Eight Treasure rice pudding(八寶飯) is a traditional Lunar New Year dessert, very popular in both China and Taiwan. The name comes from the eight different kinds of dried fruits, such as raisins or candied winter melon, that are considered key ingredients. In the Chinese tradition, the number eight is a magical number: when pronounced, the word sounds like another Chinese word (發) which means to be rich or to thrive in business. Also, because this dessert is really colorful and pretty, it represents luck and sweetness for the new year.
Depending on where you are located it might be hard to get a hold of eight different kinds of dried or candied fruit, so this recipe includes five that should be easily found at your local supermarket or Chinese store. Consider also using dates, red and green shredded plums, jackfruit, or dried longan pulp.
- For the Rice:
- 2 cups glutinous rice (sticky rice)
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- For the Fruit:
- Neutral oil for coating bowl
- Handful of sugar-glazed cherries
- Handful of black raisins
- Handful of yellow raisins
- 1 dried apricot
- For the Filling:
- 100 grams red bean paste
- Handful of sugar lotus seeds
- For the Potato Starch Water:
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon potato starch
- Optional: 2 drops rose essence
- For the Sugar Syrup:
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup water
Gather the ingredients.
Place the glutinous rice in a non-reactive bowl and cover it with cold water. Let it soak for at least 1 hour. Drain the soaking water and place the rice in a steamer basket set over simmering water. Cover and steam for 30 to 45 minutes. While still hot, gently combine it with the sunflower oil and salt.
Coat the inside of a heat-proof medium-sized bowl with oil. (Make sure this bowl will fit in the steamer basket.) Cut the sugar-glazed cherries in half and put some aside for later. Place the remaining sugar-glazed cherries along with the dried fruits in a decorative pattern in the bowl.
Once the fruit is arranged, place half of the cooked rice in the bowl and press down gently.
Spoon the red bean paste into the middle and smooth out the top.
Use a little bit of glutinous rice to cover the red bean paste and place the sugar lotus seeds and remaining sugar-glazed cherries around the edge of the bowl.
Evenly place the rest of the glutinous rice on top and press down.
Place the bowl with the fruit and rice in the steamer basket set over simmering water and steam for 30 minutes, keeping an eye on the amount of water underneath the basket.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the starch water ingredients, whisking vigorously until well combined.
Place all the syrup ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil, and then add the starch water. Stir until thick.
Remove the bowl from the steamer basket and let it rest for 10 minutes. Invert the bowl onto a plate and release the rice pudding. Brush the sugar syrup over the surface.
Here are some helpful tips for cooking with glutinous rice:
- The ratio for glutinous rice is 1:1 (1 cup of rice per 1 cup of water). To steam, drain the soaking water and put the rice in a steaming basket set over simmering water (without it touching the water) for 30 to 45 minutes. Let it rest 10 minutes before serving.
- To use a rice cooker, add 1 1/4 cups of water per cup of rice. For this technique, the rice should soak for at least 4 hours.
- The longer the rice soaks, the better the texture it will have. Some traditions let it soak covered for up to 24 hours, but most cooks give it between 3 and 6 hours.