In Cantonese, Fu Chuk means beancurd skin, and Yee Mai refers to barley. I don't really know what snow fungus and chinese almonds are called in Cantonese, so I've just named them in English! Anyway, this is a delicious chinese dessert that is easy to prepare, although it might take 1-2 hours before it's ready. I used to see desserts like these in Singapore food courts and hawker centres, but they never did appeal to me back then because I always associate beancurd skin with savoury food, and not in the context of a sweet soup. Now that I've tried making this at home, I find that it's such a light, refreshing and delicious dessert (or sweet soup, as some may call it) and one that can be eaten any time of the day. The snow fungus adds a lovely crunchy texture along with the almonds which gives it a subtle fragrance and hint of flavour.
I wouldn't have attempted making this dessert if not for the packet of fu chuk I had in my pantry. I
had unintentionally purchased it, thinking that it was similar to the dried beancurd skin used for making Lor Bak (Spiced Pork Rolls). This type of fu chuk is light yellowish in colour, thinner, more delicate and crumbles easily, hence it "melts" easily in the soup and turns into soft and silky bits of beancurd. The instructions on the packages says that it needs to be washed before cooking, so I soaked them in water to soften them and rinsed off the oily residue from the beancurd.
How fortunate that I had some pearl barley, chinese almonds and snow fungus in the pantry as well as rock sugar and pandan leaves. Chinese almonds are not the same as regular almonds you get at the supermarket. They are in fact apricot kernels, and there are two varieties - North almonds and South almonds. One is bitter while the other is sweet, and they are usually used in making chinese desserts. It should be noted that these almonds have to be cooked prior to consumption as they can be toxic if eaten raw. I had previously used these almonds and snow fungus to make a Papaya and Snow Fungus dessert, which I cooked in a slow cooker over 2 hours. I loved that dessert too!
Don't worry if you don't have any snow fungus or chinese almonds. You can prepare a simple version by just using fu chuk, rock sugar and barley, and the pandan leaves add a lovely fragrance to it. Here is the recipe for my dessert today:
Fu Chuk Yee Mai with Snow Fungus and Chinese Almonds
100g fu chuk (dried beancurd skin)
1/4 cup pearl barley (or more to your preference)
1 tbsp north almonds
1 tbsp south almonds
1 small piece snow/white fungus
3-4 pieces rock sugar
2 pandan/screwpine leaves, knotted
2 litres (8 cups) water
Soak the fu chuk, barley, almonds and snow fungus separately for 30-40 minutes or until softened. Rinse the fu chuk and barley. Drain well. Discard the water from the almonds. Using a pair of scissors, snip off the hard yellow part of the snow fungus and use only the soft white part. Cut into smaller bite-sized pieces and discard the water.
In a large pot, bring 2 litres of water to a boil together with the pandan leaves. Add the almonds and snow fungus and boil for 30 minutes before adding the barley. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add rock sugar to taste and the fu chuk. Boil on medium heat for 50-60 minutes or until fu chuk is soft and the soup has turned slightly milky/cloudy. Be careful when boiling the soup as it can bubble over if the heat is too high. When ready, ladle into small bowls and serve hot, or refrigerate for later and serve cold. It's delicious either way!
- You can add some unsweetened soy milk to individual servings if you prefer it a little milky.
- Rinse/soak the pot or serving bowls immediately after using them as any remaining bits of fu chuk will tend to dry up and stick to the surface, and will be difficult to clean once that happens.