The thing about sticky rice or pulut is once I start, I find it very hard to stop. It started with the serundeng post I did, which begged the pulut serundeng post and after that, of course I couldn't stop till every grain of sticky rice was gone from my pantry.
What makes it even stranger is the fact that I really am not a rice person on any given day. There's just something really moreish though, about the tender, succulent and swollen grains of pulut that makes it near impossible to stop reaching for another, then yet one more piece.
The fact that it's pandan scented and riddled with mealy, sweet red beans would have made it even more dangerous, had I not made it figure friendlier. It's amazing how my sluggish metabolism is so gifted at calculating (and revealing) calorie damage, when I can barely add up three and three and come up with six *grrrrrr*
Sticky rice by itself is pretty benign but it always cries out for luxuriant, creamy coconut milk, moist, fudgy palm sugar or maddeningly fragrant oil slicked spices and fatty meat. I'm still packing excess 'baggage' from Christmas, Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day, so I had to draw the line before I split my pants. I was toying with the idea of using coconut water instead of a coconut milk and water cocktail, but I thought it would make the rice taste too lean and downright mean, so low fat coconut milk was a happy and delicious compromise.
The slices were soft, chewy, moist and wonderfully beany, recalling both Japanese wagashi and Nyonya kueh. I had slice after slice, for breakfast, afternoon tea and dessert. Didn't bust the zipper or the seat of my pants, though I ate about three quarters of it myself over the course of a few days. The delicately delicious and spare flavours meld perfectly together and have an almost zen-like elementalism, so easy to appreciate after the inordinate richness of the past seasons' celebratory foods.
sticky rice and red bean cake
prep 6 hours (includes soaking) cook 1 1/4 hrs makes 24 thick slices
225 g (1 1/2 cups) red beans (ang tow or adzuki beans)
2 tsp baking soda
300 g (2 cups) sticky rice (pulut or glutinous rice)
200 ml (1 cup) low fat coconut milk
400 ml (2 cups) water
150 g (1 cup) sugar
1 tsp salt
4 pandan leaves, cut into short lengths or knotted
Remove any impurities from beans and wash several times. Drain well. Bring a large kettle of water to boil.
Put beans and baking soda into a large container and pour over boiling water until beans are completely covered in water. Stir to dissolve baking soda then cover and leave to soak for 6 hours to tenderise. In a separate container, wash, drain and then soak rice in cold water for 4 hours then drain and set aside.
Drain beans and wash several times to get rid of all traces of baking soda. Drain thoroughly. Prepare a steamer and bring to the boil.
In a mixing bowl, combine drained beans, drained rice, coconut milk, water,sugar, salt and pandan leaves. Stir gently but thoroughly to dissolve sugar and salt.
Line a 20 cm (8 in) square cake tin with double layers of cling wrap. Pour rice and bean mixture into tin and level ingredients so rice and beans are completely submerged in liquid.
Steam over high heat for 30 minutes then turn rice and beans over from bottom to top and vice versa. Rice should be cooked but still firm now. Level top of rice and steam again until rice and beans are tender. Remove from steamer and leave until comfortable enough to handle without burning your hand.
Using a gloved hand, press down firmly on surface of rice to pack down into tin and compress. Leave until competely cold then cut into slices with a wet or lightly oiled knife. Serve with black or green tea, coffee or soy milk, for breakfast, afternoon tea or at any time as a snack.