Saturday, July 12, 2008

Leaning Towards Laziness

A while ago, when I was having a hard time getting motivated to do any cooking for this blog, I had a brainstorm one night. I thought I could indulge my laziness and still come up with something for the blog by introducing my dear readers to various products found in Chinese supermarkets. At the time, I popped open a can of Apple Sidra, took a few pictures, penned a few words, and voila! A blog post with very little effort involved.

However, it seemed like a cop-out at the time so I never posted it. But as I've thought about it since then though, I've decided that the idea has some actual merit. Chinese grocery stores/markets are popping up all over the place. There is even a great one around the corner from my apartment here in suburban Utah. Asian markets are great because most of the products, to include (most importantly in my opinion) produce, are cheap. If your only goal is to pick up some fruits and vegetables and maybe some fish, then you don't need an education in Asian cuisine to shop there. However, if you are willing, and maybe a little bit daring, there is a world of fun products to be found throughout the store. The question is, where to start? Without a guide of some kind, I think it can be hard, possibly overwhelming, to pick out products that are likely to suit your palate. That's where I come in. Every now and then I'll post an introduction to one of my favorite Chinese products. If it sounds like something you are likely to enjoy, or piques your curiosity, you'll hopefully be able to pick it up at a Chinese market near you.

Peanut Rice Balls

I'll just say right now that I love food products made from glutinous rice. It may be an aquired taste, but for whatever reason, I love it. In Taiwan you can eat glutinous rice all sorts of ways. In my second area, 草屯 (Cao Tun), there was a little lady who rode around town on a bicycle with glutinous rice and a couple different filling options. You'd flag her down and she would make little glutinous rice packets stuffed with the filling of your choice (sugared ground peanuts for me). At dim sum I love ordering the deep fried sesame balls, where the sweet filling is enclosed in a ball of glutinous rice and then rolled in sesame seeds. There is something about the slick, sort of sticky texture of glutinous rice that I really like, so I'll admit that it's not so much the flavor, as the texture, that has won me over.

Anyway, at some point during my mission one of my Taiwanese companions introduced me to these little peanut rice balls. You buy them frozen at the grocery store and can also buy ones stuffed with black sesame seeds (芝麻) or red beans (红豆). You bring a pot of water to boil, throw in a little bit of sugar to sweeten up the water, and add as many of the balls as you want. Let them boil for about 7-10 minutes and then serve. I pour them into a bowl with a little bit of the "broth". You don't actually drink the broth, but just fish out the balls.

This is obviously not fine dining, but for those of us with a strange passion for glutinous rice, its a quick and easy way to get a fix whenever the urge strikes.

FYI, this is my favorite brand. It's from Taiwan and is actually the same brand I ate when I lived there. I've tried other brands and the rice balls have fallen apart pretty easily in the water, which I don't like. You want a ball thats got enough body to keep the filling inside while it boils away.

1 comment:

Sara said...

I love the word "glutinous" because it sounds like a cross between "gluttony" and "envious" -- two of the seven deadly sins. But it looks like your strange Chinese squishy balls are far more innocent. I think next time we are together, I would try them: it is easier to be daring with someone else cheering you on.

Glutinously yours,