Friday, May 3, 2013

Fruity Fridays - Mulberry Madness!

This week's fruit: Mulberry

Vietnamese name: Quả dâu tằm

Cost from a lady on the street near work: 50,000 dong (roughly $2.50) per kilo

Season in Northern Vietnam: April, give or take a week or two

Interesting facts: - Some parts of the mulberry tree have a white sap that can be toxic and/or mildly hallucinogenic.
- Some cities have banned mulberry trees because the amount of pollen they produce can pose a health hazard for those with allergies.
- Mulberry leaves are the only food of the silkworm, and thus areas where mulberry trees are plentiful often also produce a lot of silk.
- The Roman myth of Pyramus and Thisbe provides a story of the mulberry fruit's color. According to the tale, after the two lovers die tragically, the gods listen to Thisbe's lament and forever change the color of the mulberry fruits into their red stained color to honor the forbidden love.
(All info from

As I think I've mentioned before, Hanoi has a severe lack of berries. We get somewhat flavourless strawberries for a while in the winter, and that's about it! I miss the lovely berry season at home.

However, one thing that Vietnam does have plenty of is silk, and that means every spring we get mulberry season! Until I came here, I'd never actually seen a mulberry, but I remember mulberry bushes featuring in nursery rhymes when I was a kid. I had also, on various parts of my travels, seen silkworms muching on the leaves and eaten the silkworm larvae.

One day in the first spring I was here I was walking down a street in the old quarter and saw one of those women in a conical hat carrying two baskets hanging from a bar over their shoulders, and what she had in her baskets looked very purple and berry-like. Curious, I bought half a kilo and took them home. After a little bit of googling, I concluded that they were mulberries, and should have been incredibly delicious. The only problem was that I didn't find them to be very tasty. They're a bit on the sour side, with not too much flavour.

So what do you do with sour, tasteless berries? You stew them up with some sugar and a bit of water, until they're cooked down into a lovely sauce that goes wonderfully on pancakes!

I didn't see anyone selling the berries again that year, not for lack of looking! I found myself wishing I'd bought more than half a kilo, so the next year when I found a woman selling them near work, I bought a full kilo and, inspired by my grandma's apple-blackberry pie, I made a delicious apple-mulberry pie to take to a barbecue.

That pie was a big hit amongst my friends, but aside from making more sauce for my pancakes and ice cream, I didn't use the mulberries for anything, and just put some in my freezer. My friend Will, however, put some in alcohol and made a beautifully smooth liqueur.

A couple of words of caution about mulberries: First, I've been told they have some kind of tiny worms inside that can make you sick. For this reason I pretty much always cook them with sugar before I use them. With my somewhat flavourless berries, stewing them this way makes the flavour come out so I would probably do it anyway! Second, mulberries will stain anything they touch purple, so if you're using them, wear old clothes!

This year, as soon as I saw the mulberries for sale I was all over them. I started with mulberry ice cream, based on this recipe from Carol Anne's Kitchen. Of course I used my stewed berries, and adjusted the sugar accordingly. It really ended up more like a frozen mousse with chewy clumps of mulberry than a proper ice cream, but was fantastic just the same!

After the ice cream I was inspired by the mousse idea, and my friend Tu was having a housewarming party, so I offered to contribute dessert. I took a mulberry mousse cake, which was nothing short of amazing!

I started with a chocolate crumb base made from crushed up Oreos (I spent a while separating and scraping the icing off) butter, and a bit of sugar. Then, because I wanted a bit more of a fudgy, gooey cake, I made a simple ganache with some semi-sweet chocolate chips and heavy cream, and put that on top of the crust.

I then used roughly the same recipe as the girls and I used for our mango mousse cake on our Staff Class cooking day last year. As with that one, I left a little bit of the mousse without whipped cream, and made a dark layer on the top. Just before serving I garnished it with white chocolate shavings and a sprig of mint, and despite being a bit rough around the edges (I probably should've greased the pan a bit) it looked really good!


It also tasted absolutely delicious, with the sweetness of my layer of ganache achieving the exact fudginess that I had wanted and contrasting wonderfully with the slightly tart berry mousse layer. My only complaint might have been that the crust was a little hard at times, but really, that was a pretty minor issue. It was so good that my friend Ian had two servings, and I've only ever seen him do that with gin!

The last thing I made with my mulberries was popsicles. I simply pureed some of my stewed berries, added a bit more sugar, and poured them in the popsicle molds. The first one I ate was very dense, so I melted down the last three, added a bit more water, and poured it back into all four molds. If I was doing it again, I'd maybe leave out most of the solids and just use the juice, as I like quite an icy fruit-flavoured popsicle. One thing to note is that when I eat one of these, my lips and the entire inside of my mouth turn purple.

There are lots of other things you could do with mulberries. Thousands of recipes for mulberry jam can be found on the internet, but as I don't eat very much jam and I still have most of the Roselle jam that I made, I decided that might not be the best course of action for me. 

 Mulberries, or at least the juice or syrup, could also be used in savoury dishes too. This website gives a TON of recipes for everything from Mulberry Meringue Pie to Chipotle Mulberry sauce (I might have to try this one!) What's your favourite mulberry recipe? Please share!


Fruit mousse:

2 packets unflavoured gelatin
about 3 cups of fruit
Juice of ½ a lime
¼ tsp vanilla (optional)
1.5 cups whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons sugar (to taste)

Puree the fruit in a blender with a bit of water. Add lime juice and vanilla. Reserve 3/4 cup of this for the cake topping, if desired.

Sprinkle the gelatin into ½ cup water in a heatproof cup, place in a pot of hot water that comes halfway up the side of the cup. Stir until gelatin is all dissolved. Add this to the fruit mixture.

Whip the cream in a separate bowl, adding 3-4 tablespoons of sugar to taste (depending on how sweet the fruit is) until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of this into the main fruit mixture, then fold in the rest.
Pour into bowls or on top of cake base of your choice. Chill in the fridge for 4-5 hours to set.


1 comment:

  1. yum, remembering that mousse cake is making my mouth water...


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