Chinese New Year is a big celebration in the Philippines—we embrace it wholeheartedly, and celebrate it with our Chinese community, complete with dragon dances in the streets, giant laureates, and endless gifts of tikoy. Heck, even if no part of me is Chinese, every time I open my fridge this time of year, there seems to be one too many boxes of the sticky, glutinous stuff. I loved it a lot as a kid, but never knew what to do with it, past dredging it in a bit of egg, then frying it.
For this Chinese New Year exclusive, we asked Suzy Lee of infamous modern Chinese eateries Spring by Ha Yuan and Kwong’s Provisions, to teach us 3 awesome, seriously ingenious ways to cook tikoy. Suzy has earned quite the reputation in the Manila dining scene, with outrageous creations that would make Chinese grandmothers roll over in their graves. She takes traditional ingredients, and turns them into entirely inventive concoctions, reminiscent of what Danny Bowien does at Mission Chinese Food. She’s made salted egg yolk chicken wings, foie gras dumplings and duck-stuffed duck, and for Pepper today, she gives us tikoy like we’ve never tried before.
1. Salted Egg Yolk Tikoy
“Suzy, you need to sell this to everyone around the world. Seriously.” is what we tell her when we take a bite, then two, then three more of this dish, which was just a last minute addition to the shoot. Using some leftover salted egg yolk in the Kwong’s kitchen, Suzy tempura batters tikoy, then slathers it with butter and salted egg yolk. It is simple, and ingenious in a way which makes you angry at yourself for never having thought of this before. It is lip-smackingly delicious, and the combination of salty and sweet is at a perfect, Jay-Z-Beyonce marriage level here.
2. Tikoy Spring Roll for Spring Festival
This is Suzy’s serious ode to Chinese tradition—“I made a spring roll for the Spring Festival! And I added goat cheese because it’s the year of the goat” she laughs. To make this is simple: Suzy cuts small strips of tikoy (panocha or caramel in this case), interchanges it with small strips of a semi-hard goat cheese, then sprinkles glazed mandarin peel and currants, and rolls the whole thing in rice wrapper. After deep-frying it, it’s the ideal dessert, just the right amount of sweetness from caramel and currants, and a bit of savory bitterness from mandarin peel and goat cheese.
3. Grilled Tikoy
For the last dish, Suzy goes into savory territory entirely, inspired by Japanese yakimochi. During the Japanese Autumn moon festival, mochi is grilled over charcoal, and eaten wrapped in nori for a savory snack.
Suzy uses plain almond tikoy in this case, slicing it thin then grilling it until crispy, layering it with Chinese sausage, pork floss, salted egg and sesame seeds, before sandwiching the whole thing with crispy sheets of nori. I’ve never tried putting a savory spin on tikoy before, and with this recipe, Suzy’s convinced me that it’s about time.