November 8, 2016

How to Make Chen Pi Dried Mandarin Peel 陳皮做法

How to Make Chen Pi Dried Mandarin Peel 陳皮做法

How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製
By Published: 2016-11-08
Inspired perhaps by the seasonal chill finally blowing our way, I remembered this year, finally, to try making my own Chen Pi Dried Mandarin Peels (also known as Dried Tangerine Peels), or 陳皮.  These wonderful dried citrus peels are used as a flavoring agent in both savory and sweet dishes in Chinese cuisine as well as being used as an ingredient in Chinese medicine to help digestion and relieve nausea and cough.  Every year come early autumn I've seen fruit vendors at the wet market making the chen pi, hanging the graceful loops of drying citrus peels topsy turvy from every nook and crook they could find and have always wanted to try making it at home.  Chen Pi is, after all, what the Cantonese would call an essential in the Chinese kitchen, the flavor of this humble dried tangerine peel is out of this world unique, based in citrus but much, much more nuanced, with an aromatic slightly bitter taste that whets the appetite and prepares the palate for more.  As the Chinese saying '苦盡甘來' goes: 'When bitterness ends, sweetness begins.'

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How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製

The making of Chen Pi has been going on since the Eastern Han Dynasty 漢朝 (25AD-220AD), eventually even being designated as official tribute by the Dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty 清朝 (1644-1912).  That's around 1500 years!

We were lucky enough to source the Xinhui Mandarin 新會柑 at our local wet market fruit vendors.  This is traditionally and officially the fruit used to make chen pi and comes from an area of Guangdong 廣東 called, of course, Xinhui 新會.  These mandarins have particularily fragrant peels which is the hallmark of the chen pi and you can smell the unique scent right away when you peel the fruit.  

You'll note that the fruit we used is still green.  Green fruits are typically used to make the chen pi nowadays (at least that I've seen in HK) because it is easier to peel and dry, but if you can find ripe Xinhui mandarins those are the best ones to use, producing the most fragrant peels.  If you can't find Xinhui mandarins, look for alternative thin skinned mandarins or tangerines with tender, fragrant peels.
How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製
How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製

Score the mandarins from the bottom, not the top,  into 3 equal parts.  Not four.  Three.  Four will, apparently, make unstable peels.  Try not to cut into the flesh of the fruit.  A trick to help start the scoring is to use the sharp corner of your knife end to carefully score the bit at the beginning (see photo above).  Or you could just use a nifty citrus peel remover thingy.

How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製

Peel back the peel slowly along the score lines.  If you go slowly you can do a neat job and not break the peels at the wrong place.

How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製

Don't score all the way down!  Leave off a bit before you reach all the way down so that the peel will still be attached in one piece when you prise the fruit off.

How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製

See, lovely 3 petaled Chen Pi flowers!  Damn, the house sure smelled good at this point, fresh fragrant citrus smells from the huge pile of gutted xinhui mandarins thoroughly scenting the air and making us feel wonderfully refreshed.  The fruit left over was not really that edible, being unripe and a bit sour, and we put it aside with the hopes of making some sort of mandarin-ade, aka lemonade, with it.

    

Now string, hang and dry your lovely citrus wreaths in a sunny well ventilated spot.  Once it is completely dry you can store the chen pi away for aging.  Then, in true old fashioned style, the aging of the chen pi takes years.  That's right I said years and, yeah, my jaw dropped too the first time I heard that.  I've seen anywhere from 3 years to 5 years as the usual recommended aging time with the chen pi turning a dark reddish brown as time passes.  Aging improves flavor.  Chen pi aged over 30 years can sell for as much as 14800 HKD for 1 kg, or 2000 USD for a little over 2 lbs!  

I'm going to make a string of these every year, date them, and hoard them away for my little girl!  Hopefully, if we're doing things right, she'll appreciate these aged chen pi as much as we do!

How Make, homemade, Chen Pi , chenpi, Dried, Mandarin Peel, chinese, recipe, tangerine peel, 陳皮, 做法, 自製


Homemade Chen Pi Dried Mandarin Peel Recipe   陳皮做法

30 Xinhui mandarins 新會柑
1 yard wire or string, approx 1 m

Ingredients

30 Xinhui mandarins 新會柑
1 yard wire or string, approx 1 m

Directions:

Wash and dry mandarins thoroughly.  Score the mandarin peels into three equal sections starting from the bottom of the mandarin, leaving 1/2" to 3/4" unscored as you near the top stem side of the mandarin.  Score lightly, trying not to cut into the flesh of the fruit.  Peel each section of the mandarin peel slowly along the score lines until the entire peel can be removed from the fruit.  Repeat for all the mandarins.  

Prepare your wire or string for stringing up the peels for drying.  If you use a wire you can just poke the wire end straight through the tender peel.  If you use string use a needle to poke a whole in the peels to fit your string through, or use a needle threaded with string. 

For each peel poke through the peel at two spots.  See the photo above for reference.  After each peel is added, knot a simple knot after it so that the peels will stay separated.  If using wire just crimp the wire a bit and the peel will stay in place.

Hang in a well ventilated, sunny spot for a couple of weeks until completely dry.  Once completely and truly dry you can store in an air tight jar or bag in a dark cool environment.  Some folks recommend a breathable cloth bag for storage but I think the extreme humidity of Hong Kong will not make this practical.  You can use them once they are dried but optimal flavor is achieved as the chen pi ages, so it is recommended to wait of at least 3 years for good flavor.

Tip:  Mark the chen pi wreath with a date so that you can keep track of the aging time!


     

More Chen Pi Recipes at The Hong Kong Cookery:





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