thanks for the sweet memories — ginger panna cotta w black sesame geleé

thanks for the sweet memories — ginger panna cotta w black sesame geleé

I have many fond memories of family rituals, most of which involved food, to no surprise—the Sunday congee brunch, weeknight dinners at home that ran like clockwork one dish after another, weekend afternoon tea and shopping with my grandmother, among others.

Everything changed after I moved to the US for high school. I only got to experience those familiar, comforting moments when I returned home during holiday and summer vacations. Still, I was grateful that my parents allowed me to be on my own and experience life without their daily guidance—even if the culinary dimension wasn’t the same.

After my grandmother and father passed away, my Mom became the glue of the family. New rituals were born. For a while, my family didn’t want to spend Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, so they opted to travel in Europe instead. It was during one of these trips that M came along to Paris and met the family—with the first introductions worthy of the best French farce. Within those few days of long meals and leisurely walks, however, they bonded so that by the end of the trip, my Mom invited M to visit the family in Hong Kong.

And, we’ve done that for the last decade. Every visit to Hong Kong with M, we established new favorite routines with family—a top one is shopping at the fresh food market with my Mom—live fish swimming and exotic eels wriggling in tanks,  whole sides of beef ready to be butchered, vegetables that appeared to have been picked that morning, fruit from all over Asia. It’s about as native as you can get.

Another activity is having Chinese desserts with my brother, David. We traverse the city to buy treats—mango pudding, ginger milk, sweet potato soup, and tangyuan (glutinous rice flour dumplings w black sesame filling). We then take them home and surprise Mom with these sweets, which are some of her favorites. She dashes into the dining room, even if she had already brushed her teeth–and her face lights up. My passion for sweets definitely comes from her.

For this Mother’s Day, I offer a tribute to two of her favorite desserts, ginger milk and the distinct flavor of the black sesame tangyuan filing—Ginger Panna Cotta w Black Sesame Geleé. I know she, along with my brothers, are far away and won’t be able to taste this rich creamy concoction. This is more for M and me to savor and reminiscent of those family moments of simple Hong Kong pleasures.

Ginger Panna Cotta w Black Sesame Geleé


Ginger Panna Cotta
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Black Sesame Geleé
  • 1/2 cup black sesame seed, toasted
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar


Ginger Panna Cotta

1. In a heavy saucepan, add milk and sprinkle gelatin over the top, let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.

2. Over medium-low heat stir until the gelatin dissolves and milk is luke warm, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, cream, honey, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture into a large measuring cup. Divide evenly between 6 glasses. Cool slightly. Refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours.

Black Sesame Geleé

1. Grind toasted sesame seeds in a spice grinder until finely grounded. set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, add water, sprinkle gelatin over the top, let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.

2. Over medium-low heat, add sugar,  stir until the gelatin/sugar dissolves and syrup is luke warm, about 5 minutes.

3. Add ground sesame, stir until mixture is homogenous. (do not bring it to a boil). Remove from heat and cool for 20 minutes.

4. Divide mixture equally between glasses of panna cotta. Refrigerate until set, at least 60 minutes.