I have been craving two things with great constancy of late: the Cantonese dessert dou fu hua, and hot milk tea with ginger.
dou fu hua is a silky custard made of soymilk, ladled out of a wooden bucket in wide scoopfuls and served in a light ginger syrup. The name means something like "blossom tofu". It has a texture similar to creme caramel, but without the egginess -- just the clean freshness of good soy. You can only get dou fu hua on weekends, during dim sum hours, and only if the dim sum kitchen is beneficient. I am blessed with a beneficient dim sum kitchen nearby, but dim sum every time I want this dessert seemed too decadent. And sometimes I need my fix on ordinary week days.
This led me to a quest for the ginger syrup, which in turn brought me back to the hot milk ginger tea, as it turns out that a syrup suitable for dou fu hua is eminently suited to the making of hot milk tea. Now if only someone would post a recipe for tapioca bubbles, I'd be set...
3 c. water
1/3 c. brown sugar
"a good sized chunk" of ginger -- about 1.5 inches thick and 2 or 3 inches long.
Using a paring knife, peel the skin and any blemishes from the ginger.
Combine the water and sugar in a pot and place over medium high heat. While you bring the mixture to a simmer, finely grate the ginger. I stick a fork into the ginger and grate it quickly with the smallest microplane grater I have. There are proper Chinese implements for reducing ginger to juicy pulp (I haven't got one. As soon as I organise the kitchen to make some room, there will be a Quest to Chinatown.) If you have neither of these, chop the ginger as fine as you can and bash it with a meat tenderizer. Add the ginger directly to the simmering syrup.
Keeping the pot at a low simmer -- you don't want to boil it or the ginger will become bitter -- cook the syrup for about 10 minutes (or as long as it takes you to putter about, check your e-mail, and scrub a few pots).
I use some of the syrup for instant gratification, and then strain the rest through a funnel into a glass bottle for use in the fridge. (I can't say how long it lasts. It's a sugar syrup, so probably quite well, but mine hasn't stuck around long enough for me to find out.)
Hot milk ginger tea: Steam 2/3 c. hot milk. Add hot ginger syrup. Serve. :)
"quick" dou fu hua: Open a fresh package of silken tofu, as soft as you can get it, and spoon some tofu out into a bowl. Warm the tofu and serve with warm ginger syrup.
I microwaved my tofu and syrup covered for 1-2 min, but a steamer or double-boiler on the stove should work as well.
This isn't real dou fu hua, of course. To get that, you have to go to Saigon Harbour Seafood Restaurant when the dim sum kitchen is in a benificient mood. Real dou fu hua is actually made by freshly coagulating soymilk. And you have to have the wooden bucket. And also the paddle.