Hetty Lui McKinnon & Lisa Lin
THE WASHINGTON POST – Keo me xung is a Vietnamese candy made with peanuts and sesame seeds usually eaten during Tet (Lunar New Year), although it can be devoured year-round as a sweet treat paired with a cup of hot tea.
During the new year, it’s commonly served alongside mut tet, a platter of dried, candied fruit, veggies and nuts. Brooklyn-based baker Doris Ho-Kane added ginger and orange zest to her version for extra vibrancy and zing. Keo me xung delivers a combination of chewy and crunchy – with warm notes of butterscotch radiating from the palm sugar.
KEO ME XUNG DAU PHONG GUNG (CHEWY GINGER PEANUT SESAME CANDY)
– Two tablespoons vegetable or another neutral oil, plus more for greasing the pan
– 70 grammes toasted white sesame seeds
– 70 grammes toasted black sesame seeds
– 240 millilitres water
– 360 or 328 grammes Lyle’s golden syrup or light corn syrup
– 200 grammes palm sugar (may substitute with light brown sugar)
– 32 grammes tapioca starch or tapioca flour
– 30 grammes grated fresh ginger
– Four teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from two large oranges)
– Four teaspoons fresh lime juice
– Two teaspoons vanilla extract
– One-eighth teaspoon fine salt
– 300 grammes roasted unsalted peanuts
Line an eight- or nine-inch square pan with parchment paper with some overhang and clip the overhang to the sides using binder clips (this will prevent the overhang from slipping into the hot candy). Grease the bottom and sides of the paper with vegetable oil. Grease another piece of parchment large enough to cover the pan.
In a medium bowl, stir together the white and black sesame seeds. Use 70 grammes of the seed mixture to cover the bottom of the pan, gently shaking the pan to evenly distribute.
In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the water, syrup, palm sugar, tapioca starch, ginger, two tablespoons of the vegetable oil, the zest, lime juice, vanilla and salt. Cook, stirring continuously, until the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture comes to a boil, five to seven minutes.
Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and maintain the boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches between 225 and 230 degrees, and turns darker (dark golden brown if using Lyle’s golden syrup, and medium golden brown if using light corn syrup), about 25 minutes.
Be patient and watch the mixture carefully: It will thicken and become viscous, with large bubbles. (If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a small spoonful of the mixture into ice water – if it stiffens into a chewy mass, it’s ready.)
Reduce the heat to low and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the peanuts to incorporate; this will require effort as the mixture will be thick by then.
Working quickly, upend the pot and transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Exercising caution because the candy will be very hot, use a greased silicone or small offset spatula to quickly spread the candy into an even layer.
Sprinkle the remaining 70 grammes of the sesame seed mixture on top and gently shake the pan to evenly distribute the seeds. Place the reserved piece of greased parchment on top and use your hands to lightly press the seeds into the mixture, further smoothing out the candy layer. Let cool until the candy is no longer warm to the touch, about one hour, then cut.
Using the parchment overhang, transfer the candy block to a large cutting board and peel back the top and bottom papers. Using a small paring knife, trim the edges.
Use a greased knife or cookie cutter to cut the candy into small squares. A nine-inch pan will yield 36 pieces that are 1.5-inch squares. There will be a lot of loose sesame seeds on your workspace; you can collect and reuse them for your next batch of candy.
Place the candy on small pieces of waxed or parchment paper to separate, or wrap each candy in wax paper, parchment or plastic. The consistency of the candy should be between a caramel and a nougat.