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

by hungryrabbit on May 11, 2012

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

recipe by hungry rabbit
yield: 6 servings

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


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 Seasame Geleé


1/2 cup black sesame seed, toasted
1 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons granulated sugar


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.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Samantha May 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm

This looks AH-MAZING! Love anything black sesame!

Lokness @ The Missing Lokness May 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Hi Ken, I grew up in Hong Kong too! Now, I am living in LA. I miss the desserts and pastries in Hong Kong a lot. (Perhaps all the food…) Eating something with familiar flavors bring back tons of good memories. This panna cotta is brillant. It must be delicious! I would definitely make it. Thanks for sharing!

Brian @ A Thought For Food May 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

It must be difficult being so far away from your family. I know you try to make it back to see them, but I’m sure it’s still hard. This is a loving tribute to the traditions from your childhood.

Katie May 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm

What a beautiful idea to offer those desserts as a tribute to your mom. This looks fantastic!

Tiffany May 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Ooh, I’m a sucker for ginger. This dessert sounds awesome!

Georgie May 11, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Beautiful old traditions and wonderful new ones. It’s my favorite part of my family – our traditions!

Nick May 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

Looks slick and sounds as though it tastes heavenly. Love your family stories…

Jo May 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Can I not add ginger to the panna cotta? I really love panna cotta but not ginger milk. You are a great cook!

hungryrabbit May 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Hi Jo, you can certainly omit the ginger. You might want to decrease the honey slightly. -Ken

Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies May 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm

YUM! This is gorgeous! I really want to try it, I just love ginger.

Margaret May 15, 2012 at 10:20 am

Love reading about your food memories and rituals with your family. I love ginger so I’m sure this panna cotta must be delicious!

Bunkycooks May 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

What a gorgeous dessert! I am sure that living so far away from family is difficult, but am glad you get to visit from time to time. We look forward to coming back to NYC to see you again. Thank you for putting lunch together. It was so great to meet you and have an incredible lunch at Ippudo! BTW, if I come back, will you make this dessert? 😉

Kiran @ May 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I love black sesame seeds in dessert. This looks so decadent :)

Betty Ann @Mango_Queen May 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

What a heartwarming post on your Mom, all the treats, the travels and the delish recipe of ginger panna cotta. Love it! Thanks for sharing, Ken.

amelia from z tasty life May 30, 2012 at 8:35 am

Ken: this is stunningly elegant and what a sweet tribute to your family memories and rituals.

tanya1234 September 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm

luv it thankxxxxxxxxx

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