Ok, it’s story time. Now, don’t get too excited. The love letters I’m referring to are actually a type of cookie! Nonetheless, they do hold a special place in my heart.
Don’t you hate it when people taunt you with food you’ll likely never get the chance to try? This was the story of my childhood. Malaysian cuisine here in LA is pretty scarce, but my mom would never miss an opportunity to point out how food here was sub-par compared to what was back home. From the fresh rambutan fruit she would pick straight off the trees to the sour and spicy laksa fish soup bought from the night market hawker stands, nothing here could ever compare to the real thing.
As a kid who knew virtually nothing outside of LA, the things she longed for were a mystery to me and I always wondered what I was missing out on.
One of the foods I remember her talking about was the mysterious love letter. These cookies get their name from being paper-thin and folded up or rolled like a note as well as from the designs that are imprinted upon them during the cooking process.
My mom would rave about how these delicate little wafers were her favorite snacks. They were traditionally only made for Chinese New Year. Knowing this and having never celebrated Chinese New Year only fueled my intrigue for these magical unattainable cookies. When I asked how they taste, she likened them to Filipino barquillos (kind of like those Pepperidge Farms’ Pirouette cookies, but without the filling).
I haven’t made them, but if you’re brave enough to try, this recipe by SeaSaltWithFood is the most reasonable for the average kitchen. The ingredients are simple- all purpose flour, rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and eggs. The traditional method of baking them is labor intensive. It involves making coconut milk from scratch and baking the wafers, one by one, in special molds that are set over a charcoal grill.
Luckily for me, I got to visit Malaysia this summer and finally tried many of the foods my mom told me stories about. I’m so grateful for this summer- getting to know family I hadn’t seen in years, experiencing the place where my mom grew up, and eating the delicious food I had heard so much about! I even brought a bag of love letters home! Unfortunately, since they’re so fragile, many of them didn’t make it back whole, but they still tasted fantastic! The wafers are crisp, just slightly sweet and distinctly coconut-y with a very subtle charcoal flavor that comes from the grill.
I got close to the end of my bag of love letters and decided I should enjoy the last of them with some special chocolate mint tea.
I do have a recipe for the tea! Some things you should note: One- yup, chocolate mint is a thing! Two- I used loose-leaf chocolate pu-erh which isn’t exactly a kitchen staple. Obviously you can sub with any tea you prefer, but a chocolate black tea or rooibos would taste most similar. Finally, here’s the recipe. It’s so short I hardly consider it a recipe:
Chocolate Mint Tea
- 3 sprigs of chocolate mint
- 2 teaspoons of pu-erh tea
- 16 ounces of boiling water
Drop tea leaves and mint into French Press. Pour boiling water over it, and let steep 3-5 minutes. Strain with press, and pour into individual cups. Drink straight or with milk and sugar.