Welcome, pumpkin cakes that have no cinnamon, no nutmeg, no ground ginger (and nothing to do with Halloween or Thanksgiving or spiced lattes).
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These pumpkin cakes are actually deep-fried, individually-sized dumplings, soft and smooshy on the inside from glutinous rice flour and red bean paste, crisp and bubbled on the outside.
And—as cook and food writer Fuchsia Dunlop explains in Land of Fish and Rice, her culinary exploration of China's Jiangnan region immediately south of the Yangtze River—they're good enough to bribe a god:
The Kitchen God (Zao Jun) is the watchman of the Chinese family. Once a year, he reports on their behavior to the Jade Emperor in Heaven, who then decides whether they deserve reward or punishment. To bribe him, family members traditionally make offerings on the twenty-third of the last lunar month of the year, the day of his departure. They light candles and incense before his shrine, burn paper money and, most importantly, give him sweet and sticky things to eat, to seal his lips or, failing that, to sweeten his words.
These gorgeous little pumpkin cakes would do the job perfectly. They are crunchy and golden on the outside, soft and sticky within, with a rich, sweet stuffing.
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