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Jan 12, 2001 07:26 PM

Chinese Almond Cookies

  • m

Credit for this recipe goes to Mom's older sister, my Auntie Frances. She tried for a long time to find a substitute for the lard in creating the old fashioned flavor, but finally gave up on that effort and perfected this one. She also figured out that walnuts gave a richer flavor to these cookies.

It's been many years since I've made these myself. This recipe makes a huge batch - best to halve and use the remainder of the egg for the egg wash glaze. There are two variations of garnishes. You can roll the dough in raw white sesame seeds or top with a half of a blanched almond.

1 cup ground walnuts
4 cups flour
2 cups lard
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Mix all ingredients; knead until dough holds together. Shape into a small ball, then indent with thumb print. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown.

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  1. Many thanks Melanie and Auntie Frances; I'm going to give these a go.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Heidi

      You're welcome. Please let us know how they turn out and how many the recipe makes. One more tip, when you indent the cookies, some of them will crack at the rim. You should reform them as the crack will only widen when they're baking and you won't be happy with how they look.

      I hope you can find some good quality lard. Hormel gives a burnt rubber flavor that I can pick out.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Thanks from me also. I have decorated the display case outside my classroom for the New Year (beautiful snake)
        and was thinking about cooking something for the kids. I'll be using ground native pecans because that's what I have a lot of. We can only buy tiny bags of walnuts here.

        1. re: Betty

          What a fun thing for your students!

          I was searching for something about Chinese New Year's on recently and came across a lesson plan for teaching elementary school kids about the traditions. Bet you could find it easily.

    2. Thanks for the recipe, Melanie. I'm planning my second annual Chinese New Year's party and don't want to do what I did last year for food(Yank Sing). They did a good job but that much dim sum was very expensive, so I'd like to try a few dishes of my own.

      In honor of the year of the snake (oh, joy) I thought I'd make a "fusion" dish -- a variation of spanokopita in fillo shaped to look like a snake. I love the idea of the visiting kids eating gushy green filling oozing out of a slice of serpent.

      I'm thinking of getting a noodle dish and maybe one or two other items from Fook Yuen. Suggestions? Or maybe ideas for home cooked items?

      The sina qua non of the party last year was a princess cake from the Victoria Bakery in Chinatown. They have an absolute artist who decorated the cake with such a great dragon that we created an impromptu cake altar which was especially well attended by the small fry until it was cut for consumption.

      (Oh, what does a dog do in the year of the snake?)
      Cheers, Anne

      5 Replies
      1. re: Anne Emry

        You know, Anne, for take-home food (other than steamed dim sum which reheats beautifully), I wouldn't buy from Fook Yuen or HK Flower Lounge. When I worked in San Mateo we would get deliveries from HKFL and by the time the food arrives after steaming in the containers and cooling off most of the refinement has disappeared and it's really no better than a less expensive place can do.

        If you're near Millbrae and Fook Yuen, you might try Cheung Hing which is a new one for me too. They have a full Cantonese bbq offering. The roast duck was ok, not great, but the kwei fel (sp?) chicken was great. The lo soi duck also looked good. If you take in a big serving platter to some shops, they'll chop the poultry into bite-size pieces and arrange it on the plate reformed in the shape of the bird. Then you can garnish it with orange slices and greens. You might try it here. For kids, I'd get some of the bbq spareribs. You can also order chow mein in 5# packed in aluminum trays that are easy to keep warm in the oven.

        Instead of filo pastry, you could buy a whole sheet of fun (as in chow fun noodles) that hasn't been sliced into noodles yet. If you cut it in half and lay it end to end with a little overlap, you can make a pretty long piece to roll up a snakey thing to be served cold/room temp. Try filling it with shrimp, bbq pork, greens or a combination.

        Another dish for a crowd that reheats well is sticky rice. When I was home yesterday, my mom said that she makes it in the microwave now instead of in the steamer. Only takes 7 mins. in all, with a pause in the middle to stir. After it's cooked you stir in the diced roast pork (and some pan drippings), ham, Chinese sausage, Chinese bacon, soy sauce chicken, mushroom and/or scallion. Then reheat to serve.

        If you can find some gold-colored aluminum foil (to look like gold for prosperity in the new year), try foil-wrapped chicken. Always popular with children.

        The traditional dish for new year's is lo han ji, a vegetarian stew, sometimes called buddhist monk's stew on menus. This has gluten balls, fried tofu cubes, dried bean curd sheets, mushrooms, gingko nuts, bamboo shoots, wood ears, fat choi, and glass noodles. My mother also adds a little fu yee and "cheats" with a couple ladles of chicken stock. That's what I had for lunch at home yesterday. But it is expensive to make, and probably not that well appreciated if it's not something you grow up on.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thanks so much for your suggestions -- I'm especially intrigued with the gold foil idea -- where should I look for that? I know we'll definitely need some kind of (long-life signifying)noodle dish. I'll look into Cheung Hing (went to Fook Yuen for dinner tonight -- all great except the tired chicken with black bean sauce.)

          There are lots of vegetarians in our crowd, so some variation of the Buddhist Monk Stew is probably in order. Is full sheet Fun a frozen Asian grocery store item?

          I really resonate with Chinese New Year's because it comes at the time that I personally am ready to deal with celebrating the new year. Also, I like the lunar rhythm :).

          Cheers! AE

          1. re: Anne Emry

            Sorry, I've only seen the gold-colored foil (also red) in restaurants, not in a retail situation. This chicken dish was originally wrapped in parchment paper, but everyone uses aluminum foil these days. I prefer to use thigh meat - easy to bone and more succulent than white meat when you fry them.

            For chow mein, I can recommend the combination or maybe it's called special combination chow mein from Kwong's Seafood (across the street from Fook Yuen). They make it the old-fashioned way, instead of with the extra thin Hong Kong style jin mein pancake, which will reheat better. And each ingredient of the combination - shrimp, scallop, bok choy, chicken, etc. - are cooked individually to the correct degree and not frazzled together and tired like some kitchens do it. I haven't had Cheung Hing's - just know they had a bulk price on the menu (and I'm sure you can arrange this with any Chinese restaurant).

            You can freshen up the Buddhist monk stew by adding thick shreds of napa cabbage or snow peas. This gives it some color, otherwise it's all beige, brown and black and not that appealing to the uninitiated. Another tip is to keep your cooked fun see (glass noodles) separate from the other ingredients, otherwise it will absorb all the liquid. When you're ready to serve, combine them and reheat together. This is also a good dish because you can make it days ahead of time (but don't cook/add the fresh veggies until serving time), and improves with holding. Without any animal products, it keeps for a remarkably long time, like a month, if you don't add the fu yee until ready to heat/serve. Otherwise the whole thing starts fermenting after a few days.

            Fun used to be sold only in full sheets, but now it seems most is cut into noodle size strips and packed. You'll see fresh fun on the check out counters usually, maybe there will be a pack or two of whole sheets among the pre-cut. Squeeze the package to be sure it's fresh and soft, not starting to harden. Try to buy it the same day you plan to use, or you can keep it for a day at room temperature wrapped in plastic - do not refrigerate as it will ossify. Stay away from frozen as it will be brittle once defrosted and difficult to roll. You might check Marina Market in San Mateo. Or if you can't find it near you, you can buy full sheets from Yung Kee Rice Noodle Factory on Jackson St. between Stockton and Grant in Chinatown.

            Remember to clean you house before CNY eve and sweep last year's bad feelings out the front door.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              May branches of plum blossoms brighten your home. Gung hay fat choy! :-) Anne

              1. re: Anne Emry

                Thanks, Anne.

                I think my quince bush is trying to get it together in time.

      2. I just finished baking off the recipe of Auntie Frances' Almond Cookies. My yield was approximately 5 1/2 dozen. I don't think that's too huge at all, especially since I am making them for two parties.
        I went to four area groceries looking for lard, and everyone was out. Go figure. I used 1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco instead. I KNOW it isn't he same, and I missed the unique flavor, but I wasn't going to make myself nutso over it. In a (almond) nutshell, they are still delicious, not anything that I could relate flavor-wise to what I know as a typical Chinese almond cookie, but a delicious morsel in it's own right. As for the cracks, I tested a few first with fixing the cracks and some not, and I ended up preferring the more rustic charm of the natural fissures and left them. To each her own.I dressed half with an almond, half in sesame.
        I thank you, and the repair man at my house who had a few samples thanks you too!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Heidi

          Four stores out of lard? Must still be sold out after the Christmas tamale season.

          I'm so glad these worked out for you. Too long since I've bit into one myself, but I remember that the crumb/texture was unique. Maybe I should try to make some myself next week to celebrate.

        2. Haven't made these for over a decade but decided to tackle for Chinese New Year. I measured out the dry ingredients last night, then completed the dough today to bake off. They take about 15 minutes to bake and do spread a bit.

          One hint, these cookies are very short and tender. Give them a chance to cool off on the cookie sheet and set up a bit before transferring to a rack.