Why go through all the trouble of making chin chow when it is so commonly available and inexpensive?
Well, as with many foods, the only way to really know what goes inside your dish is to make it yourself! When you make something from scratch you learn a lot about the ingredients along the way. Some dishes are particularly challenging, like tau huay, pandan chiffon cake, and roti prata which took me many attempts before I could get it right. The moment of success is quite exhilarating! Some people experience it when they cross the finishing line of a 42km marathon, I experience it when my prata glides smoothly through the air and spreads out nicely on the table!
Thankfully, this chin chow recipe is quite straightforward. It is straightforward not just because it was taught to me by Irene Yip, who happens to be a very experienced culinary instructor, but it is by nature a simple recipe which is quite easy to get right. The only real challenge is buying the main ingredient, viz, the jelly grass.
Jelly grass, aka Platostoma palustre (mesona chinensis) is the grass that gives chin chow its characteristic flavour and texture. By boiling the grass with alkaline water, the gum is extracted from the plant which sets into the familiar jelly we are all familiar with. The herb can be purchased from Teik Yin Soon Medical Hall at 71, Temple Street.
This home made chin chow has a stronger herbal fragrance than the stuff you buy outside. The texture is quite similar.
Jelly Grass, mesona chinensis 100g
Alkaline water 1 Tbsp
Tapioca Flour 75g
Pandan leaves 3
1. Wash the jelly grass to get rid of sand and dust.
2. Place in pressure cooker with water and alkaline water and pressure cook for 30mins. Leave it to cool in the pressure cooker. If you are not using pressure cooker, boil it in a pot for 1.5 hours.
3. Once cooled, use your hands to knead the grass to extract the gum.
4. Filter the resulting solution. Set aside 1 cup and pour the rest into a pot and bring it to boiling point.
5. Mix tapioca flour with the cup of cool chin chow solution and strain it. Stream it into the hot chin chow and stir to mix evenly. It should thicken to a glue like texture.
6. Skim off any scum that is on the top of the solution.
7. Pour into a mold and leave it to cool. It will set at room temperature.
Here is the step by step video.