Any variety of dried and candied fruits can decorate this lightly sweet sticky rice dessert, but using a lucky assortment of eight is traditional. The Chinese word for the number eight, ba, sounds similar to fa, which means prosperity and confers fortuitous meaning on the dessert. For her Lunar New Year celebration, Lucky Chow producer Danielle Chang likes to decorate hers with an opulent assortment that includes candied orange peel, goji berries, amarena cherries, kumquats, lemon peel, edible flowers, mandarins, lychees, red dates (jujube), maraschino cherries, gooseberries, kiwi berries, pomegranate, dragon fruit, and sliced figs. Do not substitute sushi or other short-grain rice here; sweet glutinous rice contains a starch that helps the grains stick together without getting mushy.

Danielle Chang
February 2021

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Credit: Charissa Fay

Recipe Summary test

active:
40 mins
total:
1 hr 50 mins
Servings:
6
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Place rice in a fine wire-mesh strainer; rinse under cold water, stirring rice with your fingers, until water runs clear, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Transfer rice to a small saucepan; add 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high. Stir once; cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until water is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, until rice grains are almost tender with a slightly firm center, about 10 minutes. Uncover; stir in brown sugar and butter.  

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  • While rice stands, fill a large stockpot with water to a depth of 2 1/2 inches. Fit a steamer basket in stockpot, making sure water doesn't touch steamer. Bring water to a boil over high. Generously grease a 6- x 3-inch round cake pan with butter. Press 1 cup candied fruit onto bottom of prepared cake pan, forming a decorative pattern. 

  • Spoon 1 1/2 cups cooked rice mixture over fruit in cake pan, 1 spoonful at a time, pressing to form a compact, even layer with fruit anchored in place. Spread red bean paste in an even layer over rice, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Press remaining 1/2 cup candied fruit evenly around edge of cake pan. Spread remaining 1 1/2 cups rice mixture over bean paste, pressing to form a compact, even layer. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. 

  • Place cake pan, foil side up, in steamer over boiling water. Cover stockpot; reduce heat to medium, and steam 1 hour.

  • Meanwhile, whisk together granulated sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium. Whisk in remaining 1/4 cup water. Cook over medium, whisking often, until sugar dissolves and thickens into a very light syrup, about 4 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and juice; remove from heat. 

  • Remove cake pan from steamer; remove foil, and let cake cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Run a knife along edge of cake to loosen. Place a small cake stand on top of cake pan, and invert; unmold onto stand. Pour lemon syrup evenly over cake. Slice into wedges, and serve. For clean slices, dip knife into warm water and wipe clean between slices.

Make Ahead

Ba bao fan can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.

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