Eight Treasure Rice
Eight Treasure Rice Babaofan Serves 8
Like a Christmas fruitcake, this festive gift is brought to hostesses around the holidays and is studded with candied treats—which, in this Eastern adaptation, includes red bean paste and candied fruits. What goes into the Eight Treasure Rice is a matter of individual preference (and what’s on hand), but do make sure to include a lucky assortment of eight since the Chinese word for the number, ba, is a homophone for fa, which means “prosperity.” Usually this dessert is molded in a large Bundt-like pan and then released onto a platter, but I think it’s more precious when baked in individual cone molds where the fruits sit on top of the sticky rice like many-jeweled stars topping a Christmas tree.
1½ cups uncooked sweet glutinous rice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the molds
1½ cups chopped candied Chinese fruits, such as mandarin orange slices, winter melon, cherries, dates, kumquats, lychees, ginger, and/or plums
½ cup red bean paste
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Rinse the glutinous rice well in a colander under cold running water. Place the drained rice in a saucepan, add 1½ cups of cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then cover the pan, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 30 minutes, until the rice is almost completely cooked.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and butter. If the rice is very dry, stir in a little more water to make it creamier. Set aside. Fill a deep steamer pot with a few inches of water, insert the steamer basket, and bring the water to a boil.
While the water is heating, butter the inside of 8 small, individual-serving cone molds or a large Bundt pan. Press the candied fruit onto the buttered sides of the molds, forming a decorative pattern, if desired. Spoon half of the rice into the molds, and then spread the bean paste on top. Add the remaining rice and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Cover the bottom of each mold tightly with aluminum foil. Set the molds in the steamer basket, cover, and steam at a simmer for 1 hour.
While the molds are steaming, whisk the granulated sugar and cornstarch together in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Whisking constantly, drizzle in 1 cup of water, stirring until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the lemon zest and juice; then remove from the heat and set aside.
Remove the molds from the steamer, and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes) before unmolding each one onto an individual plate. Pour some of the zesty syrup around each one, and serve.