Discovering the eight treasures of a famous Shanghai treat

People in Shanghai will swarm to a bowl of eight treasure rice which, for them, signifies reunion.

Filmed by Zhou Shenjie. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Zhang Yang. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.

One thing people realize after they’ve been in China for a while is that different areas of the country prefer completely different snacks during traditional celebrations. 

Dumplings are the must-have dish for people in Northern China on Chinese New Year’s Eve, but people in Shanghai will swarm to a bowl of eight treasure rice which, for them, signifies reunion.

Nowadays, this sweet dish it is not just popular in Shanghai, but all across the nation. Different regions have even altered the dish to suit their own tastes.

In Shanghai, the home of eight treasure rice, the treat is normally made of sticky rice, lard and eight “treasures”: sweetened bean paste, lotus seeds, walnut seeds, strips of processed fruit, candied jujube, raisins, red jujube the flesh of melon seeds.

Executive Chef Huang Renkang at Sunya was kind enough to show us how the professionals make it. 

Sticky rice and sweetened bean paste are the two major ingredients, though. The first step is to steam the sticky rice for hours, after which sugar and lard are added and mixed in. The second step is to put the eight “treasures” in the bottom of a bowl before putting a layer of sticky rice on top. Once the sticky rice is pressed down a little, a layer of sweetened bean paste is added, before the whole thing is flipped over and steamed for 15 minutes.

Eight treasure rice is not only extremely yummy, it’s nutritious too. Walnut is good for enhancing memory and delaying aging, while red jujube can enrich the blood. But sticky rice is not easy to digest, so make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your belly!

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