Spending Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival abroad often made me take trips down the memory lane. Here in North America, there would be no competitions against the legendary mooncake being the centre of attention. Not that I would object to such notion, as I consider the mooncake (white lotus seed paste with one single yolk) to be among my favourites in the repertoire of Chinese pastries. Just imagine cutting a mooncake into quarters, then eighths, then becoming mesmerised while watching that moist, slight salty duck egg yolk glisten the pale white lotus seed paste........
It is easy to get side-tracked by such delectable treat. I consider myself very lucky to be pampered by my parents upon receiving them through mail, but what I miss the most about spending this festival in Hong Kong, apart from spending quality time with my family, gazing at the moon with sand between our toes, digging sand dunes and fill them with candles and glow sticks, is this fruit, the Chinese pomelo, the 沙田柚 that I miss!
The pomelo variety that is available in the U.S. is called the Chandler. It has a very smooth green skin when compared to other varieties, and it has a pink, but often slightly dried flesh. Growing up devouring the Chinese variety, it is difficult not to compare the two. From the colour of the skin to its rough texture, from the shape of the fruit to the curve of its dimple, Chinese has almost a philosophical demeanor towards this fruit.
This pomelo species is originated in the Guangxi Province of China, created by the grafting method back in the Ming Dynasty. Very much to the liking of the Chinese Emperor Qing Long, it was then named as one of the Tribute fruits.
The love of this fruit did not end with the Emperor, food enthusiasts have tried many ways to incorporate these juicy nuggets into both the sweet and the savoury. The most famed dish would have to be this sweet dessert soup that was developed in Hong Kong back in 1984, the 楊枝甘露 (sweet soup with mangoes, pomelos, sago and coconut milk). The magical harmony between the sweetness of mangoes, the slight tart and bitterness of pomelos, the texture and body of the sago, and the creaminess of coconut milk, this dish has earned its name as one of the Buddha's weapon, the Willow Branches of Aquarius.
If you only consider the meat of this delicious fruit as the edible part, then I'm afraid you are mistaken. The spongy yet bitter rind, with more than a little tender loving care, and a healthy dose of dried prawn roe, can be turned into a dish that fits for a banquet. From the flaming of the skin to the removal of its bitterness with multiple soaking, followed by the prolong braising in the best flavour soup, it takes about 72 hours and a pair of dedicated professional hands to complete this master Cantonese dish, 蝦子柚皮.