Taro paste is a versatile sweet filling that is traditionally made of three essential ingredients: steamed taro root, coconut milk, and sugar. The paste is used in various Asian and Western treats due to its unique aromatic sweetness that is a favourite among many.
Though used by many cafes and bakeries, the process for making the sweet filling is relatively easy. It can be made and stored easily at home for repeated uses across many treats!
What is taro?
As a common starchy root plant used in many countries across Asia, Africa, and Oceania, taro is used a staple ingredient for both savoury and sweet dishes. In particular, taro paste is widely used in dessert and pastry recipes.
Though the leaves of the plant are also edible, the corm is more widely used in cooking. When cooked, it released a mild sweetness and has a potato-like texture. In addition, the taste of the corm also has a nutty tang which makes it a favourite ingredient by cooks.
Due to the phenolic pigments abundant in the root’s corms, they give out a delightful light purple colour. Therefore, it makes using this plant in cuisine even more attractive due to its additional aesthetic value.
Because of the above reasons, the delicious root vegetable has grown to become a key ingredient to a diverse range of dishes globally. As a recent popular development, we observe that taro has become a popular bubble tea flavour in countries with a boba milk tea-drinking culture.
What is taro paste used for?
The sweet filling is used as a key element in many Chinese snacks such as the mantou, nian gao and shaobing.
A lot of Asian bakeries use the paste as a prime flavour in their pastries. An example is the taro paste bun or the taro mooncake which can be found in many bakeries in China.
Meanwhile. the Japanese have devised taro as a filling in their supple rice cake dessert, the mochi.
Western cuisine has also embraced the paste of this starchy plant as a component of their dessert and snacks. By mixing the paste with butter and cream respectively, taro buttercream and whipped cream can be formed. These are suitable to add to cakes as frosting!
We would like to highlight that if you see the paste used having a very vibrant purple colour, it may not be entirely true. Though this starchy plant when cooked has a purple colour, the natural hue is very light and not too vivid. Additional ingredients or colouring may have been added if the purple colour is very strong.
How to make taro paste
The process of making the paste is simple to learn and can be done at home fairly quickly!
The method described in the following recipe can be used for other types of fillings too such as chestnut, yams, or lotus. The filling can be used for many different treats such as taro balls, taro mochi, and more.
Taro Paste Recipe
- 1 kg taro root
- 1-2 cups white sugar according to how sweet you would like it to be
- 180 ml vegetable cooking oil
- 1 cup coconut milk optional
- Completely remove the skin of the root vegetable. This is to ensure that the paste comes out smooth and silky.
- Chop the ground root into cubes and steam it until it is soft. You can poke the cubes with a fork or chopsticks to check whether it breaks easily.
- Once soft, use a fork or masher to mash the hot cubes into a smooth paste. You need to mash while they are still hot as they will harden once they cool down.
- Now, mix the taro paste, sugar and vegetable oil into a pot and cook over the stove at medium to low heat. You may add coconut milk if you would like a more rich and creamy paste. If so, reduce the amount of cooking oil added.
- Stir the mixture for about 15 to 20 minutes until the ingredients become completely mixed into a consistent taro paste.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let it cool down. Make sure to chill the taro paste until room temperature before using.
Variations to the recipe
In some cases where it is difficult to mash the starchy root plant into a smooth paste, use a blender to further smoothen the paste.
Using a rice cooker with a steamer function is a good trick to easily steam the plant. You can then immediately mash the ground root in the rice cooker.
If you would like, you may choose to even add some pandan to the ground root during the steaming process. This would add a pandan aroma to the overall flavour of the taro paste.
Although the above recipe uses vegetable oil, you may choose to replace the oil portion with more coconut milk instead. This depends on how creamy you would your paste to be.
In the case that you do not have any coconut milk at hand, you may also replace it with whipped cream, butter and condensed milk. The absence of coconut milk will change its flavour slightly. Hence, do give it a try and decide on your preference!
How long can you store taro paste?
Once prepared, you can store the paste in a sealed container in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks. You may also choose to freeze the blend which would keep it good for 1 to 2 months.
Make sure you defrost the puree to room temperature before reusing.
Quick Teochew dessert, Orh Nee (芋泥)
A quick dessert you could make after preparing the paste is Orh Nee (芋泥). This traditional Teochew dessert is essentially sweet taro paste served with ginkgo nuts.
Popular amongst Chinese Singaporeans and Malaysians, this treat is easy to make once you have the paste ready.
The steps are:
- Boil some ginkgo nuts until softened. Make sure the nuts are peeled and pitted before boiling.
- Scoop a desired amount of taro filling into a dessert bowl.
- Top the paste with a few pieces of softened ginkgo nuts and serve!
You may choose to boil the ginkgo nuts with some pandan leaves and a bit of sugar if desired. This would add an extra sweet tang to the nuts.
This dessert is suitable as a light treat after a meal or as a midday snack.