Happy Lunar New Year!
Traditionally, a vegetarian dish called jai, also known as Buddhist’s delight, is eaten on the first day of the new year. I’m not actually breaking with tradition as one doesn’t eat jai all the livelong day (I guess you could but I’m not going to). For breakfast, I made a sticky rice ball.
In Chinese, it’s called ci fun tuan, a sticky rice ball/roll made of steamed glutinous rice with a savory filling. While it’s a popular Chinese breakfast item for those on the go, I didn’t grow up eating it on a regular basis.
The one time I vividly remember my mom making something like it was when my sister was still studying at the library around dinnertime. So mom made a rice ball with meat inside of it and made me take it to my sister where it was surreptitiously eaten after a bit of giggling.*
As you can see, I need to work on my technique as I had a few thin spots. I was trying to make the rice a thinner layer so it’s not this giant carb bomb.
Originally, the shape was to be a roll. But I had to really squish to get it to stick together and a ball shape was just easier to make. Ci fun tuan from a store have a thick cellophane wrapper, I only had flimsy plastic wrap, so I used parchment paper to shape and wrap up for on the go eating.
The pretty pink color is from sautéed beet greens. I also subbed in Hodo Five-Spice Tofu Nuggets, and fried seitan (found at the Asian supermarket) for the more traditional ingredients of pork floss, pickled mustard greens, cruller, and sichuan vegetable. Other possible veggie fillings: seitan sausage, sautéed mushrooms, really anything that’s not too saucy otherwise it’ll just drip all over. And no one wants that.
* I’m neither advocating nor endorsing eating in a public library.
Sticky Rice Ball (Ci Fun Tuan)
Makes about 4-6 balls depending on size
1 3/4 cup glutinous rice (using the measuring cup that came with the rice cooker)
1/4 cup jasmine rice
A variety of strongly flavored fillings such as baked tofu, seitan sausage, sautéed greens and/or Chinese dried mushrooms
Cooking directions is for use with a rice cooker with a 5.5 cups capacity. Using the inner pot of the rice cooker, rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water is clear. Add enough water to cook the sweet rice as indicated on the inner pot. Let the rice soak in the water for 2 hours before cooking.
Cook the rice according to the rice cooker directions. Allow the rice to cool enough to handle. It’s easier to shape the rice when it’s warm. Lay a piece of parchment paper or heavy duty cellophane in your hand or on a flat surface if that’s easier. Place a scoop of rice on it and spread out, add whatever fillings. Add another layer of rice on top. Using the paper, shape into a ball or tube, pressing firmly until it’s tight and compact.
Make it as big or small as you like. I like mine with a minimal amount of rice, I don’t mind eating carbs but I don’t want to eat a lot of it at one go so I try to use the least amount of rice I can get away with.