tau sar piah, the making

this is such a long post – and so many photos! – but see those tau sar piah up in the first photo? they might be gorgeous to look at and perfectly-sized for rapid consumption – but they take a crazy amount of preparation and time, so much so that you start to wonder in between if it’s worth it. I’m really happy I went through with it though – it taught me new techniques, came out really much prettier than I’d expected, and was just the thing for a relaxing (entire) day’s project.

asian desserts really are a piece of guesswork though – I’ve only started working with them since coming back to singapore a few months ago, and measurements/steps/tests-for-doneness are rather imprecise, which makes it difficult for an inexperienced cook like myself. I rather think it encourages persistence, since you’d need practice for perfection – but that’s a fine thing to think when you’re sweltering away cooking beans and dividing dough.

the next time I try this, I might do it with a mixture of skinned and whole mung beans, as well as cook the beans longer and wetter as this batch was a little dryer than I’d expected (I don’t know if this was because I used the whole green beans). the seasoning was spot on though, with the savouriness of the fried shallot oil and a slight perkiness from the pepper – and that pastry was really rather flaky!

tau sar piah, or chinese mung bean pastries (adapted from my kitchen snippets)
makes approximately 45 pieces

dough mix A
131g all purpose flour
75ml vegetable oil

dough mix B
259g all purpose flour
135ml vegetable oil
100ml water
slightly more than 0.5 tsp distilled white vinegar

37ml oil
approximately 1.5 medium purple shallots, thinly sliced (discard any tough layers)
112.5g sugar
1.125 tsp salt
1.125 tsp finely ground white pepper
300g mung beans (traditionally the skinless split yellow variety, but the typical green ones work too), soaked at least 4 hours or overnight

1 egg yolk, as a pastry wash
sesame seeds for sprinkling, optional

    1. prepare the filling first; drain your soaked mung beans, and steam them until soft. I did this by placing them in a bowl atop a steamer rack in the wok, though I think this would be perfect for bamboo steamer baskets if you have one. check every once in a while, turning for evenness, and testing that they feel cooked – see what I mean by guesswork? – you want them soft but not mushy.
    2. pulse the beans into a chunky paste in a food processor. add the sugar, salt and white pepper, and pulse to mix.
    3. heat the oil in a non-stick pan, and fry the shallots until they are golden brown – I rather liked the colour and smell of well-cooked onions. add the beans and stir to mix. next time, I’ll add more water here to make sure the filling is moister and more pliable, so just go with your instinct. fry the beans until they are just moist enough to form balls.
    4. divide the filling into balls – I used a scale to do this even, and they were 15g each – and set aside, covered under a damp towel.
    5. mix the ingredients for dough A until smooth, then wrap/cover it with cling wrap and rest it for 30 minutes. this was rather too much oil for me, but I left it in anyway – you might want to add it gradually until your dough is smooth but not overtly greasy. after resting, divide it into 48-50 portions (depending on how many balls of filling you yielded).
    6. similarly, mix the ingredients for dough B until smooth, rest it for 30 minutes, and divide them into the same number of portions. don’t worry if the oil appears to be too much – it was the same for me, and you can just dab away the excess oil while you’re portioning.
    7. prepare your pastry – she provided fantastic directions in this post which I followed to the letter, so I won’t replicate them here! I found it easier to prepare all the pastry at once before starting to wrap the filling – so that your hands don’t get dirty handling different things – and so I recommend doing that! I also recommend pulling in some help because this is pretty tedious. the pastry will be thin after a few folds and might some layers might tear at places, but I just tucked those under.
    8. when your dough portions are ready, flatten the dough in your palm or with a roller, just so it’s large enough to go around your balls of filling. practice makes perfect! pinch the edges of the dough to seal, and tuck it under when you place it on the baking sheet. brush your pastry tops with the egg yolk and sprinkle on a few seeds, and place the baking sheets in the oven until their tops are nicely golden. cool the pastries on a rack (you can remove them to the rack – gently – immediately).

10 thoughts on “tau sar piah, the making

  1. Great set of photos! Love how you incorporate asian pastries into your cooking/baking repertoire! Very admirable.

      • Exactly. If it dosen´t turns out as you want, it can really ruin the day, but when it turns out great, it´s quite like a small victory. It looks like your turned out great. I think I will try and make them one day(In my 2 month long summerholiday, that will be perfect for a whole day baking project). I´ve never tryed to make asian desserts.

  2. hello Sonya! a quick search on food in guangzhou leads me to your blog. great photography and liking all your posts. just dropping to say hi. i moved to singapore almost a year ago and since been going around looking for good food!

    • hi zeek – thanks for popping by! I hope you found something useful for guangzhou – I’m cantonese and it really is my gastronomic motherland. let me know if you find anywhere with good food (there or singapore!)

      • aha! i am cantonese too so im raising up the food expectiations over there in GZ. since both of us are into photography and such a foodie, we should def plan a makan trip here in singapore. there are a few places that i heard and wanted to try out. for instance, Cocotte at Wanderlust Hotel. :)

      • probably need a large group of people so we can order more – and also, I’ve been to cocotte, and it’s awesome! the wanderlust is also very pretty.

  3. Pingback: thai layered coconut jelly dessert (ta ko) | andmorefood

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