Wednesday, February 13, 2013

traditional love

As I watch my children grow and mature into precarious individuals with thought provoking questions about people and history, I start to appreciate more and more, the various traditions we had growing up.  The traditions which shaped the history and memories of our family.

My childhood was filled with celebrations of both Chinese and Western traditions....on New Year's Eve, we would dress up and go to parties with friends, enjoying the spirits while counting down the clock to midnight.  A few months later (depending on the lunar calendar), we would celebrate Chinese New Year, enjoying a traditional feast of fish, vegetables and noodles.

My parents were very good at balancing both the traditions they grew up with, along with new ones they adapted when they moved to this country, so my brother and I would have a great understanding of both cultures.  It was their way of keeping a tie to the past while creating new traditions for the future.

This past Sunday, we celebrated Chinese New Year with my brother and parents, and I love that my children get to experience some of the same traditions I had growing up.  I often wonder if their love for seafood stems from being introduced to fish, lobster and crab at an early age during Chinese New Year. And with tomorrow being Valentine's Day, the kids will equally enjoy all the love notes, classroom cards and chocolate that go with that tradition (and I wonder if their love for chocolate stemmed from this tradition!).

While thinking of a dessert to bring for Chinese New Year, I wanted to ensure that it met the requirements of being sweet, round and/or gold (bringing something sweet is often viewed as a wish that someone will have a sweet future, round in shape symbolizes giving someone a fulfilling and complete life and gold is the colour of luck and lavishness).  However, with Valentine's Day shortly thereafter, I didn't necessarily want to bake again, so I wanted something that could potentially work double duty (if we had any left over!) as a Valentine's Day treat.

These Chinese egg tarts were not only the dessert to bring on Sunday (Sweet, check! Round, check! Somewhat golden in colour, check!), ironically, it is also a dessert that crosses over to many cultures (it's similar to the English custard tart and the Portuguese egg tart ), which is similar to what we are doing in our household this week...celebrating two very different cultural traditions.

And although these egg tarts aren't exactly the most traditional food when it comes to Chinese New Year or Valentine's Day celebrations, this might be my little way of starting a new tradition.  And at the heart of all these celebrations which helped define who I am is the love and spending time with family.  And it's that celebration of love that I hope my children will grow up and one day, recollect as the most important part of their own family tradition.

Chinese Egg Tarts
Adapted from Allrecipes:
(Makes 24 tarts)

I adapted and used my pie crust recipe for the tart shells (instead of making a sugar cookie/phyllo pastry that the original recipe calls for).  I also varied the egg custard to make it more creamy and sweet.  This recipe is easily adaptable, and the almond extract in the egg custard gives this a special taste.


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter (or 1/2 vegetable shortening, 1/2 butter)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)
Egg Custard
  • 1/2-1 cup white sugar (depending on how sweet you like your custard)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and flour. Cut in the butter/vegetable shortening with a pastry cutter until it is in small crumbs. 
  • Slowly add the vanilla and water until the mixture forms a dough. 
  • Roll out and cut into circle shapes (I used a cookie can just make into balls and press into circle shapes).
  • Line a muffin tin with liners, and gently press circles of dough into the liners, so that it covers the the liner and goes up fairly high on the sides.
  • Bake the tart shells for about 8 minutes.
In the meantime, make the egg custard.
  • Beat the eggs, then add vanilla and milk.  
  • Warm the water in a microwavable cup and dissolve sugar into the water.  Add the sugar syrup to the egg mixture.
  • Remove partially baked tart shells, and pour 2-4 tbsp. of egg mixture in each tart until filled.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, and the filling is firm (but not too puffy)
  • Serve.
Love to all!

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