Happy Year of the Rat! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!
To start the New Year’s Day right, I wanted to make a sweet dish that is perfect for the
hangovers cold weather we’re having. I recently came across Deb’s article on NPR’s website about dumplings and it got me thinking about the sweet rice dumplings that we often made at home – Chè Trôi Nước. I’ve never liked desserts that are too sweet or cloying and I am not exactly a die-hard fan of caramel either. Yet, somehow, this dessert and flan (both have caramel sauce) might be my favorites. In this case, the sweet caramel is balanced with the slightly savory but sweet mung bean filling, and the fresh ginger adds a nice, little kick to entire dish. We use Asian brown sugar (sometimes labeled Brown Candy or Chinese Candy Pieces) which is usually sold in 1-pound packages, consisting of of several thick slabs of sugar. It adds a beautiful, dark color and a subtle roasted flavor to the caramel.
Sweet dumplings are easy to make and even more fun if you have your children help. When we were young children, we used help our mother make these dumplings and we would try to see who could make the roundest, perfectly shaped dumplings. I think you know who won ;)
This can be served warm or chilled. Before sprinkling the top with toasted white sesame seeds, you can also spoon a little coconut milk over the the dumplings.
CHÈ TRÔI NƯỚC – STICKY RICE DUMPLINGS WITH CARAMEL GINGER SYRUP
INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)
- 1.5 cups (~260 g) dry mung beans, soaked in water overnight
- 4 shallots, thinly sliced or minced [the white bulbs of green onion can be substituted]
- 2 tsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4-5 slabs Asian brown sugar
- 8 cups (~2L) water
- 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned into small strips
- 3 heaping cups (~5oog) glutinous [sticky] rice flour
- 1 .5 cups (350 mL) hot, boiling water
- white sesame seeds
- coconut milk
- Add the soaked mung beans to a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover the beans by at least one inch (2cm). Cook on medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Gently boil the beans until tender (approx. 20-30 min) and drain in a colander. While they are still hot, mash them with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add salt and blend. Set aside. Next, sweat (gently cook) the shallots in oil until soft and translucent. Add them to the mashed mung beans and mix to combine. Measure about 1 Tbl. (1 cs) of the mashed mung beans and form into round, compact balls. Repeat with the rest of the mung beans.
- In the same saucepan that you used to cook the mung beans (heat on med) , add 8 cups of water, ginger and brown sugar. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, use a wooden spoon to combine the flour and hot water in a mixing bowl. While the dough is still very warm (but cool enough to handle), form into a round and cut into several slabs. Roll the slabs into round links (approx. 1 inch (~2.5 cm) in diameter. Cut the dough into 1.5 inch (~4cm) pieces. Using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, flatten into a disk that is approximately 1/8 inch (~.3cm) thick and 4 inch (~10cm) in diameter. Place a mung bean ball in the center and enclose with the entire filling. Gently roll the dumpling between the palms of your hands until you have a smooth, crease-less surface. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients. If you have leftover white dough, make smaller balls without filling. We called the filled dumplings mamas and the smaller, plain dumplings babies :)
- Add the dumplings to the simmering syrup. Once the dumplings rise to the top (about 2 minutes), carefully transfer them to a small bowl (along with syrup) and top with coconut milk and sesame seeds. [You can add or discard the ginger, depending on your preference.]