Shanghai Series: Ba Bao Fen (八宝饭)

Ba Bao Fen: a colorful glob of rice!

It’s only November, and still, I am drooling over the thought of Chinese New Years in February : all my favorite foods on one table, wonderful (always for the soul…not always for the ears) Chinese karaoke roaring in the background, and fun, DDR filled, Asian children bonding. Ahh yes, Asian Children bonding. Rekindling with the childhood friends I’ve grown up with creates the type of bond no chemical term can define. In fact, it is better defined through Chinese food; our bond is stickier than that between one rice grain next to another in the sticky glob that is Ba Bao Fen, a famous dessert served during Chinese New Years and any other festive gathering among the Chinese.

Me when I think of Chinese New Years

This dish is a beautiful blob of glutinous rice mixed with an assortment of little “jewels”. Think sushi’s sticky rice, but warm and sweet, like a really, really ricey, non-runny porridge. These little “jewels” or “treasures” consist of candied fruits, a selection of nuts, and a warm sticky red bean paste, which, I know, sounds kind of gross, but is a staple to many Chinese desserts. This paste is found in no American dish, and therefore, is a must try for all those adventurous foodies. Now, this dish is called EIGHT Treasure Rice, and thus, this glob has hidden in it eight treasures. These treasures consist of the must-have glutinous rice, the red bean paste as the filling, and that leaves room for six other nougats of fun. Maybe you’ll have four different kinds of fruit and two nuts, or three fruits and three nuts. Any combination works as long as there are EIGHT different treasures in this dish.


Now for those inquisitive folks, you may be wondering why eight? Well did you ever wonder why the Beijing Olympics started on 8/8/08 at 8:08PM? Seeing a pattern? Turns out, eight is a lucky number in China. Eight, pronounced Ba, rhymes with the word Fa, which is translated into rich or fortuitous and prosperous. Lucky, indeed! On the other hand, the number four, Si, is similar to the pronunciation of the word Dead…AHH. This is why in some apartment buildings or skyscrapers skip the fourth level; it’s equivalent to our unlucky number thirteen.

The red bean inside

This is the reason why this dish is served during New Years in China; taking a big bite out of this will give you a whole year of luck, no Felix Felicis needed, wizards. This dish is an artistic dish, as you can see in the images. Mix the jewels all randomly or place them delicately as a beautiful mosaic of colors and textures. It’s a dome of luck, a dome of happiness, a dome of sweetness. A dish filled with memories of the sticky bonds between family and friends.



Commence fasting for Chinese New Years: NOW.

This entry was posted in Passion Blog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply