These Chinese rice puddings are slightly chewy, mildly sweet, and a delightful traditional snack. They require only 3 ingredients, are gluten-free, and they show that sometimes the most humble foods can be some of the best foods!
"Good food is very often, even most often, simple food." ~ Anthony Bourdain.
What Are Chinese Rice Puddings?
These rice puddings are called boot jai goh in Chinese, the boot jai referring to the stoneware bowls traditionally used to make them, and goh meaning "cake" or "pudding".
Thus translating the Chinese character name of 砵仔糕 literally means "bowl cake" or "bowl pudding".
Despite the name, though, they aren't really like cakes or pudding as you might think. The closest thing I can liken them to is jelly, but slightly firmer...and they don't come in fruit flavors!
They also don't need to be made in stoneware bowls specifically. I made them in tart cups, but you can also use foil tart cups, small bowls, or even a muffin tin!
They are made simply from a mixture of rice flour, tapioca starch, sugar, and water and steamed. That's it! And while that may not sound particularly tasty, don't write it off just yet! They are a favorite treat for many Chinese people and it might become one of yours, too!
How To Make Them
Make the Rice Pudding Liquid
You start by making a sugar solution. In a measuring cup or bowl, dissolve the sugar in just-boiled/hot water. Doing this step ensures that there is sweetness with no grittiness in the final product.
Next comes the rice flour slurry. In a larger measuring cup or bowl with a spout, combine the rice flour, tapioca starch, and mix thoroughly with some water until smooth and thickened. I find chopsticks make great "beaters" for this, but a small whisk will also work (just be sure to get into the corners to get all the flour mixed in).
Pour the sugar water into the rice flour slurry, mixing with your chopsticks or whisk as you add it.
Once all combined, it will have the look and consistency of milk. All of this takes about 5 minutes and it's ready to be go!
Steam the Cakes
Pour the rice flour mixture into the individual dishes or bowls, making sure to stir up the liquid before pouring in case there is settling. Steam over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Expert Tip: You can place the empty bowls/dishes directly in your steamer and pour the rice flour mixture into them directly. Alternatively, you can put the dishes on a plate, fill them, and then use hot dish tongs to transfer the entire plate to your steamer. It all depends on your steaming setup.
Once they are done cooking, they will each have a dimple in the middle of it. They will look translucent and quite wet, but let them cool completely at room temperature and they will turn more of a white color, which is what you want to see!
Transfer the bowls to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
How Do You Remove Them?
All you need is a toothpick to loosen the rice puddings and remove them from their dishes.
Simply run the toothpick all around the edge the pudding and then gently lift it up and out. That's it!
A Childhood Favorite
This is another recipe inspired by what my mom used to make and what I loved eating as a kid. If you are Chinese and of my generation, there's a good chance you are already familiar with these Chinese rice puddings and hopefully, they triggers some nostalgia from your childhood, too!
Besides being the sort of snack that is cooked at home, though, it is also a popular street food that can still be found sold in Hong Kong.
Commonly Asked Questions
Is sweet or glutinous rice flour the same as the rice flour used in this recipe?
No. You want to make sure you use regular white rice flour. Sweet or glutinous rice flour cooks up differently the puddings will not turn out properly.
How do you store them?
The rice puddings are best eaten within 2-3 days. They can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature or in the refrigerator....I quite like them cold! They will become more firm with each day.
What if the rice flour settles before I am ready to cook the puddings?
Before pouring the rice mixture into the dishes, make sure to use your chopsticks or whisk to stir the flour and water up again.
What do you eat them with?
They are perfect to eat as they are, by themselves!
Looking for more traditional Chinese recipes?
Here are a few more nostalgic dishes you may just like:
- Buddha's Delight (Jai) - A vegetarian noodle dish that is loaded with delicious ingredients and is often served during Lunar New Year.
- Crispy Roast Pork Belly (Siu Yuk) - Tender juicy tasty pork belly with crispy skin, you'll love every bite and crunchful!
- Chinese Taro Cake (Woo Tau Goh) - Chunks of tender taro suspended in a rice flour cake and topped with delicious savory toppings, it's another dish usually served during Lunar New Year.
- Rice Cooker Chinese Sticky Rice (Loh Mai Faan) - A popular dish served at dim sum, it's easy to make at home and I show you how to cook it in your rice cooker!
If these Chinese rice puddings don't instill a sense of nostalgia in you, but you are open to new experiences and trying traditional Chinese dishes, this is a really easy one to try! They're not the prettiest things, and the ingredients are simple and humble. One might even call it "poor people food", but sometimes the humblest dishes can become some of the most loved and memorable.
Chinese Rice Puddings (Boot Jai Goh)
- 3-inch tart-sized dishes (dishes can be nonstick, foil, ceramic, or glass)
- Prepare steamer. You want the water at a gentle boil (I have the stove set to just below medium).
- In a measuring cup or bowl with a spout, combine the rice flour, tapioca starch, and room temperature water. Use chopsticks or a small whisk to mix it into a thick slurry.
- In a separate measuring cup, combine the just-boiled water and sugar. Stir until sugar is complete dissolved.
- Add the sugar water to the rice flour mixture, mixing with chopsticks or a small whisk while pouring it in. The look and consistency will resemble milk.
- Pour the liquid into your bowls/dishes, making sure to mix the rice flour solution right before pouring in case the flour has settled.
- Steam the puddings over low-medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the bowls to a cooling rack and let the puddings cool completely. Repeat steaming any remaining rice flour mixture, being sure to stir the mixture with chopsticks or a whisk before pouring it into the dishes.
- To remove the rice puddings after they have completed cooled, run a toothpick along the edge of the pudding and the dish to loosen and lift it out.
- Store in a container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
- The dishes you use can be fluted, not fluted, non-stick, foil, stoneware, glass.
- The recipe is based on using 3-inch dishes.
- Whatever material dishes you use just need to be safe for heating/cooking.
- Set the bowls/dishes in your steamer before pouring in the rice solution OR fill the bowls on a plate and carefully transfer the plate to your steamer using hot dish tongs.
- The top of the puddings might steam up looking smooth or slightly bumpy, but both are completely okay.
- For the brown version of these puddings, use brown rock sugar, making sure to dissolve it in the hot water before adding it to the rice flour mixture.
- Add a teaspoon of almond extract to the rice flour solution for a bit of added sweetness and flavor.
- This recipe uses white rice flour; brown rice flour may affect the texture and will affect the color.
- Be sure to use regular rice flour and not sweet or glutinous rice flour.
- Adjust the amount of sugar to your desired level of sweetness.
- Can be kept in a container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
- Best eaten within 2-3 days.
- This recipe was developed/inspired/adapted from, but not limited to, Baking with Mi and Cake On the Brain.