There is a Chinese folk poet suggesting when to eat chestnuts,
Pears in August,
Hawthorns in September,
Smiling chestnuts in October

「八月的梨枣,九月的山楂,十月的板栗笑哈哈。」

Well, the lunar October just ended on November 24 this year, but I still see the happy faces of chestnuts here and there in markets.

Generally, raw chestnuts (mostly from mainland China) are priced according to how much they are processed – naked, shelled, half-shelled, unshelled, with prices ranging from about HKD25/500g to about HKD12/500g.

Although the completely skinned chestnuts are the priciest, I was once a loyal customer of them because I do not like the task of peeling their skins, which is very time-consuming even with the help of a sharp knife.

Thanks to one of my neighbors, a lady whose grandson is already 20+, I learned an easy way to skin shelled chestnuts. Her advice is to briefly boiled the chestnuts (shelled) first, and then to rub off the skin by wearing pair of rubber gloves. I later twisted it by wrapping the hot chestnuts in a thick towel, which even allowed me to skin them in a batch of five, six or even ten, as I practiced more.

That is, before skinning the chestnuts, you need to cover them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute. Then drain; working with four to five pieces in each batch, wrap the chestnuts in a towel and rub. Some of their skins actually fall apart with a soft touch.

Rub the chestnuts while they are still hot because their skins may stick to the meat after cooled. If you are working with a large quantity, just turn heat off after boiling them for one minute and fish out a few at a time by a strainer, keeping the rest in the hot water.

If they are boiled enough, it shall take you seconds to rub the skins off.

I have to admit that, although unshelled chestnuts may offer me the freshest meat, shelling it does rather sap my strengthen. Dig my knife into the shells of chestnut, score a large slash or a large X along one side of a chestnut (before boiling or roasting them for easier removal) are tasks I’m not good at.

So my preference, whenever possible, is to buy shelled chestnuts (still with skin) and trade-off a little bit of freshness. But they are good enough to me if consumed within one or two days, and if they are skinned right before cooking.

With this little trick, it is like having equipped a net than a hook to fish beside a pond. I do more dishes with chestnuts, faster, easier. And I shall be sharing with you the one I just made.

Stay tuned! (Recipe on “Braised Chinese Chestnuts Chicken 栗子炆雞” posted on Dec 14, 2011.)

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This content was originally published here.