Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Babao Fan

                                                              " Baobao yao chi babao fan ma?"

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              Babao fan (eight jewels rice): glutinous rice with sweet red bean paste filling and a shell of  8 sweet 'jewels': candied cherries, dried longans, red dates, gingko seeds, lotus seeds, walnuts, dried apricots and raisins. So Chinese New Year.

I had the ultimate jelly for the last day of the Jelliriffic! Challenge and I just tested it today and it failed. I wanted to make a hard chocolate shell (like the Dairy Queen dipped cone) of the Nick Munro mould, with the lines of the mountain embossed on the chocolate, but the chocolate couldn't come off the mould in one piece. I have to come up with Plan B but I'm afraid to disappoint. Anyway, I've done my best and I really hope that many of you are convinced enough about the versatility of the Nick Munro moulds to buy at least one because the proceeds are going to the Breast Cancer Welfare Association Of Malaysia in aid of breast cancer awareness programs and women with breast cancer. Buying a mould or more is a terrific way to contribute towards helping those with the disease and those without the disease too because the stats are pretty scary: 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed in the US is breast cancer and in Malaysia, breast cancer is the No. 1 killer among women with cancer. Only RM290/USD100, and you help the Breast Cancer Welfare Association and women who are in need plus you get a mould which you can make jellies with, serve soup and ice cream in and even hold your favorite bouquet. And of course, you get a chance to cast your vote for the winner of the Jelliriffic! Challenge. Just four days to go so hurry!

Because of the Challenge, I finally got off my butt (and part of my butt got off me because I lost 2 kgs) and made many jellies and desserts which I would otherwise not have made. After making a dessert a day for the last 25 days, I've gained confidence, learnt to manage my time better (not, because I forgot to pick my son up yesterday!) and found that I really enjoy developing new recipes.

Today's babao fan (eight treasures/jewels rice) is one of those things I was too daunted to make. I didn't even particularly like this traditional Chinese dessert until two years ago. Every third day of Chinese New Year (CNY), we eat dinner at Uncle and Aunty Lu's (friends of my in-laws) and the highlight at the end of the meal would be Aunty Lu's eight treasures rice pudding. Eating the pudding is such a treat that I'd hear my in-laws say on the way home, "Mrs Lu's ba bao fan is the best ever this year," or "Mrs Lu's ba bao fan was a little too hard this year" or "I didn't even manage to grab a spoonful of Mrs Lu's babao fan". Uncle Lu is from Ning Bo in the Jiangsu-Zhejiang region, where cities such as Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi and Yangzhou are located. I always felt that Mrs Lu could've made a bigger babao fan with more hongdousha (red bean paste) and more bao (treasures) because with a crowd of about 30 people, one serving was one scoop of rice pudding with one tablespoon of red bean paste and maybe a gingko nut if you are lucky. That wasn't enough for a once-a-year dish. MIL said that that's Lu Aunty's trick to make people crave her pudding even more.

Two years ago, Hub's cousin brought a babao fan from Shanghai when she visited for CNY. It was the best babao fan I've ever eaten and if I liked babao fun for the rarity of eating it once a year, that babao fan made me a fan of the fan (pronounced "fun"). Wey says my puns are terrible.

With all the reverence given to this traditional Chinese dessert, I never considered making it. The old folks talk of the patience needed to make the red bean paste and how the best bean paste must be made with lard. Then they tell me that a lot of skills and experience go into buying the perfect glutinous rice and making sure it is cooked to the right texture and sweetness. Wouldn't you be daunted too?!

The last time I bought red bean paste, I felt so bad serving the red bean baos to my family. The bean paste was cheap (RM3 per 1/2 kg), looked real dark red and after refrigeration, had a white layer of solidified oil. I threw away the remaining bean paste and swore that I'll never buy it again. You know what? I made red bean paste last night and it took less than one hour. I know what goes into the paste (the best red beans, less sugar and oil) and the best part was, the paste was delicious and bursting with red bean flavor. I felt like I've climbed a culinary mountain.

How was my babao fan? It's funny how things turn out, even food. I've told you how I wished that Lu Aunty's babao fan could be more loaded with treasures. My babao fan was so overloaded that every mouthful was full of treasures. I realized something then. Babao fan should be about the rice first, then the red bean paste and then the treasures. The treasures are necessary but in small portions to sweeten the rice, to give different flavors and bite and to pretty up the dessert. If I make babao fan again, I won't cover it with treasures. Like an overmade-up face, more is too much.

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Boiling the treasures, guihua (osmanthus, the vanilla of China), blending the red beans and frying the beans. I didn't remove or sieve away the skins from the red beans.

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I found 9 types of treasures (substituted candied cherries with maraschino cherries) in my kitchen. The candied ginger and citrus peel were mistakes because the ginger gave a hot taste and the candied peel was too intense. Green or golden raisins would've been a better choice than the ginger and citrus peel.

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This was the first time I used the moulds for steaming. The moulds survived the heat.

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The Nick Munro mould makes such a modern babao fan. Lately everything looks cone-shaped. Did you realize that the Martha Stewart Dreamy Coconut Cake is cone-shaped too?

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8 Treasures Rice (for 2 moulds)
Choose 8 jewels:
6 lotus seeds, soaked, halved & green 'heart' removed
6 gingko seeds
5 Chinese dates, deseeded and halved
5 glace cherries, halved
10 dried longans
4 walnuts, quartered
almonds
2 pieces dried apricots
a spoonful of golden or green raisins
melon seeds

1 cup finest glutinous rice
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp veg oil
red bean paste

Syrup:
2 to 3 tbsp brown or 'slab' sugar
optional:1 tsp dried guihua (osmanthus)
liquid from boiling the lotus seeds
--Put the liquid (about 3/4 cup) from boiling the lotus seeds and red dates into a small pot with the guihua and sugar and boil until reduced to half. The syrup shouldn't be thick. Sieve the syrup and throw away the guihua.

Red Bean Paste (there'll be leftover paste):
1 cup red beans, washed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup veg oil
--Boil the beans in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes with enough water to cover the beans. Leave in the pot to cool. There shouldn't be much liquid. If there is, drain it away leaving just enough for blending. If you want to remove the red bean skin, push the beans through a sieve. I think that's a waste of fiber and vitamins so I don't.
--Use an electric hand-blender to blend the beans until very fine.
--Heat a wok, add the oil, beans and sugar and fry under low heat for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the beans become thick and pasty and don't run when parted with the frying ladle.

1. Wash the rice and boil it with about 350 ml of water or enough water to cover with a level of about 1.75 cm above the rice. Turn the fire to low when the rice boils, add the oil and sugar and let it cook for 10 minutes. Check if rice is done. The rice should preferably be soft rather than hard.

2. Put the lotus seeds, red dates, longans and gingko nuts to boil with 1 tbsp of sugar and enough water to just cover. Boil 5 minutes only and drain, reserving the liquid for making the syrup.

3. Grease the moulds. Begin with a couple of jewels, then rice and then a layer of bean paste. Alternatively, you can have the bean paste as a filling in the middle.

4. Cover the mould with strong aluminium foil and steam for 45 minutes. Serve when still warm, with the syrup. The pudding can keep in the freezer for months.

9 comments:

Zurin said...

Im not a fan of dried fruits because I find them too concentrated in sweetness that my teeth cant take it.But I love how they look in your cone babao fan! Beautiful.indeed like treasures...so well done Terri and original....:) cant wait for your next four cones !

tina said...

I've never tried Babao fan before but I bet yours wins hands down anytime. It looks very pretty! Not long more to go!

Janine said...

I've had babao tang before but never the rice! reminds me to go try it :D and it sure looks absolutely lovely - I think your cones are getting more and more creative as October progresses.

About the chocolate - did you try using a blowtorch to release the cone? It should work usually. Hopefully Plan A works!

RUNNING BROOK said...

It looks really appetising and the colours are so enticing.

So the "mountain" of a cone helped you climb a culinary mountain too! What a win-win. :P

Veronica Lee said...

O my! I LOVE Asian desserts. Looks so "jewelry" beautiful and so delicious! Thanks for the red bean paste recipe too. Looks so simple and no need to discard skin too?! When did life ever get this easy?! Most encouraging Terri! Altho I love cooking and baking, I'm a real lazy bum and always looking for short cuts. Think I will make my own paste now. Store bought ones are so scary; almost as scary as Asian ghosts, lol! - I run a mile away from them; which means I never get to make red bean buns. Now with your encouragement, I will make the paste myself and I will NOT be deprived of tausa pau or any Asian desserts that require tausa. Thanks zillion, Terri.

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

never eat Babao fan before, nice creation.

ChopinandMysaucepan said...

One word Terri - WOW!!

I have never even heard of baobao fan before. I tend to agree that you may have overloaded on the "treasures" but what is a bit of decadence now and then?

I am very curious about this dessert now and will do some googling during my free time. This is indeed a show-stopping winner! Well done.

Clement said...

Wow.....Fantastically gorgeous. It looks sooooo delicious and is making me salivating!!!!! One thumb up! Good Job

xlpharmacy said...

Wow!! I am surprised , I have never seen something similar , I am sure Ir is delicious, thanks for sharing my dear friend !

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