Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sticky Rice Treats

When I was 17 and lived in Boston one of my roommates was a young British-Chinese woman who introduced me to the pleasures of sticky rice desserts. Sandra would probably be pleased to know that I still remember her whenever I have one that is really good. The last couple of days have been filled with fabulous sticky rice treats and she has been in my thoughts.

After work yesterday a friend and I walked past a bakery we had not seen before. Beijing is filled with bakeries, many specializing in Western European-style baked goods, albeit with a Chinese twist (bread roll with ham baked into it, anyone?). The bakery we saw yesterday had croissants, it had meringue cookies, it had truffles. One thing it also had that I hadn't yet encountered in the past week and a half (has it really only been that long?) was STICKY RICE DESSERTS. They had breads made with sticky rice. They had bite sized morsels of sticky rice dough. They had sticky rice bite-size donuts. They also had samples.

My friend and I each walked out of Panamie with a sticky rice ball, still warm from the oven. They looked sort of like Dunkin' Donut Munchkins but they were much, much better. In New York's Chinatown they are often dripping with oil, with sesame seeds all around. These had no extra oil and the sesame seeds were left off. They weren't needed. I bit into the sticky rice - it was sticky enough to require proper chewing, it almost stuck to my teeth but it stayed on my tongue without melting the way a wheat dough will, letting the flavor flee from your mouth before you've been able to truly experience it. No, I could taste the rice, perfectly sweetened and flavorful. At the center was a subtly sweetened red bean paste. This was sticky rice dessert nirvana and I have now experienced it.

Panamie offers baking classes. They're in Mandarin. I expect my cooking vocabulary will be getting better very shortly.

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