Bā Bǎo Fàn for Breakfast: Chinese New Year 2014 – 恭喜發財!

Gōng xǐ fā cái, everyone! (Note the different spelling from last year... now that I'm re-learning Mandarin I actually know how to spell things in pinyin).

It's traditional to eat 八寶飯 bā bǎo fàn (literally 'eight treasure rice') during Chinese New Year. The number eight is considered auspicious in traditional Chinese culture, and this sweet pudding is supposed to feature eight components, often rice, different types of beans and dried fruits.

It can be made to look very beautiful, with pearly white rice as the bottom layer and jewel-bright fruits and beans on the top.

Or, it can be made the lazy way- which is the way I used this morning before going to work (or rather the night before as the ingredients needed soaking).

You can buy bā bǎo fàn in ready mixed packets- in this case, it was a mixture of white and black glutinous rice, grains and beans.

Already because it includes black rice, you know it's not going to look all white and shiny- the black rice will certainly turn everything purple. This, in my world, is a good thing of course.

For your benefit (oh alright, for mine because I'm a bit obsessive), I separated out each of the different components.

Here we have the beans:

Kidney, borlotti, mung and red (adzuki)
Interestingly the ingredients list didn't mention borlotti beans, and instead had jujube (red date), which is a more traditional ingredient. It also mentioned peanut as an ingredient, but there was none.

This wasn't the only gaffe, as I found out when counting out the grains.

Hushed buckwheat, black and regular glutinous rice, plain short grain rice and lotus seed flakes.

Four beans. Five grains.

This isn't 八寶飯 bā bǎo fàn. This is 寶飯 jiǔ bǎo fàn!

However, since nine is also a slightly auspicious number for CNY, I'll let it slide (because it sounds similar to 久 jiǔ ('long lasting')- there are supposed to be nine layers in the sticky rice cake kueh lapis: I will be posting a recipe for this tomorrow.

I soaked everything overnight- although you don't really need to soak the rice, dried beans DEFINITELY need soaking or they'll take forever to cook.

In the morning, all I had to do was boil it in some water. Note: when cooking dried beans (especially kidney beans), ALWAYS make sure you boil them on high for at very least fifteen minutes before eating (not that you'd want to anyway since they'd still be rock hard). The skin of the beans contains phytohaemagglutinin, which at worse will give your stomach an extremely rough time, and at worse could actually kill you.

Onto sweeter subjects, let's add a bit of sugar!

My usual way of posting in this blog is to post a picture of the finished product first. Now you'll see why I didn't.

Hey, I told you this wasn't the pretty way! But it tastes so good, and it makes a really nutritious breakfast. Hopefully it'll give me luck for the new year!


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