Eight Precious Rice Pudding
By Cecilia Chiang, Author of The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco
2 cups sweet glutinous rice, rinsed and drained
3 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup shelled fresh gingko
1/4 cup dried Chinese red dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried pineapple, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup lotus seeds
1 cup sweet red bean paste, sweetened to taste
1/2 cup rock sugar or granulated sugar
1. In a saucepan, combine rice and 2 and 3/4 cups of the water. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat.
2. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, but still has a little resistance in the center, (bite a few grains to test), about fifteen minutes.
3. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool. While the rice is cooking, put the gingko nuts in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit 3 minutes, drain, and set aside.
4. In a small bowl, soak the dates in hot water for 30 minutes, until softened. Set aside.
5. In a small saucepan, cover the lotus seeds with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low to maintain a steady simmer and cook 10 minutes, or until tender, and drain.
6. Transfer to a bowl and remove any green threads from the center of the lotus seed with a toothpick, and discard. Set aside.
7. To form the pudding: Spray or lightly oil and 8-inch heat-proof glass or metal bowl. Put the raisins in the bottom of the bowl and arrange the pineapple, apricots, dates, and gingko nuts in a circular pattern around the raisins in a decorative pattern.
Take a handful of the cooled rice, form it into a flat pancake in your palm, and gently place the rice on top of the fruit in the bowl, being careful to not disrupt the pattern of dried fruit.
Continue forming rice pancakes and stacking them in the the bowl until you’ve used up half of the rice and created a fairly flat surface over the fruit (press down gently on the rice as you go to create even layers).
Carefully spread the red bean paste over the surface of the rice layers and then top with lotus seeds. Again, forming pancakes with the remaining rice, finish filling the bowl, and gently press down to even the top layer.
8. Fill the bottom of a steamer with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the glass bowl in a steamer tier, set over the bowling water, and steam, covered, until a skewer inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
9. Allow to cool slightly, just until the bowl can be handled with ease. Place a serving platter on top of the bowl, invert, and carefully unmold the pudding.
10. Shortly before serving the pudding, about 10-15 minutes ahead, make a sugar syrup by combining the remaining half cup of water and the rock sugar or granulated sugar in a small saucepan, and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
11. Decrease the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside.
12. To serve, pour some of the sugar syrup over the top of the pudding, slice into wedges, and serve warm with additional syrup as desired.