Eight-Treasure Glutinous Rice Cake
The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (William Morrow)
This is a most special sweet, a classic from Shanghai that has come to be a festive dish throughout all of China, particularly in Nanjing[ and Suzhou. Historically the "8 treasures" included lotus seeds, almonds, red dates, sweet bean paste and pieces of preserved or candied fruit, over which a sugar syrup was poured at serving. It requires some effort to make and involves steaming rice twice, so it is rarely, if ever, a dish made in the home. It is, however, a wonder and satisfying dish to prepare.]
Wash the glutinous rice 4 times in room-temperature water and drain well. Place in a cake pan. Add 2 1/2 cups cold water to the rice. Place the cake pan in a steamer, cover, and steam for 30 to 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked. It will acquire a glaze and be translucent. Turn off the heat. Scoop out the rice, add to the bowl of fruit, and mix well to combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Coat a steamproof bowl, 1 1/2-quart size, with 1 1/2 teaspoons of peanut oil, making certain the bowl in well coated. Coat the hands as well, so the glutinous rice may be handled. Pick up half of the rice-fruit mixture, coat it with the remainder of the peanut oil, and pack it into the bowl, pressing it to the sides. Place the red bean paste in the center of the rice mixture and spread it a bit. Place the remainder of rice on top and press down gently.
Place the bowl in a steamer, cover, and steam for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat. Remove the bowl and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Pass a blunt dinner knife around the edge of the rice to loosen it. Place a serving plate, inverted, on top of the bowl, and upend it. The cake should slip out easily. Its fruit-dotted texture will glisten.
Use a large spoon to divide among individual bowls. Because of its texture, the steamed glutinous rice is virtually impossible to slice as one might a cake. Often a sugar syrup is poured over Eight-Treasure Glutinous Rice Cake when served. It is not at all necessary, because the various fruits, their sugars concentrated from drying, and the red bean paste are sufficiently sweet.
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