Eight treasure rice pudding doesn’t involve any treasure. Instead, the treasures in this dessert are eight different types of dried fruit and nuts, arranged like jewels atop steamed, sweet rice.
The dessert is part of a long tradition of dishes centered around the number 8 (eight, or ba, sounds a lot like fa, the Chinese word for prosperity). Some stories say the rice was created in ancient times as a sweet way to honor eight valiant warriors. Other tales claim the pudding has a shorter history, and that it gained fame in the Qing Dynasty when it was presented to the Dowager Empress.
To make the treasured treat, chefs cook glutinous rice with sugar, and butter or lard to add richness. Then, they spoon it into a bowl or mold, lined with the eight treasures. The treasures can be healthy, or sugary-sweet. They can even be savory. Jujubes, winter melon, lychees, almonds, walnuts, and maraschino cherries are just a handful of the treasures that make the pudding as beautiful as it is delicious. When it is steamed and released from the mold, it’s a lovely sight, making it particularly popular at festivities such as Chinese New Year.
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