A staple in dim sum restaurants, taro puffs are golden and lightly crisp on the surface, creamy underneath and bursting with moist meat at the center.
If you’re as much of a dim sum lover as I am, you must have tried just about every item on the dim sum cart. And you must have tried taro puffs at least once. Me? I rarely have dim sum without taro puffs. If it’s not on the cart and has to be ordered a la carte, I order them a la carte.
It’s been a long time ambition to make them at home but I was unable to muster enough courage until eleven years ago. Yes, back in 2009. My first attempt yielded pretty good results and, over the years, the only thing I modified was the length of cooking time for the taro.
The peeled taro has to be soft enough to be mashed with the back of a fork and kneaded to form a dough. The dough also needs enough time to rest (covered to prevent drying) to make it pliable enough to be pressed into flat circles.
The traditional filling for taro puff is ground pork. To prevent the filling from crumbling later, starch is added before stir frying. The starch allows the liquid to thicken into a small amount of sauce which makes the filling moist.
The rested taro dough is flattened, filled with the cooled ground pork mixture and the edges of the dough are gathered to seal in the filling. The filled taro balls are sprinkled with starch to add even more crispness to the surface during frying.
Then, it’s deep frying time. You’re frying the taro balls just to create that beautiful crust. Remember that the taro is fully cooked already; so is the filling. So don’t fry for too long. A short fry over high heat is ideal to prevent the taro from soaking up too much oil.
Deep-fried Crispy Taro Puffs (Wu Gok)
- 500 grams taro peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons shortening lard is traditional but I used Crisco
- 1 tablespoon corn starch dispersed in 2 tablespoons of warm water (plus more for dusting)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- pinch baking soda
- drizzle sesame seed oil
- 2 cups cooking oil for deep frying
- Place the peeled taro in a pan, add enough water to cover, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until very tender. How tender? A fork or knife inserted at the thickest part of the largest piece should go through easily and without resistance.
- Mash the boiled taro. Add the shortening, starch solution, sugar, salt, pepper, sesame seed oil and baking soda to mashed taro and mix well.
- Transfer the taro to a flat work surface and knead until pliable, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Place the kneaded taro in a bowl, cover with a damp towel to prevent it from drying, and let rest while you make the filling.
- To the ground pork, add one tablespoon of corn starch and one tablespoon of water. Mix well.
- Heat two tablespoons of cooking oil in a work, add the pork and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown. Season with salt, pepper and about one teaspoon. of sugar.
- Add the peas and chopped chili, continue cooking for another minute, pour in the sesame seed oil then turn off the heat. Transfer the pork and peas mixture to a shallow bowl to allow to cool a bit.
- Transfer the pork and peas mixture to a shallow bowl to allow to cool a bit.
- Spoon one tablespoon of the pork filling at the center of the taro mixture.
- Place about two tablespoons of the taro mixture on the palm of your hand. Flatten and spread into a circle. Curve your hand to create a “bowl”.
- Gather the edges of the taro mixture and close to seal the pork filling.
- You now have one taro ball with pork and peas filling.
- Repeat until all the taro mixture has been used up.
- Sprinkle the taro balls with corn starch then start heating the cooking oil for deep frying.
- This is the stage where the taro balls become taro puffs. As the taro balls come in contact with the hot oil, the surface puffs as it turns crisp. Fry the taro balls over high heat until nicely browned (read notes after the recipe). Drain on paper towels.
If you cooked this dish (or made this drink) and you want to share your masterpiece, please use your own photos and write the cooking steps in your own words.