Over the last few years, fusion cooking has faced an increasing level of criticism, with the trend often characterised as a tacky and poorly informed style of culinary experimentation. Neil Perry in promotion of his book ‘Simply Asian’ labelled the fusion tradition as ‘muddled’. Taking a somewhat more blunt approach, in 2014 the Wall Street Journal slammed fusion cooking by calling it the ‘f word’ of modern kitchens.

At littlebaking, we take a slightly different approach to the notion of fusion food by arguing that, in their hearts, all good home cooks are secretly, fusion cooks. When faced with the prospect of baking a meal, sometimes with a near bare pantry having very little to offer in terms of inspiration – it is often the imagination of the cook alone that means a meal is prepared, and delivered to a waiting family.

The following recipe explores the idea of food fusion in a new way, with the hope the concept might be re-invented and re-embraced by a new generation of cooks. Too often, food fusion is synonymous with only the non-traditional mix of flavours, spices and ingredients. In this recipe we suggest that food fusion can also represent the merging of different socialized traditions and conventions underpinning the practices of a shared meal. Put another way, fusion is not just about what we eat, it can be about the way we eat. Our recipe for cheesecake dumplings merges two traditions. In the Western tradition, a dessert is often a portion, sliced from a whole pudding and eaten in a separate bowl. There is little in the way of sharing. In contrast, the tradition of Chinese yum cha is an interactive experience with a selection of bite size items, a range of condiments, and each person going back and forth between bowl and shared condiments continuously.

The recipe below is our re-interpretation of the fusion food concept – a ‘sweet’ dairy-based cheesecake dumpling which is neither steamed, nor fried. In the spirit of a Chinese New Year yum cha, we recommend serving a combination of flavoured dumplings (mocha, chocolate ginger & vanilla), with dipping sauces, so the family can mix and match flavours. In place of a soy sauce – a dark blackberry dipping sauce. In the tradition of a ‘sweet and sour’ – a golden mango flavoured sauce. Instead of a chilli sauce – a bright red raspberry sauce. Happy new year to all!

Ingredients (dumpling ‘starter’)
400g can condensed milk
500g cream cheese
Juice of 1 large lemon

Flavour mix for a coffee-centred dumpling, rolled in a chocolate crumb
2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons of agar agar
2 tablespoons of boiling water
1 teaspoon of Kahlua
c. 6 store bought chocolate biscuits (eg chocolate ripple) ground to crumbs

Flavour mix for vanilla cheesecake dumpling, with a sugar biscuit coating
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
2 teaspoons of agar agar
2 tablespoons of boiling water
c. 6 sweet store-bought biscuits (eg nice, marie) ground to crumbs

Flavour mix for a chocolate cheesecake dumpling with a ginger crumb
1 tablespoon of melted dark chocolate
1 teaspoon of cocoa
2 tablespoons of boiling water
2 teaspoon of agar agar
c.6 store-bought ginger nut biscuits (ground to crumbs)

Mango dipping sauce
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
2 mangoes chopped into chunks
1 tablespoon of sugar

Blackberry dipping sauce
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1 cup of blackberries (frozen is fine)
1 tablespoon of sugar

Raspberry dipping sauce
1 cup of raspberries (frozen is fine)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

In an electric mixer, beat the ingredients for the cheesecake dumpling ‘starter’ all together until thick and smooth. Cover and place in fridge to thicken a little (several hours is usually good).
Just before removing cheesecake starter from fridge, prepare each of the three different flavour mixtures. All of the flavour mixes are prepared in the same way. In a coffee cup, place all the dry ingredients, add boiling water and mix continually so there are no lumps. Sprinkle agar agar across the surface of the hot water, and beat until it starts to thicken.

Separate the cheesecake starter into three even portions (three separate bowls). Add the chocolate flavour mix to one, coffee mix to another, and vanilla mix to the third bowl. In each case, beat well. Return the three flavoured cheesecake mixes to the fridge until each is sufficiently set to roll into small balls (depending on the fridge, this may take overnight).

While waiting for the cheesecake to thicken and set, prepare the dipping sauces and prepare the three different crumb coatings. In each case, the sauces are prepared in the same way. Place the ingredients in a small saucepan, mix. Bring to boil. Then let simmer until mixture becomes thick and fruit has begun to break down. If you like the sauce thicker and stickier, leave on the stove for longer (this allows more moisture to evaporate from the mix). Put the sauces aside (preferably in fridge) until ready to use. Bash the biscuits or blend until they are crumbs.

When the cheesecake mix is thick enough, roll into balls with the palm of your hands, and then roll each cheesecake ball in the crumb of choice. Now serve this traditional western dessert yum cha style, with dipping sauces!
ccake dumpling 1ccake dumpling 6cake dumpling 5ccake dumpling 2


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