Saturday, February 13, 2010


This is my third contribution to Food For Thought, a fortnightly meme where books combine with food in a post, hosted by the wonderful and talented Jain of Food For Thought, Food With Style and  Once in a Blue Moon.

This book came with an ending that I could never quite forget. Not because it was spectacular, unexpected or odd but because it was warm, inviting and absolutely welcoming. It was a beginning.

When you read about people who think about love as being meaningless or obsolete, when their life is black and white and grey, literally or otherwise, when pain and suffering has been lost to a world long ago that the wisdom that comes with it is no more, you begin to ponder on the purpose of their existence. 

This is a childrens' modern classic. It is a book that has become required reading in schools across America and in Germany while at the same time arousing debate and controversy over the suitability of its mature themes such as euthanasia, infanticide and suicide for children. 

My son was working on it in his 6th grade while he was studying at the Taipei American School in Taiwan and after he was done with it I had picked it up and found that it could not be put down until I had finished it. It is a book that will haunt me and then compel me to read it again every once in a while. 

Lois Lowry pulls you into a community of sameness where citizens are observed, marriages are perfectly matched, jobs are assigned, food is centrally provided, children are allotted to couples, where there is no pain and no suffering, no angst, no differences, even of opinions, no hills and no valleys, no choices, not even basic primitive sensations and where the weak are released all because there are no memories. 

It is the survival of the fittest in its most organized form. It is a Utopia that Plato would have been proud of. It is totalitarianism at work.

Twelve year old Jonas's selection to be the next Giver and his training to prepare him for the most honourable position in the community gives him the knowledge of a world where once there was war, pain and suffering and also of love and joy and colour. And for the first time Jonas experiences these sensations and begins to question the 'perfected ' world that he is a part of.

Lois Lowry makes you sense rather than know that something is not quite right with the world. She gives no explanation about how things came to be. She lets you wonder in suspense. And when you're finally done reading it you're left ruminating in a disturbing pool of thought.

It is a short novel, simply and skillfully written while being powerful, profound and simply unforgettable. I could not finally put it down without experiencing a weighty brooding sensation hovering in my thoughts over the next few days. A five star book indeed.

Jonas's very first glimpse of colour was red; provoked by an apple that he was tossing in the air. Later he was stirred by the redness of a girl's hair and later on still he was disturbed by the colour of crimson blood.

This is a very challenging book for Food For Thought because it contained no food for pleasure. It was only in the mention of the apple that I had had to work on and to make the most of. So I made apples and for added colour some pears in miniature form.

The recipe ~

The first time I had made this was about 11 years ago after having been invited to a delightful Thai lunch. After a wonderful meal of spicy Tom Yam soup, some green chicken curry and a fabulous mung bean vermicelli and chicken salad the meal ended with a dessert of some sticky sweet cakes and then by these entrancing miniature fruits that simply sparkled and twinkled madly at me. 

I felt my heart pounding in my chest prodding me to ask for the recipe. And of course I did. Then I went home very carefully just so the recipe wouldn't spill out of my head.

Their whimsical glossiness ever since have added a sublime sparkle to my life. 

Although it uses food colouring and is completely edible I do however avoid eating them. I do try as much as possible to avoid additives and especially the unnecessary consumption of food colouring. Something that we all use in icing and fondant of course. But if you're not averse to it this makes a delightful, frivolously fanciful and deliciously colourful dessert.

After a long hiatus I had also forgotten some useful tips that I had gained from my very first experimentations. So this was a project of frustrated joy. 

They are made from boiled mung beans, drained and then mashed and mixed with coconut milk and sugar. Very much a bean paste and its texture perhaps akin to marzipan albeit not oily.

I'm quite aware that the pears I  made are twice the size of the apples. Loooong story.

You would have thought that apples would be the easiest thing to shape and sculpt but let me tell you ~ I'll never make apples again! Simply because it was very difficult to form the depressions realistically. I was never satisfied over each attempt but I just had to be by 3 am when I thought I saw a pair of eyes blinking outside my kitchen window. 

But when I poked the 'leaves' into them it did raise my spirits a little. So I went to bed a reasonably happy and obsessed woman.

Now for the recipe..........

Paste ~ 

2 cups skinned mung beans, boiled and drained
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup sugar

Place the boiled and drained mung beans, coconut milk and sugar in a food processor. Blitz until the bean mixture becomes a smooth paste. Remove and scoop the paste into a heavy bottomed medium pan. Cook over low heat and keep stirring until the paste dries and becomes a thicker and firmer paste. Remove and transfer to a bowl and shape into fruits. Paint and let the colour dry a few minutes before dipping int he gelatin mixture.

Coating ~

2 T gelatin powder (I used 1 T agr-agar powder)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water

Boil all ingredient and stir until the sugar dissolves. Sieve through a fine sieve. Dip the shaped fruits into the gelatin mixture and leave to dry a few minutes and repeat process at least twice more.

Equipment ~

A 9 inch round or square styrofoam board
cocktail picks or toothpicks
small and soft paint brushes
food colours
flat plate or paint palette for mixing colours
a small bowl of water

Accesories ~ 

Kaffir lime leaves, each leaf trimmed to size to suit the apples or other fruits that you would like to adorn with leaves.

Hints ~

* Shape the fruits until you have done as many as you desire before starting to paint. 

* Once the fruits have been shaped pierce with a toothpick and make them stand on the styrofoam. Let them dry a little, five or ten minutes but not too long or they may start to dry and crack.

* Paint one type of fruit at a time then move on to a different type of fruit. It makes for less mess. Once painted let them dry a few minutes, about 8-10 minutes.

* Dip the fruits into the gelatin while the gelatin is still quite warm and do one type of fruit at a time so that just in case the colour runs you will not ruin other fruits of a different colour. 

* Make a new batch of gelatin mixture if it gets stained by a contrasting colour.

* I find agar-agar firmer and sets faster.

* Best made on the day of serving. 

* After keeping in the refrigerator overnight I found the glossiness reduced, its surface looking a little sandy and the fruits had dried out a little. After 2 days they cracked from dryness.

*MUST use skinned mung beans or else the paste will be a greyish colour and lighter colours like yellow to paint on for mangoes or pink for rose apples will be difficult to achieve in a pretty shade. 


Passionate About Baking said...

Hi zurin,
You're one of the most patient baker I know! All this detail work, art and painting is just out of the question for me! Your apples and pears looked so pretty and real!! The colours are so bright and beautiful. I love it! Thanks for sharing. You really read a lot...I truly admire your patience!
Happy holidays Zurin!

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

My god, Zurin. You've outdone yourself. That is quite some artwork you have there! They are eerily real. I can't imagine what else you would have produced if not for that pair of eyes blinking at you in the dark! Gulp. It's amazing what those hands of yours can create. I come to your blog each time and I'm always awed.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Zu, I know these Loong Choup - I always get them at the supermarkets when I am in Thailand. Never in my mind have I contemplated about make them. Bravo to you.

I think you are beginning to become my book review reference. I am now really curious about this book. I have just finished The Namesake- I like it alot- maybe because I have always been charmed by anything Indian but most of all, I really like the way Lahiri writes. Perhaps I will also do a review on it one of these days.
In the mean time, I am going to check this one out :)

Sanjana said...

My gosh, I was actually going to ask you where you bought teeny tiny fruits from, then I realised they were made from mung beans. Wow, wow, wow, they are stunningly life-like and very beautiful! Great job :)

pierre said...

bravo zurin this is a masterpiece i am in awe ::congratulations !! pierre

KennyT said...

They look so real! I love the colours!

Gong Xi Fa Cai Zurin!

Mary said...

I am blown away by your artistry in the apples and pears! At first I thought they were miniature props you happened upon.The fact that you made them and the steps involved...Wow! Your review was exellent, thank you for sharing.

Rettabug said...

"a reasonably happy and obsessed woman." Got THAT right!!! LOL And a patient & very talented one, too!
These exquisite mini works of sculpted art are too beautiful to eat.

Your review of this book has been most helpful. The subject reminds me of the way a friend once described her life & moods while on highs, no lows, no laughter, no tears....just calm, steady dullness & no feelings. Disturbing.

fimere said...

quelle merveille avec toute cette belle présentation, je t'en félicite
bonne journée

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Zurin! A standing ovation for these! :D They are wonderful and I can't believe you made these out of mung beans! :o

Federica Simoni said...

ciao!! i tuoi post sono dei capolavori!!! complimenti per le tue opere d'arte!!!!

Ps: grazie delle tue visite! sei molto gentile!!!


PY said...

Cantik betul !Beautiful!beautiful!beautiful! You are so artistic.I really admire you. I am so glad that I found your blog.

La Table De Nana said...

I didn't want the book review to end but I couldn't wait to see how you had done your little jewels..
The Gelatin gives them a life of their own..The book sounds wonderful too:)
I like that everything you done to perfection.~Something to admire.A lot to admire:)

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely post. If ever I write a book I want you to review it. It was quite simply wonderful. Your work with miniatures is outstanding. Have a wonderful weeekend. Blessings...Mary

susan said...

You have made me want to run to the library right now! I can see how this book's impact might linger. Having taught jr. high English, I am interested in reading it--sounds a little heavy for that age. However, one of my favorite books to teach is Animal Farm with some similarities to your book. Love the phrase "frustrating joy"!--true of so much in life! Thanks for a great review, recipe, and picturese

a quiet life said...

you always give me tingles as i start to scroll down, i know i am in for some gorgeous things... i am very slow when i visit at food for thought now, i am a hyper person, zip zip zip, but when i see so much creativity i have learned to allow lots of time for fft and just slowly ingest every word and pic and breath it all in, like i am living in slow motion... i know you will never disappoint me~

i have not heard of this book but i will be reading this soon, i have become fascinated with young adult books, so many i find sold to children are far more complex then i recall from my youth~ as always, your pics are framable art, you just have that IT thing that resonates in me, and such a beautiful cover to work with too!

as i was scrolling down i kept thinking did she make these beautiful little apples, why do they look real to me, are they really what i think they are... then THWACK, there it is... i cannot tell you how much you enchant me... you are so detail driven its beyond delightful for those of us who get to enjoy your artistry... trust me, i see and appreciate all you share, every detail is noted and admired, ok even envied...

i am in awe of you really... another heavy heavy heavy sigh of contentment here, and you were up until 3am even! i cannot tell you how happy i am you play at food for thought, i am learning about new books, new cultures, new foods and of course getting my socks knocked off by such talented people like yourself, thank you thank you thank you for sharing~

one more heavy sigh for the road~

Sarah said...

Totally amazing! I've been scrolling up and down this post time and again. I can't get enough of these beautiful photos. You really outdid yourself with this one. Those little works os art must have taken hours upon hours. How fortunate we all are that you share your creative talents with all of us. I have not heard of this book, but I want to read it. I work with younger children, but my close friend teaches at a university and works with student teachers. She needs to know about this one. Thanks for sharing. I always look forward to your reviews!

pam said...

The book is wonderful, but your fruit is incredible! Seriously. I am in complete awe.

Nat said...


When are we goin to have 'real' food?

Nadia said...

LOOOOOOL at Nat's comment LOOOOOOOOOOL...mummy...all I can say is WOW!
i was wondering 'why do the appes have such leaves?" LOOOL..but Nat, did you all eat these?

hmm that book sounds interesting mummy...maybe i'll look for it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zurin, Happy CNY to you and your family. I always wanted to find out how to make these miniature fruits. They are so pretty. Very very well done!

Zurin said...

TQ so much everyone ~ Did I tell you how much I enjoy being complimented? Yesss I do ~ (^^) God bless all of you with good health, prosperity and happiness ~

Pam said...

Zurin, You amazing women, I can't believe you made these. I am simply blown away. What a talented and patient cook you are. Bravo!
I am in awe. I really thought they were real!
I remember my children reading this book. I never picked it up, but I will now. Lovely review, a joy to read.
Happy Valentine's Day Dear Zurin.
Close the curtains at night!

Deana Sidney said...

You are such an artist!!! Those are amazing and I loved the story...they look better than real!

Su-yin said...

Oh wow. It's obvious how much work and love was put into this, and it definitely paid off! :) Such vibrant colours, and they look incredibly real! I'd never heard of this dessert before, and am very intrigued!

Tasty Trix said...

Yes, a fantastic book and a wonderful review. Your decision to make these apples was inspired! I am in awe of your craftsmanship, really. Can I borrow some of your patience, please?

Pei-Lin said...

Thanks, Zu, for such detailed write-up! I first learned about luk chup whilst doing a write-up at work. Yea ... Gotta agree that it's Thai version of marzipan made out of mung bean paste, but less greasy.

I admire your work! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

These fruit are much work and lovely detail, but worth it! Well done!

nazarina said...

You are a true artist indeed! Even though, I share your sentiments about food coloring, I would definitely give it a try! The world would just be so bland without color.Beautiful work and pictures!

Lynne Daley said...

Wow-a work of art! The apples and pears are perfectly beautiful. The Giver sounds very interesting-a must read!

Unknown said...

What a awesome review... and the fruits you made are spectacular!

Nancy Jane said...

What an amazing post...the review, the photos, the fruit...Just spectacular! I am in awe...

3 hungry tummies said...

I used to help my grandma to prepare this. You have done a wonderful job!

Hélène (Cannes) said...

I love happy and warming endings too ... Your recipe is just perfect !
Have a good day !

Angie's Recipes said...

Zurin, you are a life artist. I am not quite sure I would have the guts and patience to do these miniature fruits.
The Giver sounds like a very spiritual book.

♥Sugar♥Plum♥Fairy♥ said...

An amzingly beautiful blog.....

Quinn said...

Zurin, you are an amazing woman really. 3am is crazily late/early, you figure it out. These Thai Luk Chup is simply delicious and they are cheap in Thailand even though they are so tedious????? Thise that I ate were usually shaped like 'cili padi'. Thanks! I love the review, I've been figuring out as of ate which book to buy and read on my way back to Adelaide soon.

Memória said...

Wow. These are so beautiful. Great job.

Kitchen Butterfly said..., Wow. Wow. Wow. Stunning...................Oh. I wish I could make these.....Fantastic job, Zurin!

Daniela said...

Zurin i miei complimenti questi piccoli dessert sonotalmente belli da sembrare un dipinto. Buona settimana Daniela.

Barbara said...

Gosh, Zurin. I am impressed with your artistic talents!
I know I am not taking part in your book/recipe idea, but I love reading your book reviews.
Wondered if you had read Walking the Wrack Line by Barbara Hurd. Think you would like this slim's utterly charming. All about walking the tide lines and seeing what's been washed up.

Sook said...

I LOVE all your photographs! Beautiful!

diva said...

I have always wondered what these were called and HOW to make them because we have a Thai restaurant near my home and they've got these adorable babies. I always love the apple and banana shaped ones! Cheers for the recipe. They are truly adorable and very impressive. :D The apple ones kinda make me think of snow white and a really good red delicious! x

Kathleen said...

They are just beautiful!
I am a retired teacher (33 yrs) yet I have not heard of that book. I must ask my friends who still work if they have..and I will look for it at the library!

ICook4Fun said...

Zurin, you are just amazing. You can even make these Thai dessert. It is a lot of work and patience to do this. Well done!

MaryMoh said...

Love the story and all those beautiful creative work of yours. You are just amazing, Zurin!

Cathy said...

You've inspired me to search for this book, Zurin. Your review has compelled me to search for it. Your little apples are pears are perfectly beautiful, little works of art. What a wonderful post. Many thanks.

Kate at Serendipity said...

OMG, Zurin, these are adorable. I can't believe you made them. I bow down to your artistry.

Re: your comment on my blog--chocolate and cardamom are wonderful together. Try it!

This book also looks wonderful. I've put it on my list. Thanks!

pigpigscorner said...

OH MY! You are amazing! Those little things are gorgeous! Happy CNY!

2 Stews said...

My kids read this in school and they loved it. My daughter encouraged me to read it, and with good intentions, I missed this gem.

Now, those apples!! You are are an artist as well as an engaging writer. I know that feeling all too well about 3am, but since I am a morning person, sometimes I am up at 3am!

Applause, applause for such magical creations..would love to sit and hear about the pears over a cup of tea ;-)

Thanks for all that you do!


Denise ^ ChickyEGG said...

aiyoooh... I really salute u! they are so lovely !

WendyinKK said...

OMG, they are so pretty.
I once saw on TV Thai ladies making these and dipping them into agar-agar solution to glaze, but I didn't know that inside they're made from mung beans. :) Thanks for sharing.

There's a Malay baker nearby my place that makes wrapped pineapple tarts in the shape of fruits and vege, glazed prettily in vibrant colours. She told me people order them for hantaran kahwin.

Elin Chia said...

Zurin...what can Isay except this...AWESOME !!!! Kudos to you :)) Love the apples and real. excuse the colors for once..I don't mind popping them into my mouth :) Thanks for sharing such a delightful miniature fruits make of mung beans!

Brisbane Baker said...

Wow! These are absolutely amazing! I thought that they were actually real!

Your blog has alot to offer and I might just follow you. Would be great if you could do the same!


Nadji said...

C'est magnifique!!!!

Faida said...

They had written all that I've wanted to say! Bravo aunty.

Karen | Citrus and Candy said...

Oh my lawd, these are too precious! I love anything miniature so I've always marvelled and adored these 'fruits'. I admire your patience :)

Percicilan said...

Sounds so tedious hehe.
Boleh order jer tak dari you? heheh

Through My Kitchen Window said...

Hello zurin. I just dropped by to see what you are up to and congratulations on your continued and growing success. Your post is simply beautiful, exotic and I am so pleased that your wonderful talents are being recognised. Lovely, lovely. Love from Mariana xx

Allie and Pattie said...

What a sweet and also fascinating post! I'm so glad you visited our blog so we could find you!
xoxo Pattie

Anonymous said...

They look amazingly realistic! I lived in Thailand before so I;m a huge fan of these sweets. I try to stay away from the food colouring but everytime I end up telling myself that this has got no butter, flour, eggs....etc so it's fine. haha! I think I just really love it! Lovely post as usual, thanks for making my Friday night!

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

OMG, you are just amazing, they look so beautiful !

petite nyonya said...

these are so cute !! i've seen this recipe once on tv.

Marysol said...

I'm so very happy I didn't miss this.

Zurin, I've heard of mung bean paste before, but I never realized the fine detail one could get with such a medium; it seems as easy to work with as marzipan. And your miniature beauties stole my heart.

You have the patience of an angel, and the hands of an artist!

wine racks furniture said...

I thought it was an excellent blog, that information has been very helpful in my life, I am a desserts lover, so I really enjoyed this reading, this weekend I want to do one! Thanks for this great moment!

criticpapa said...

Your post was quite good than other blogger, so simple yet imformational.

anyway I'm william
mind if I put a link back to you?

(clickable) ------> Slacks


Related Posts with Thumbnails