This is a simplified version as I only used pearl barley and bean curd sheets. I did not add any ginkgo nuts or hard-boiled quail eggs. My mum used to cook the detailed version and in a big pot! After drinking one big bowl of it, it's like having a meal, since barley has the effect of filling up your tummy. So, if you are on a diet, have more barley drink (just make sure you control the amount of sugar in it).
1/2 cup pearl barley (rinsed)
4 to 5 thin pieces of bean curd sheets (each about the size of a A4 paper)
1/2 cup rock sugar (adjust sweetness to taste)
5 pandan leaves (washed & tied into knot)
2 litre water
1 egg, beaten
1) Boil water in pot, add pearl barley, pandan knot (and ginkgo nuts if you're using - see tips below), cook over low heat for an hour.
2) Dip bean curd sheets in water to soften and tear into few smaller pieces. Remove pandan knot and add bean curd sheets to pot, cook for 30 minutes.
3) Add rock sugar, cook for another 30 minutes (if you're having quail eggs, de-shell and add the hard-boiled eggs together with rock sugar).
4) Drizzle beaten eggs (preferably just egg whites for nicer effect) over the soup and off the heat immediately. Give it a swirl.
5) Cover for another 30 minutes before serving.
1) Use fresh ginkgo nuts, wherever possible. While de-shelled ginkgo nuts are now easily available in canned and vacuum-packed, I do not recommend using these as they usually has some awful chemical-treated taste. For fresh ginkgo nuts, crack open the shell, remove the nut. If nut looks dry and wrinkled, discard. Soak the nuts in warm water to loosen the thin brown skin covering the nut and remove the skin before adding to soup.
2) Hard-boiled quail egg adds a lovely aroma to the soup, which would otherwise be missing. So if you are wondering why your mum's or aunt's barley bean curd sheets desserts taste better, this could be the reason.
3) Patience. This dessert is a typical Cantonese dessert soup which requires long simmering time to bring out the flavour and texture. Quick boiling will not do.