It is easier to make this sticky (glutinous) rice ball than the classical ones because a filling, be it a sesame paste or a red bean paste, is not necessary. Instead, the rice ball takes the opposite role, acting as the filling for the pitted red date (in Chinese 紅棗) and giving this healthy, simple dessert a bouncy kick.
These stuffed dates actually have more kicks to themselves while serving warm, that is, when the aroma of them still floats and their fillings are still soft but springy. But as the rice balls are just steamed and hot, they are very sticky, even sticker than those cooked in soups. Eating cool is not a bad idea, but they should not be stored in fridge or consumed the next day.
I like using brown sugar than white sugar for the fillings because, after steamed, the rice balls will turn translucent and expose the color of sugar. I simply prefer them to look slightly brown than purely white. My bias.
- 15 dried red dates
- 20g sticky/glutinous rice flour
- 15g water
- 5g brown/white sugar
Soak dried red dates in about 2 cups of water for 30 minutes to soften them slightly. If there are are any dirts on their skins, rub them off gently (actually some impurities merely detach themselves after soaking). Discard water and pat dry dates. As the dates are softened, you will find it easy to make a vertical slit along one side thus having an opening to remove the stone. Be careful of the knife, you may try to envelop the date with a towel to avoid cutting your fingers.
Dissolve sugar in water, then mix the solution into the flour and knead the dough until no more lumps exist. Unlike those shown in my picture which has rested a while after stuffed, your dough should be slightly wet and sticky. Lay the dough on a clean, flat working surface and shape (by rolling it under your palms) into the shape of a rolling pin, about 1 cm in diameter.
Slice the dough crosswise into 15 equal portions. As you portion the dough by cutting, the original disc shape will be flatten a bit. But don’t worry, as long as each portion is in similar thickness and can be housed into the dates, that will be fine.
Arrange the stuffed dates on a steam-proof dish (try avoid having the dough face downward as it will glue to the dish when cooked). Set up a rack in wok like this and cover. After the water is brought to a boil, steam over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Serve warm and enjoy!
Feel free to multiply the amount to share with your friends and family. The amount of flour in this recipe yielded a dough just slightly larger than an egg.
For variations, actually a simpler version, just stuff the pitted red dates with roasted nuts, like walnuts, almonds, etc., and enjoy them without steaming. But do limit eating to only a few pieces a day because both red dates and roasted nuts are heaty foods, or you may end up with a sore throat.
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