A Day Late and Lots of Dishes Short
Happy Lunar New Year/ Chinese New Year! Happy Year of the Dragon!
Usually, at this time of year I am very busy making lots of special treats for Chinese New Year and for a party that we usually have to celebrate this holiday. I must have used up all my energy in December for Christmas, though, because I just have not been able to get up the gumption to get prepared for Chinese New Year.
In fact, yesterday, we almost had no Chinese food at all! A Chinese New Year’s dinner often includes many, many dishes: noodles, steamed fish, some kind of pork, dumplings, spring rolls, turnip cakes, etc. Well, we did not have all that, but I did manage to make a little treat for us to have.
Red Bean New Year’s Rice Cake
Sweet red beans are really popular in Chinese desserts and snacks. Actually, a lot of different Asian countries use it in their traditional desserts. Japanese mochi often contains red bean paste and there’s a Korean pancake thing that has red beans in it. The bean paste is really easy to make once you get the red beans–and much cheaper than paying $5 a can for it like I saw at the Asian store the other day.
You take a pound of red beans, soak them for several hours or overnight. Then, simmer them in 8 cups of water and 12 ounces of sugar until they are all soft and most of the water is gone. Watch them closely at the end to make sure they don’t burn. I had to add extra water because I did not soak the beans as long as I should have (there I go being impatient again) and they were still hard after the water was all gone. Then, you mix in a couple tablespoons of your fat of choice. Most people use lard. I have used vegetable oil in the past and I considered using butter, but I decided to go with the duck fat I had in the fridge. It definitely gave it a different flavor–it tastes a little more savory, but still good.
Half of the red beans went into the rice mixture to make the cakes. I’ll show you what I plan to do with the other half later this week. The cake couldn’t be easier to mix up. Twenty ounces of hot water is mixed with 14 ounces of dark brown sugar. Then, you whisk in 24 ounces of glutinous rice flour (did I mention this treat is gluten free?). The red bean paste is the last to be mixed in and then you put it into the pans (that have been lined with plastic wrap and sprayed with oil) for steaming. I used two 8 inch cake pans because that’s what fits into my steamer. The steaming is the longest part–2 hours!
Once the cake is done, you can slice it and eat it while it is still a little warm. OR, wait until it is cool to slice it and fry it in a little oil, which is our favorite way of eating it. The frying makes the outside a little crispy and the inside stays warm and gooey. Yum!