Having traveled in Asia quite a bit in our household we love having access to authentic Asian cooking provisions in Boulder. There is a funny little strip mall in which resides a small Asian market, an Indian shop and a Mexican bakery. I frequent the Asian shop for supplies, fresh produce or just to poke around. The owner makes fabulous Sesame Balls (large round balls with sweet sesame paste in the middle, deep fried with sesame seeds covering the outside; gluten free) and recently a Vietnamese New Year roll. It took me a long time to work up the courage to speak to the owner. She’s a bit abrupt and I felt like I might be infiltrating a cultural domain to haul my white girl self in there, unsure I was completely welcome.
Despite the warning of complexity from my Asian shop owner, the dish is truly not difficult. There are essentially 4 processes, mainly steaming so it is not labor intensive. Does it take longer than scooping ice cream from the carton? Yes and it’s worth it.
- 2 cups glutinous rice (unprepared)
- 2 ounces red dates (dried)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil + extra to oil bowl
- 1 maraschino cherry
- 1 cup mixed, chopped candied or dried fruits (6 varieties for total volume of 1 cup)
- 1 cup red bean paste
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch (or corn starch)
- Place rice in a pan. Cover with water allowing ¾ inches of water above the top of the rice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to a simmer, allowing to cook uncovered for 30 minutes total. Add sugar and 2 tablespoons of oil; stir to combine and set aside. In parallel begin step 2….
- Place red dates in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes.
- While rice and dates are cooking, select a dome shaped heat-proof metal bowl about 8-9 inches in diameter. Oil the inside liberally. Place a maraschino cherry in the middle of the bowl bottom. Once dates are steamed, make a circle around the cherry with the dates. Follow this by making another ring with the mixed candied and/or dried fruits. All of this will become the top of the dessert when turned out so should be layering up the sides of the bowl not on top of each other so they will not show in the final dessert.
- Make a layer of prepared rice to cover but not disturb the design on the bottom of the bowl. The rice sticks together but is not ‘sticky’ so it is very easy to work with by hand. I suggest using your hands to create the first layer using ½ to 2/3 of the rice (to cover my design it took about 2/3 of the rice).
- Add the red bean paste in a layer covering the rice. Cover the bean paste with the remaining rice and push down to pack it densely.
- Place the entire bowl in a larger pot to steam. In my case the bowl was too large for my bamboo steamer so I placed it in a large Le Crueset Dutch oven with water on the bottom of the Dutch oven and it made a perfect steamer with the cover on. Steam for 1 hour.
- Removed from steamer. Run a pliable spatula around the inside edges to loosen the pudding. Place the serving tray right side up on the opening of the bowl and carefully turn it all over allowing the pudding to come out of the bowl onto the serving dish.
- Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing (suggest when slicing to wet a sharp knife to do so). Serve with Almond Syrup.
- Add 1 cup water and the sugar to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Ensure all the sugar has melted.
- In a separate bowl mix the arrowroot and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir to dissolve.
- Add the almond extract to the sugar and water. Stir.
- Add the arrowroot and water. Continue stirring over low heat until the syrup becomes thicker and a bit opaque.