to say that this is a revised version that (hopefully) is more wholesome, minus a few “secret ingredients” that McD invented in its secret lab. Most taro desserts would add something called “taro powder” for some artificial color and flavor which is of course left out here. And it’s also denser, less “liquidy” but more like a taro puree in comparison, very much like the good-old sweet potato pie which makes it an excellent alternative for the holiday season. If you want to surprise friends and family with something new on the holiday table, give taro a try. It didn’t let me down.
* For a 9 1/2″ wide x 13″ long x 1″ deep (24cm W x 33cm L x 3cm D) pan, I used a pie dough with 3 cups of flour which I thought was ONLY borderline-enough (it almost wasn’t big enough after it was rolled out, and plus I would prefer the crust to be a little thicker). So I increased the amount in the recipe to 4 cups so that it would be easier to work with, plus more room for error.
** There is an ingredient I used called the “pandan essence” which is the extract from a Southeast Asian spice called pandan leaf. I’ve had a taro dessert in Thailand where they added pandan leaf, and thought they paired wonderfully. You could replace the essence with 2 fresh pandan leaves, or omit if both aren’t available.
Servings: 8 ~ 10 people
- 4 cups of flour
- 400 g of unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp of brown sugar
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 13 ~ 14 tbsp of iced water
- 1 medium size taro, approx 750 g
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- 1/8 tsp of pandan essense, or 2 fresh pandan leaves **
- 3/4 cup of raw sugar, or white sugar
- egg wash
- 2 tbsp of raw sugar for sprinkling
Cube the unsalted butter and freeze it for 30 min before using. Prepare a bowl of iced water, then combine flour, brown sugar, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the frozen butter and pulse until the largest piece of butter is the size of a large pea (it SHOULDN’T get any smaller because there’s more cutting/pulsing when the water is added). Add the iced water 2 tbsp at a time and pulse for 2 seconds after each addition until a dough forms, approx 13 ~ 14 tbsp. This dough would be slightly crumbly at first. Pour the mixture onto a counter top and divide into 2 portions. Dust with some flour, then press and squeeze all the crumbs together and pad it into a disk. Wrap both with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Trim the top and bottom of the taro off so it sits straight-up on the cutting board. Run your knife along the side of the taro to remove the skin, then cut it into small cubes. Place the taro, milk, cream, pandan essence (or pandan leaf) and sugar into a large pot. Heat it over medium-low heat until it starts to boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 min, or until the taro is soft. Remember to STIR FROM TIME TO TIME, because taro tends to stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove the pandan leaf is using, then transfer to a bowl and let it cool down completely before using (I put mine into the fridge for 1 hour). You could mash this filling for a smoother texture but I like the bits and pieces of taro in there.
Preheat the oven on 375ºF/190ºC. Line a 9 1/2″ x 13″ (24 cm x 33 cm) pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Take 1 portion of the dough out of the fridge. Dust with some flour then roll it out into a sheet that’s big enough to completely cover the bottom and sides of the pan, which is at least 11″ x 14″ (28cm x 36cm) with excess draping over the pan. Roll the sheet into a scroll using the rolling pin to easily transfer it onto the pan, then unroll it out over the pan and lightly press it with your fingers so it fits nicely into the corners. If there are cracks or holes in the sheet, just pinch them together or fill them with excess dough that’s draping over the pan. Transfer the taro filling into the pan and careful smooth the top with a wooden spatula without breaking the dough on the bottom.
Take the 2nd portion of the dough out, and roll it into another sheet that’s big enough to cover the pan. Brush egg wash on the edges of the 1st sheet of dough that’s draping over the pan. Scroll the 2nd sheet of dough into the rolling pin to transfer it onto the pan, then unroll. Pinch the edges together then seal it by pressing the tip of a fork into the dough, all along the edges. Again, pinch or fill any cracks or holes. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle coarse raw sugar all over the top. Cut a few slits on top so the steam can vent out during baking.
Bake in the oven for 50 min, or until the crust is golden brown and shiny.
Let it cool in the pan for 20 min before cutting.
The crust will stay nice and flaky uncovered, under room temperature for 2 days.