Old China meets the New World in this take on the beloved Chinese tradition of sticky rice balls. But first, a little context.
These round, dainty and chewy rice balls–similar to mochi–are traditionally eaten during the Lantern Festival to mark the end of the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration. The roundness of these rice balls symbolizes unity and togetherness and is hence considered an auspicious food.
The rice balls can be plain or filled with black sesame paste, chopped peanuts or red bean paste, and usually served in light syrup. They can also be served in sweet rice wine syrup with ribbons of cooked egg–not unlike egg drop soup except it’s sweet.
But these days, variations abound, including twists in fillings such as chocolate and fruit preserve. Increasingly, they are considered a dessert and eaten year-round instead of being relegated to just festivals.
Now back to the New World. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to celebrate the pumpkin–a staple in America (once the “New World” relative to old civilizations in Europe and Asia).
This recipe centers on pumpkin–two ways. The first (and easier) variety is to simply incorporate the pumpkin into the sticky rice dough. The second variety uses the pumpkin as a filling and involves a couple extra steps including a slightly more involved preparation of the pumpkin filling.
Whether plain or made with pumpkin, these sticky rice balls are one of those comfort foods best enjoyed with friends and family.