My Facebook was flooded with photos of Floating rice cakes/ Vietnamese mochi balls with brown sugar filling, which means it is the time of the Cold Food festival. We were preparing for Matthias’s leaving to Paris yesterday, so it was not until this morning that I sat down and made myself a plate of this treat. The Cold Food Festical is a 3-day festival, so it’s still in the right time for this treat today
Let me rant a bit before getting to the recipe. When I talked to my friend in England yesterday evening, telling her I was going to make Floating rice cakes for The Cold Food Festival, she asked me what this festival is about. I was caught a bit off guard to be honest, since I kind of celebrate this festival by default, and my mom always bought Floating rice cakes for this festival when I was in Vietnam so I didn’t really know the origin of the festival. I did a search on Google and found the story of the origin of the festival, which is pretty interesting so I want to share with you guys (copied from Wikipedia, with some slight modifications)
During the Spring and Autumn period, Prince Chong’er of the state of Jin endured many hardships while he was exiled from his home state because of the Li Ji Unrest. Once, when Chong’er and Jie Zitui passed through the State of Wey, all their provisions were stolen. In order to help the prince who was tormented by hunger, Jie Zitui cut off the flesh from his thigh and offered it to the prince for sustenance.
Later, when Chong’er became Duke Wen of Jin, he ordered a search for Jie Zitui who had gone into hiding in the remote mountains with his mother. Jie Zhitui had no political ambitions and felt ashamed to work with his hypocritical fellows, hence refused invitation of the Duke. Duke Wen ordered the mountains to be burned down in order to force Jie out of hiding. However, the fire ended up killing Jie and his mother.
Filled with remorse, Duke Wen ordered that each year during these three days the setting of fire is forbidden – all food was to be consumed cold (from the 3rd to 5th March of the Lunar Calendar). Therefore, the Festival is named The Cold Food Festival.
It is really not difficult to make Floating rice cakes, a search on Google with give you a few thousands recipes. The best way to make this dish is to use fresh glutinous rice flour grounded from soaked glutinous rice. It is impossible to find that here, so I have to use dried flour from Asian stores. The cakes will be a bit less flavorful, so I decided to give it some more color and taste, to make the dish taste better and make it looks more fun as well.
Công thức tiếng Việt: Bánh trôi ngũ sắc
Preparation time: 20-25 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Yields: 8-10 balls for each color
* Ingredients (for each color):
- 50g glutinous rice flour
- Brown sugar sticks (or palm sugar)
- White sesame seeds for coating the top
* Coloring ingredients:
- Green: fresh pandan leaves or pandan paste
- Deep yellow/orange: pumpkin or sweet potatoes, steamed and puréed
- Red: spiny bitter gourd or beetroot juice
- Purple: steamed puréed yams or red cabbage stock
1. For every color, it is basically heating up the the juice/purée and knead with the glutinous flour until it becomes a smooth ball that doesn’t stick to your hands, it should feel like play-doh. Every brand of flour will have different absorption level so I don’t have a fixed amount, it’s best to add bit by bit and adjust. If the dough feels to dry add more liquid, if it’s too wet then add more flour and knead. After you’re done kneading the flour, use cling film to wrap the dough to keep it from drying up.
- White dough: Put some water in the microwave and heat for about 30-45 seconds so it becomes warm. Add bit by bit to the flour and knead.
- Green dough: If you use pandan paste, just add 1-2 drops to some water and then do similar to the white dough. If using fresh pandan leaves, wash and chop the leaves, purée them with some water and use a clean cloth to squeeze out all the juice, use this to knead the dough.
- Deep yellow/orange dough: Steam pumpkin or sweet potatoes (I used sweet potatoes), purée and then add about 1 tablespoon of the purée into the flour and knead.
- Red dough: If using the meat of the spiny bitter gourd, do similar to the orange dough (minus the steaming). If using beetroot, peel and chop, purée and use a clean cloth to squeeze out the juice, use thif juice to knead the dough.
- Purple dough: If using yams, do similar to the orange dough. If using red cabbage, slice the cabbage and put in a saucepan, barely cover the cabbage with water and bring to a boil, turn the heat off as it boils and let the cabbage soak to release the colour. Strain the juice and use it to knead the dough.
2. Chop the brown sugar sticks/palm sugar into 5 x 5mm cubes. Toast around 2-3 teaspoons of sesame seeds and set aside.
3. Divide the dough into 8-10 parts. Push one sugar cubes into each part, cover the sugar cubes and roll into a smooth ball. Try to not leave too much air between the dough and the cubes so that the balls won’t break while cooking.
4. Prepare 2 water pots, put one on the stove and one next to the stove. Bring the water in one pot to a boil, then reduce to medium high heat. Drop the cake balls in and boil until the balls float to the top, let it boil for 3-4 minutes then use a slotted spoon to take the cakes out (this will help the sugar melt and makes the cakes that much more delicious), drop the cakes into the cold water pot so they won’t stick to each other when you put them on a plate.
5. Arrange the cakes on a plate, quickly dip your clean finger in some water, then in the sesame seeds and then stick them on top of the cakes. After that the only thing left to do is to devour.
Have a nice and delicious Cold Food Festival everyone.