Monday, September 7, 2015

Homemade lotus paste 莲蓉 for mooncakes, Chinese steamed buns and pastries

Time files and 中秋节 (Chinese mid-autumn festival) is arriving soon.

I have my mooncakes ready. Have you?

Or are you still busy buying or baking mooncakes for your family or friends?

Apart from the mini custard mooncakes, thousand layer flaky swirl yam mooncake and mooncake piggies that I had baked before, have you notice that I hardly bake any mooncake? The truth is I prefer not to bake mooncakes with any store-bought lotus paste. Why? All because I'm fussy... LOL!

My reasons are the same as why I prefer to make my own red bean paste and black sesame seeds paste from scratch. I don't mind buying or eating one commercially made mooncake for each mid-autumn festival but I do mind baking many mooncakes with commercially made lotus paste and feeding them all to my family within one mid-autumn festival! Nay! Nay! I like to make my firm statement with my arms crossed... I just don't like to feed my family massive amount of unknown fats and sugar!

Having said that, I can't deny that the commercially made lotus paste mooncake are always so smooth and sexy with its dark opaque colour and can't deny too that there must lots of fats and sweetener that are added into the paste to make it so smooth and delicious. Agree?

Have you ask yourself... Are the fats in the paste high in trans or saturated fats? Are the sweetener used high in fructose? How much fat and sweetener are actually added into the paste? I hope that I don't scare you with these health questions... and I hope that you are not scare of making your own lotus paste because it is actually quite easy!!!

To cut back the hassle, I would strong recommend using lotus seeds that with no skin and with most of their bitter cores removed. Although I have seen recipes that mentioned that using dried lotus with skin helps to give the paste a nicer flavour and also enhances its colour. Totally agree... but for the convenience, I would say the use of skinless lotus seeds has make my life so much easier.

Easy? I must say that making this smooth lotus paste is really easier than making my own red bean pasteblack sesame seeds paste and even pineapple paste!

traditional homemade lotus paste mooncakes Chinese steamed buns pastries
Homemade lotus paste 莲蓉 for mooncakes, Chinese steamed buns and pastries
It is easier to use these processed lotus seeds... with NO skins and most bitter cores removed.
Soak the seeds overnight in the fridge with adequate water.
Yes that the seeds will swell and absorb the water.
Before cooking the seeds, check if all these green bitter cores are removed.
There will be traces of these even in the processed seeds!!!
Easy! Just set this up to cook using Tovolo pot lid lifters and I can walk to do other things in the house.
Details on how to use Tovolo pot lid lifter are at here.
After 2-3 hours later... The seeds are soft enough to squash. Yup! They are ready!  
Next, I whizz whizz whizz...
Before cooking the paste, I have to caramelise one tablespoon of sugar first. This step is essential as it gives the paste a hint of nice rich colour and also a hint of caramel flavour.
Next, I cook cook cook...
... but not for long as the mixture thickened very quickly.
The paste is ready! It is firm enough to hold its shape!
Allow the paste to rest at room temperature overnight.
The oil will be infused into the paste developing slightly darker colour. 
traditional homemade lotus paste mooncakes Chinese steamed buns pastries
Now, I'm ready to use this to bake pastries and mooncakes.

Here's the recipe from the book, Moonlit Mid-Autumn Festival by Choong Su Yin

Make about 900g to 1kg paste, enough to make 7-8 regular mooncakes

300g dried lotus seed with no skin and bitter core removed
200g caster sugar*
200ml plus 1 tbsp cooking oil*, preferably something smooth, neutral tasting and trans fat free type

1 tbsp raw caster sugar** (or regular caster sugar)
3 pandan leaves
1 tbsp maltose or malt syrup, optional but it gives the paste a finishing sticky texture

* please do not reduce this amount of sugar and oil and this is the minimal amount to make the paste tasting delicious. If you want your paste to be smoother or sweeter, please feel free to add more.

** this recipe will make lotus paste with a mild creamy colour. If you wish to make your paste with darker colour, you can increase 1 tbsp of caster sugar to 50g of caster sugar for the sugar-caramelising step and reduce the amount of sugar added from 200g to 150g. Reference: caramel lotus paste by Wendy, Table for 2.

Place lotus seeds in a large bowl or container and fill the bowl or the container with adequate water. Cover the bowl or container with plastic wrap and leave the seeds in the fridge to soak overnight.

On the next day, pour off the soaking water. Wash the seeds with adequate water and drain thoroughly. Check if the bitter cores have been completely removed and then transfer the seeds into a cooking pot. Fill the pot with just enough water to cover the seeds. Bring mixture to boil, then lower the heat to cook until the seeds are soft. While cooking, add more water if the water level falls below the level that cover the seeds. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine 200g sugar and cooked lotus seed (including the liquid) into a processor container and process mixture into paste. It is important to do this processing step when the seeds are still warm and not completely cooled as the cooled seeds might be too sticky to process.

To cook the paste, heat 1 tbsp oil plus 1 tbsp raw caster sugar in a frying pan until the sugar caramelised and turn in deep brown colour. Add lotus paste and pandan leaves cook over high heat until boiling. Cook until the mixture thickened (about 15 mins)

Stir in 200ml oil gradually into the paste and continue to cook in high heat until mixture thickened further. Stir in maltose. Continue to cook and stir until mixture becomes a firm paste (about another 15 mins). If a spoonful of paste stay very well in its shape, it means that the paste is ok.

Transfer the lotus paste into a large container with no cover (to avoid any condensation). Allow mixture to cool to room temperature, preferably overnight as it will develop a nicer deeper colour.

To store the paste, wrap in cling wrap and keep in airtight container for up to 2 weeks at room temperature or store in a fridge up to 1 month or store in a freezer up to 6 months. As there is no preservative and high amount of sugar used in this paste, I wouldn't store it at room temperature for too long.

If you can't find dried lotus seed that have no skin and with their bitter cores removed, you will have to do these to remove the skins and cores before cooking the seeds:

Place the seeds (with skin) with just enough water (not too much) in a large container to moisten the seeds. Stir in 1/2 tbsp alkaline water. Cover the container with cling wrap and allow the seeds to soak in the alkaline water for 15 min with 2-3 times stirring in every 5-7 mins.

While soaking, boil a large pot of adequate water. Add sufficient boiling water (about 2 inches or 2.5 cm above the surface of the seeds) into the treated seeds. Cover and allow the seeds to soak for another 15 mins.

Use a colander to drain the seeds and use your hands to rub off the lotus seed skin. Then rinse thoroughly.

Transfer the seeds back into a cooking pot with sufficient water (about 2 inches or 2.5 cm above the surface of the seeds). Bring it to boil until lotus seed slightly splits, about 10 mins. Remove the seeds from the heat. Decent the boiling water and wash the seed with more water. Remove the cores (the green bits) and rinse again with more water. Drain thoroughly. From this point, you can either keep the seeds in the fridge up to 1-2 months or continue to cook the seeds until soften.

Happy Cooking
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  1. You're really hardworking to make your own lotus paste.. At first glance, those green cores look like grasshoppers, haha.. Yummzz, the homemade delicious lotus paste looks like creamy butter, nice..

  2. u r right. some people they buy store bought paste for their moon cake and claim as homemade moon cake, it wasn't homemade at all lol!

  3. I loved the the taste of lotus paste goodies they sold in malaysia during mooncake festival but never new how to make them. maybe next time i visit I will look for these to make my own paste....

  4. Zoe, this is good, making your own lotus paste. I am quite suspicious of the ready made ones because I am doubtful about the ingredients and also I am sure they put preservatives. I will keep your recipe for future use :)

  5. Kudos Zoe ! You did a great job on this. Hopefully, one day I'll make my own lotus paste as well. Yours looks good. Have a fabulous week ahead dear.
    Blessings, Kristy

  6. So that's how it's done! Thanks, Zoe. ^.^

  7. thanks dear for these lovely tips to make own lotus paste

  8. A bit of hard work for making lotus paste...but after all home made always wins :)

  9. Wow! What a treat! You sure do a lot of your cooking and baking from scratch :) Love this!

  10. Forget the moon cake - how adorable is your little lamb!?

  11. Ohhh yummy!!! Fresh lotus paste! I love eating fresh lotus seeds straight from the big pod, although it's some work peeling and peeling and taking out that bitter shoot! I love lotus paste in my buns, mooncakes and other chinese desserts. It's just such a comforting thing I guess since we've eaten it growing up!

  12. Hi Zoe.

    The paste I made seemed too dry. It "cracked" while i tried to roll in a ball. What should I do now. thanks

    1. Hi,

      You can add more oil and syrup into the paste and cook it at a low heat until the paste is well mixed. The addition of extra oil and syrup will make the paste moister.



  13. Hello Zoe,

    Thanks for the recipe and tips! Will be trying it out very soon.
    Just one question though: are the pandan leaves optional? Will the paste have a very strong pandan flavour if I include it?

    1. Hi, you can omit the pandan leaves if you can't find them (fresh pandan is not easily available in most countries!) or don't like them at all. The paste won't have a strong pandan flavour. Instead, I reckon that it gives the paste a nice subtle hint of fragrance. Having said that, the choice is really up to you :)


  14. Do u mind to share which type of oil / brand u use for lotus paste ? Tq

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      I'm using Trans Fat free rice bran oil to make my paste and it turns out to be very nice and smooth. You can use any oil that is neutral tasting and smooth like peanut oil or canola oil but you might wish to check and compare their labels in order to make sure that they are trans fat free and low in saturated oil because not all oil including rice bran oil is trans fat free! Cheers!


  15. hai zoe..very nice homemade recipe...may i know how long will the paste last?tq

    1. Hi Linda,

      The recipe says... "To store the paste, wrap in cling wrap and keep in airtight container for up to 2 weeks at room temperature or store in a fridge up to 1 month or store in a freezer up to 6 months. As there is no preservative and high amount of sugar used in this paste, I wouldn't store it at room temperature for too long."