Healthy snack but beware calories!
The season for winter jujube is around the corner.
They are one of the most popular fruits to snack on — sweet, crunchy and refreshing — and you can easily finish a pound while watching TV. But behind the very mild sweetness and extra juicy flesh, there are calories, lots and lots of calories.
This nutritional fact about winter jujubes would astound fans of the fruit. Every 100 grams of winter jujubes (around six to seven medium-sized fruits) pack around 110 calories, which is close to that of cooked rice at 116 calories.
Compared to other fruits, like sweet melon (34 calories), grape (43 calories) and apple (52 calories), winter jujubes aren’t an ideal fruit to consume in large quantities, especially for people who are controling their sugar intake.
That said, winter jujubes actually contain a high amount of vitamin C and fiber, so the key is to control the quantity.
Winter jujubes are generally grown in northern China, especially in the provinces of Shandong and Shaanxi. The quality of winter jujubes is judged on their size, shape, texture and sweetness. The better fruits are usually medium to large in size, with extra sweet and juicy flesh and less fibrous texture.
Freeze-dried winter jujubes are a new snack that’s growing in popularity this year. Freeze-drying preserves the original flavor of winter jujubes, including a hint of sourness on the skin.
Dried red jujubes are more commonly seen in Chinese cuisine as an ingredient instead of a snack like dried dates.
Red jujubes aren’t the dried version of winter jujubes, they are another variety cultivated for making the dry fruit and turn red when mature. They are usually harvested between August and October, while the more cold-resistant winter jujubes come later.
The red jujubes have a sweet taste and chewy texture.
There are many types of red jujube products for different purposes.
The whole jujubes are generally used in stews, soups and soupy desserts to boost flavor and nutrition. In savory cooking, jujubes can bring a natural sweetness that works wonderfully with meats, while in sweet recipes, they are favored for their sweetness and meaty texture.
Whole jujubes are widely used in congees with other beans and nuts, or in chicken or pork rib soups for the medicinal value.
Jujubes stuffed with glutinous rice is a classic sweet appetizer. It’s created by cutting open the red jujubes to remove the pits and then stuffing small balls of glutinous rice dough in the middle, which are then steamed until the jujubes are soft and moist and the glutinous rice is cooked. They are served with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of white sesame seeds.
Red jujube chips are the tiny rings of dried jujubes, the jujubes are sliced and then dried to achieve the crunchy texture. These chips are suitable for steeping in hot water with other herbs and teas to make warming beverages, or sprinkled on top of soupy desserts for extra sweetness and crunch, like topping on the Hainan-style qingbuliang, a refreshing chilled coconut milk dessert filled with sweet beans, fruits, taro and more. When eaten directly, the jujube chips are very sweet and crunchy, they can also be soaked in the coconut milk for a few minutes to soften and take up the fragrance of the milk.
Jujube paste is among the most popular fillings for Chinese pastries and desserts alongside red bean paste. Traditional jujube paste is made simply from the red jujubes, oil and maltose or sugar depending on the desired taste, and sweeter jujubes are always better in making the paste. It’s a labor-intensive task, though.
The jujubes are thoroughly cleaned in water to remove any dirt hidden in the wrinkled skin, they are then boiled in water for an hour until all plumped up and darker in color. Take a fork and crush every jujube when they’re still hot, then add more water and keep boiling for another 30 minutes. The mixture is then sieved to remove the skin and pits, and put in a non-stick pan to stir and cook over low heat constantly until the moisture evaporates.
It takes around 40 minutes of stir-frying to achieve the paste texture, then oil is added to the jujube paste which gives it a glossy finish. The finished jujube paste should be dark brown in color and won’t stick to the finger when touching by hand. It can be sealed and stored in the fridge for a week, and last one to three months in the freezer.
Red jujube and walnut candy cake is a traditional Chinese sweet, it’s often served in the Chinese New Year treat boxes to entertain guests while sipping hot tea. There are a number of Chinese candies that are called gao, or cake, but they are actually soft sweet bars.
The process is similar to that of making jujube paste, only add in the toasted walnuts when the jujube paste is almost ready after a long stir-frying process. The walnuts are folded in the hot jujube paste evenly, and the folding also makes chewier candy. The jujube and walnut mixture is then poured onto a baking sheet and flattened. It’s ready to cut in small sticks when completely cooled, and they make excellent gifts for friends and family.
The jujube and walnut candy cake is best served with dark teas or black coffee to neutralize the sweetness.
The jujube paste is also used in various kinds of Chinese pastries as a sweet filling, one of the popular kinds is jujube flower pastry, an elegant dessert that is shaped like a flower with jujube paste stuffed in the middle as well as in every “flower petal.”
Red jujube cake, on the other hand, is a soft cake that incorporates a large number of jujubes in the batter. The jujube mixture is easier than that of jujube paste, as it only needs to be boiled, pitted and then crushed in a blender. The cake also uses many eggs to achieve the moist texture.
Sweet red jujube soup
Red jujubes are often added in soupy desserts for their nutritional values and flavor, and here’s an example.
6 red jujubes
5 dried longans
20 grams of red beans
15 grams of peanuts
10 grams of dried lily bulb
10 grams of peach gum
1. Soak the red beans and peach gun in water overnight, the dried lily bulbs and jujubes take 30 minutes, and the peanuts take about 15, there’s no need to remove the skin of the peanuts.
2. Boil the peanuts, red beans and lily bulbs for an hour, then add the peach gum, jujubes and longans to boil for another half an hour.
3. When the sweet soup is ready, it can be sweetened with yellow rock sugar or honey, and is usually served hot.