May 2, 2021

Tofu Skin and Cordia Dichotoma Stir-Fry 破布子豆包

Check out my earlier post for more details on cordia dichotoma, also known as "pua po ji" in Taiwan. As for this post, I won't go into much information here again. Instead, let's figure out which type of "tofu skin" I'm referring to. 

You can find a wide variety of tofu products nowadays, and sometimes they all go by the simple name "tofu skin." The one I'm using for this recipe was fried but still got a soft texture, not the hardened crunchy kind. Try to find rectangular-shaped version with pale yellow, brownish skin. If you can't find fresh tofu skin, you can seek for frozen substitute at Chinese or Japanese grocery stores. As for canned cordia dichotoma, definitely easier to spot one at a Chinese location.

Tofu skin and cordia dichotoma stir-fry 破布子豆包 -


  • 2 large sheets tofu skin
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons cordia dichotoma (seeded)
  • 1 handful Chinese basil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or preferred cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons drinking water
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar


Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms with room temperature water till softens, about 20 minutes. Drain out the water then pat dry the mushrooms. Remove the stems and slice the caps into strips.

Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Destem and finely chop the red chilies. Roughly chop the Chinese basil leaves only, not using the stems here. Squeeze out the seeds from the cordia dichotoma.

Drizzle enough cooking oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan, about 2 tablespoons. Turn to medium high heat. Once warmed up, sear the tofu skin sheets about 1 to 2 minutes per side, or till slightly browned. Remove from heat and cut into bite size rectangular pieces.

Still using the same pan, wipe out excess oil with a kitchen towel first. Under medium high heat, sear the shiitake mushrooms till aromatic, then add in seeded cordia dichotoma, garlic, and chilies. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, before the garlic starts to burn.

Transfer tofu skin back to the pan. Add in 1 teaspoon of soy sauce just for the color, I think darker brownish color makes this dish more appetizing. Also add in about 2 tablespoons of drinkable water and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Give it a quick mix then continue to cook for about one more minute. 

Lastly, mix in Chinese basil, a quick stir-fry would do. Plate and serve.

Usually cordia dichotoma are not seeded prior in most dishes. People tend to carefully bite into them and remove the seeds on the spot, some don't even bother to eat it since the flavors have already been released to the seasonings. However, I want to fully utilize cordia dichotoma, so the best way is to remove the seeds first, so I can enjoy the dish without worrying about breaking my teeth.

A little troublesome in the beginning, but it'll worth the effort, trust me.

Other recipes using cordia dichotoma:

Apr 26, 2021

Taiwanese Taro and Sweet Potato Balls in Brown Sugar Syrup 芋圓/地瓜圓

If you ever visit Taiwan, one of the most popular tourist spots is Jiu Fen. Jiu Fen is a mountain town about 45 mins away from Taipei. Its old school vibe pair with narrow alleys up and down the hills were the inspirations of the famed Japanese anime Spirited Away. Put the scenery aside, people also come here for some local Taiwanese food, and among all the savory munchies, one sweet treat stands out - Taiwanese taro and sweet potato balls.

I'm talking about the chewy balls that are usually served in some type of sugared water, not the fried dough version of taro and sweet potato balls. Most vendors prefer to serve with granulated sugared syrup or other types of clear-looking syrup. If making these balls at home, some like to eat it with ginger syrup or even drizzled with condensed milk. As for my version here, I've used brown sugar syrup this time.

Taiwanese taro and sweet potato balls in brown sugar syrup 芋圓/地瓜圓 -

Ingredients for taro balls?

  • 300 grams peeled taro
  • 70 grams sweet potato starch 木薯粉, plus extra for dusting
  • 50 grams Japanese katakuriko 片栗粉/potato starch
  • 60 grams granulated sugar

Ingredients for sweet potato balls?

  • 300 grams peeled sweet potato
  • 120 grams sweet potato starch 木薯粉, plus extra for dusting
  • 50 grams Japanese katakuriko 片栗粉/potato starch
  • 40 grams granulated sugar

Ingredients for brown sugar syrup?

  • 450 grams water
  • 25 to 50 grams brown sugar
  • Some crushed ice (optional)


Let's start with the syrup first so it can store in the fridge early, and by the time we're ready to eat, there will be nice and cold syrup right away.

Take a medium pot, add in 450 grams of water and 25 grams of brown sugar. For a sweeter taste, pump up the brown sugar to 50 grams. Perhaps add a little bit at a time and taste the flavor along the way. Bring the water to a light boil. Stir and make sure all the sugar has been fully dissolved. 

Let it cool down first then transfer to the fridge while waiting for other elements to be ready.

Move on to taro balls. Peel the taro then cut into chunks. 

Steam for about 30 mins till soft enough to easily press down with a fork.

While the taro still hot from the steamer, transfer that to the mixer. Also add in 70 grams of sweet potato starch, 50 grams of Japanese katakuriko, and 60 grams of granulated sugar. Start to knead till it forms a dough. If the mixture appears too dry and can't get the shape up (like my image below), add tiny bit of water and continue to knead again.

Take out the dough and knead it for about a minute by hand, or at least till the surface of the ball turns smooth. Evenly divide the dough to three potions.

Roll each portion into a long log/tube. Cut to shorter sections if the tube gets too long and over the board. Sprinkle extra sweet potato starch all over, which will prevent them from sticking to each other later on. 

Cut into smaller chunks. Gently spread these individual pieces apart, making sure they are all coated with some sweet potato starch. 

Repeat for the remaining portions. Set aside the amount you will be enjoying right later, then store the rest in Ziploc bag in the freezer. Just remember to shake off excess sweet potato starch before cooking them in the future.

As for the sweet potato balls, it's basically about the same process. Peel and cut the sweet potato into chunks. 

Steam for about 30 minutes or till soft enough to easily press down with a fork.

While the sweet potato still hot, add that to the mixer along with 120 grams of sweet potato starch, 50 grams of Japanese katakuriko, and 40 grams of granulated sugar. Knead till it forms a dough. Again, if the mixture appears too dry, add a tiny bit of water at a time; but if too much moisture inside, add a small amount of sweet potato starch to balance it off.

Remove the dough and knead by hand till you get a smooth surface. 

Divide that into three even portions. Roll them into a long log/tube and dust with extra sweet potato starch.

Cut into individual bite size pieces. Spread them out and make sure every piece is coated with the sweet potato starch. Save the ones you're going to enjoy next, then store the rest in Ziploc bag in the freezer. The same thing, remember to shake off excess sweet potato starch before cooking.

Now let's get down to business. Shake off excess sweet potato starch for the ones you're about to devour. Bring a pot of water to a boil then add in both taro and sweet potato balls. Cook till these balls start to float to the surface with their size enlarged a little bit. 

Have a big bowl of icy cold drinkable water by the side. Once draining out the cooking water, transfer the balls to cold water to quickly lower the temperature. Once cooled off, drain out the water again and transfer to serving bowls.

Scoop some of the brown sugar syrup we prepared earlier. Preferably add some crushed ice too, for that crunchy bite and extra cooling refreshing touch. 

The steps involved in making these taro and sweet potato balls can be strenuous at first glance, but once you've got a hang of it, the process is actually pretty straightforward and easy to follow. 

You can also store these finished balls in a Ziploc bag and store in the freezer up to couple months. So it's kind of like you put in the work early then simply relax and enjoy the outcome for a while after. Well, I mean if you can avoid finishing the entire stock at once.

Other Taiwanese sweets recipes: