February 2, 2018

Eight Treasures Rice Pudding 八寶飯

Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, chinese, steamed, pudding, dessert, recipe, sweets, 八寶飯, traditional

Almost time to welcome in the Chinese New Year 中國新年!  In preparation for the feasting this New Year I decided to make a treat that my grandma 奶奶 made for us when I was a little girl, the delectable Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, or 八寶飯, a traditional Chinese dessert that is a steamed glutinous rice pudding with a red bean paste center, beautifully decorated on top with all kinds of colorful dried fruits and nuts.

I still remember the first time my 奶奶 made it and how big and round my eyes grew as she carried it, gleaming with colors and fragrant with wonderful smells, to the dinner table.  I had never in my short life seen such a fancy cake before.  It was magical!

Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, chinese, steamed, pudding, dessert, recipe,  八寶飯, traditional

The fun part of prepping for this Eight Treasure Rice Pudding is that there are eight treasures needed for decoration and you can chose whatever you like!  I decided to go with (clockwise from top right) candied lotus, green raisins, pine nuts, black raisins, dried dates, dried wolfberries, dried apricots and finally maraschino cherries.  

Lots of red and golden colors to bring the luck, of course.  The maraschino cherries are not really traditionally used in this pudding but just a homage to my 奶奶 who would always dot her rice puddings with these lovelies.  Plus they taste fabulous!  

Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, chinese, steamed, pudding, dessert, recipe,  八寶飯, traditional

For the mold you can use any dish that is okay for steaming and that will fit your pudding.  I used a deep bowl we usually use for noodles.  You need to generously oil the dish first to facilitate the unmolding of the pudding later.  

Then lay down the decorations that will be at the center top of your pudding.  We used maraschino cherry, pine nuts and green raisins to start our pattern.

Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, chinese, steamed, pudding, dessert, recipe,  八寶飯, traditional

Using glutinous rice 糯米 that has been steamed and gently mixed with sugar and lard, cover your decorations with a layer of the rice.  The decorations may slip around a bit so be gentle with layering.  Once you have rice covering the first layer of decorations you can move on to the second layer as above.  

For this layer we used more maraschino cherries and candied lotus seed 糖蓮子.  Gently add more rice just over this second layer of decorations, building up the sides of the mold and leaving room in the center for the red bean paste filling.

Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, chinese, steamed, pudding, dessert, recipe,  八寶飯, traditional

For the third layer we used dried apricots and dried red dates 紅棗, both sliced in half to allow them to lie flatter against the rice.  Again cover the new decorations with a layer of rice.  

Being gentle with the rice and pressing it too much is the key to handling glutinous rice.  If you press too much it will compact and not taste as tender and fluffy as it should be.

Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, chinese, steamed, pudding, dessert, recipe,  八寶飯, traditional

For the forth layer we used dried raisins and dried wolfberries 枸杞, also known as goji berries.  I gotta say that my favorite decorations are the fruits.  The dried fruits taste really yummy mixed with the glutinous rice, tart and tasty against the fragrant rice.  The more fruits and nuts you have the yummier and prettier the pudding will be so pack in as much decoration as you can!

chinese,Eight Treasures Rice Pudding,traditional,red bean paste,dessert,steamed,recipe,八寶飯,pudding
Red bean paste packed in
chinese,Eight Treasures Rice Pudding,traditional,red bean paste,dessert,steamed,recipe,八寶飯,pudding
Rice to cover all

When all your decorations have been laid down in the mold and covered with an even layer of glutinous rice fill the middle with red bean paste 紅豆沙 (see our recipe for Grandma's red bean paste) almost all the way to the top, then cover with a final layer of rice.  Cover the pudding with a plate and steam for an hour.  

Then at last, the Big Reveal, always the most nail biting part of any pudding or tart that needs to be flipped over for presentation.  What will your pudding look like?  Will it even come out of the mold in one piece?  Will the decorations be okay or will they just be all over the place?!  

I confess I freaked at one point because I thought my Eight Treasure Rice Pudding was not even going to come out of the mold at all, but luckily for me, before I burst into tears, my 老公 pointed out to me that the pudding was still hot and that I should wait for it to cool before unmolding.  He was right, darn the man, and once cooled to room temperature, the big reveal of my steamed pudding was every bit as heart thumpingly satisfyingly gorgeous as I had hoped.  

A gorgeous, decadent, rich and yummilicious slice of sweet beany fruitiness, this Eight Treasure Rice Pudding 八寶飯 is the perfect dessert to finish off an equally decadent Chinese New Year's feast!

chinese, dessert, Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, pudding, recipe, steamed, traditional, 八寶飯,  red bean paste
Eight Treasures Rice Pudding
Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 1 hour 45 mins


    For Decoration**


Soak glutinous rice for an hour in cool water.  Then pour out the water, refill with clean water, stir and pour out starchy water.  Repeat until the water no longer cloudy.  Put rice in shallow steaming dish and add water to just cover.

Steam over medium high heat for 45 mins or until rice is cooked through and fluffy.  Remember to check steaming water level and add water if needed.  Scrape hot rice into mixing bowl, add in lard and sugar (to taste) and very gently mix together.

Generously oil the bowl you want to use as a mold.  Slice the maraschino cherries and dates in half lengthwise and the apricots in half width wise.  Add in the first layer of your pattern at the bottom and place an even layer of cooked rice over the decorations, about 1/2" thick, being careful not the disturb the decorations below.

Add in the next layer of decorations, again cover the decorations with even layer of approx 1/2" thick rice.  Repeat previous steps, building up the sides of your mold until you reach the top.  

Add the red bean paste to the middle of pudding, leaving 1/2" space on top for the last layer of rice.  Add last layer of rice.  

Snuggly cover the top of the pudding with a well oiled plate .  Steam over medium heat for one hour, checking the level of steaming water and refilling as necessary.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Slowly lift off plate cover, using a blunt knife to help release any rice that is sticking.  Use the knife again to carefully loosen the sides of the pudding from the bowl.  Place serving plate upside down over the pudding, then flip over.  Remove the mold.  If mold is sticking, lift one corner and jiggle a bit, letting gravity help slide the pudding out.

Serve in small slices at room temperature.  If needed rewarm the pudding by steaming for 10 mins.  Let cool and wrap in cling film to store in refrigerator for up to a week.  Enjoy the pud!

*Note 1:  Traditionally lard is used for this dessert.  If you do not want to use lard (see our post on how to make your own lard) we recommend as a substitute first virgin coconut oil and then peanut oil.

**Note 2:  The eight treasures listed in the recipe are suggestions only, please feel free to mix and match or switch it up as you like!



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