Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hmong Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Coconut Almond Gelatin

Hmong Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Coconut Almond Gelatin

My knowledge about the Hmong and their culture is very limited overall.  However, my interest in their culture has been alive and well since I read Anna Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures years ago for a class I took.  It is one of my all-time favorite books, and I will never forget it.  I found the experience of the family in the book fascinating (and heartbreaking) and loved how the author intertwined the Hmong history into the story. 

I was delighted when, a couple of months ago(?), I ran across Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang's Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America on Elise's (from flickr photostream: Hmong Cooking with Sheng Yang.  I don't think I even looked at any of the photos, instead going immediately to find the book on Amazon.

I've been reading from the cookbook in bits and pieces since I received it.

There were several recipes I planned to try before this one.  However, the other day I came home from Mitsuwa (our local Japanese market) with several types of fruit and this pushed the other recipes to the backburner.

The kumquats especially reminded me of the following passage in the book under a headline, "Fruit - Sour, Salty, Hot and Sweet":

"...Hmong people like to eat fruits that are naturally sour, such as unripe plums and mangos, and fruits that have been enhanced with salt, lime juice, and hot chilies."

[I love unripe plums!  The kind that are so tart that you can't help but scrunch up your face a bit.]

This dish is actually a combination of two recipes from the book: Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Almond Gelatin and Coconut Gelatin.  Since I try to avoid dairy, I opted to combine the two to make this dessert for our family.

The recipes called for agar-agar powder, which I did not have.  I used plain gelatin instead and the result was delicious, but not visually optimal.  The coconut milk had separated a little bit, leaving part of the gelatin clear.  Although I could assume that I miscalculated something while combining the recipes, I think the separation occurred because I moved it part way through the gelling stage -- perhaps a little too abruptly :)

Thankfully, the taste was consistent throughout and showed no sign, taste wise, of the separation.

Just sweet coconut with a noticeable hint of almond flavor (I only used 1/2 of the extract called for in the recipe).

This gelatin was my favorite part of this dessert!  Especially paired with the kumquat.

The Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Almond Gelatin recipe suggested using either canned and/or fresh fruit, so I decided to use a bit of both.  Dragon fruit, lychee, kumquat and canned pineapple rings (diced).

Kumquats (cut in half and deseeded, skin left on) and Lychee (pit and rind removed)

Dragon fruit (diced)

Final dessert, with some pineapple juice poured over the top.

If you're familiar with Hmong cooking, or just enjoy desserts of this type, I'd love to hear feedback.

I'd also like to hear if something in this dish, either in the way I combined the gelatin recipes and/or fruits used, makes this dish into something non-Hmong.


  1. im hmong and i love dragon fruits, they say dragon fruits are good for the heart!

  2. Yer, thanks for stopping by and for the tip about the dragon fruit - always good to find things good for the heart. I will have to enjoy more of them.

    I checked out your blog, too. I love the pictures you have posted. I haven't yet made it to Rhode Island, but I have always wanted to go there. It looks so beautiful there!