Eight Treasures Rice Pudding (Ba bao fan)

Ba bao fan (八寶飯), or “Eight Treasures Rice”, is a lavish Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice, red bean paste and eight kinds of fruits or nuts. It’s quite rich, and rightfully so! This ‘pudding’ is traditionally served on Chinese New Years to celebrate wealth, balance, and good things to come!

The Eight Treasures’ name sake comes from the thought that the number 8 is very lucky! To aid that notion, the Mandarin word for eight ‘Bā’ sounds very similar to ‘Fā’; which happens to mean Wealth/Fortune. The toppings are made up of eight different kind of dried fruits, nuts and sweets. It is said that each of the chosen ingredients are to aid in ones health or happiness.. And with how extravagant this dessert can be, I believe it! However, if you find that some of the more traditional ingredients are difficult to come by, feel free to substitute! In my research, I’ve noticed that no two recipes are completely alike. And of course, while you don’t have to use eight different toppings.. Why wouldn’t you want to be get be Lucky?

The commonly used treasures are: dried dates, lotus seeds, candied cherries/plums, sweetened winter melon, dried longan, red bean paste, assorted beans, different nuts, etc etc. You can also use things like candied ginger, candied orange peel, dried papaya, dried pineapple, cranberries, raisins.. so on so forth.

 

Chinese Eight Treasure Rice Pudding
from the Los Angeles TimesIMG_5947

Ingredients:

1.5 cups uncooked glutinous rice (aka sticky or sweet rice)
2 T sugar
1 T butter/ shortening/ lard
1 cup dried fruits of your choice (lotus seeds, apricots, pineapple, cranberries, mangoes, mandarin oranges, dried goji berry seeds, candied cherries)
1 cup sweet red bean/azuki paste (or more as needed)

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps cornstarch

Cook the rice according to the directions (omit salt) or in a rice cooker. When the rice is done, mix the hot rice with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the butter/ shortening/ lard, then set it aside. Chop any of the fruit according to how you want your design to look. Place the fruit in the bottom of a bowl in a pattern to your liking .

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The main goal is to make a pretty floral-esque pattern with the fruits. Do this by arranging the inverted fruits on the inside of your bowl. I’ve seen some recipes recommend that you grease the inside of the bowl, perhaps for ease of release. I didn’t bother with that, but if you choose to, lard is the most traditional of the three choices.

 

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      Next, line the bowl with two-thirds of the rice, making a layer that is about 1-inch thick and taking care not to disrupt the fruit pattern. After the rice is in the bowl, gently press it into the fruit. You are aiming to make a bit of a well shape, so that you can fill it with the sweet Red Bean Paste.
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If you aren’t familiar with Chinese sweets and desserts, sweet red bean paste is quite popular. I guess it’s kind of like the chocolate of the Chinese dessert world, except it’s nothing like chocolate.

Cover the top with the remaining rice and then press it all down to pack it tightly. Use wet hands to flatten the surface, so that the rice wont stick to you.

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After the bowl has been packed, we will now be steaming the rice pudding (bowl uncovered) for about an hour. If you make small, individual puddings, you can steam for less time (about 30 minutes). While you wait for that to finish, you can make the simple syrup.

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In a steamer or on a rack in a large pot, fill with a few inches of boiling water and put the lid on.
While the Rice Pudding is steaming, Make the simple syrup: Combine the water and sugar in a pot, and turn up the heat to medium-high. Stir with a spoon to dissolve the sugar. While the syrup is heating, make a slurry with the lemon juice and cornstarch. Add it to the water mixture, and stir continuously. When the liquid thickens a little bit and becomes clear again, remove from heat.
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When the pudding is ready, carefully remove it from the steamer. If you didn’t grease the bowl, you may want to run a butter knife or off-set spatula along the edges to help the pudding release. Put your serving plate upside down over the bowl, then carefully invert the bowl and plate as seen above. I recommend using a plate with a rim to it so that the syrup doesn’t run over the edge when serving. 
Serving: Pour hot syrup over the pudding and serve. Pour more syrup over individual pieces, and enjoy!
 

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Optional Seasonings:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
¼ teaspoon salt

In some traditional eight treasures rice pudding recipes, it advises the use of “sweet-scented osmanthus sauce”. You can find this at either your local Asian Market, or on Amazon.

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