Ancient Chinese Secret Clay Steaming Cups…
haha! actually, they’re only a few years old. I purchased them in Chinatown in Vancouver and they merely look rustic.
My maternal grandmother had a set of these and my mother has her own set. They are a distinctly southern tradition and can be found in Asian bakeries around town in Metro Vancouver. BTW, check out my paternal grandfather’s heritage village area (our particular village in Kaiping (Hoiping) is called Xicun( “Shrimp Village”)…it made the UNESCO list of heritage sites! cool eh?
These clay molds, or “buut jai” are similar to muffin tins and are specifically designed for a Chinese sweet made of rice flour and sugar. When I was young and living with my maternal grandmother, Poh Poh, during the summers after my grandfather passed away, I ate many a confection made entirely of sugar and rice flour. This particular sweet is close to my heart as it is comforting.
As with all homey desserts, this one lacks in pizzazz and beauty. However, it is a favourite among children. The rice pudding cakes are slightly chewy if made properly and a little sweet but not cloyingly so. The little cakes must have a belly button in my opinion—signifying that is has been made properly. Otherwise, it’s a fake. A farce. haha. Some people put red beans in theirs (uck!) or use brown sugar (meh!) but in our household, the clean lines, the empty belly button and the pure white Buut Jai Goh is da BOMB!
My daughters have a sore throat and dry cough right now and there’s not much I can give them other than Manuka honey for the throat, green tea and some cough drops with even more manuka honey. I recall when I was young, how eating Baak Tong Goh ("White Sugar Cake", a fermented kind of super sweet rice pudding cake) or a Buut Jai Goh would alleviate my sore throat. The sticky rice pudding would coat the throat temporarily and it would make me feel all better for a little while.
My maternal grandmother is no longer with us, and my mother was never one to make something from scratch if it could be purchased easily at a local bakery; but I sure have a passion for reliving the good ol’ days! In a matter of an hour, I had these on a plate ready for my daughter to eat. Bebe loved it and ate 2 right away. Bib didn’t think much of it and declined them. Her loss.
click on for the recipe...
BUUT JAI GOH (Clay Bowl Steamed Sweet Rice Cakes)
- 1 1/4 cup rice flour
- 2 cups water
- 2/3 cup sugar (or lightly packed brown sugar)
- 1/2 cup cold water
- Prepare steamer: preheat empty clay bowls (or small rice bowls) on high heat. This recipe makes 15 cakes. You may have to adjust for the size of your bowls. [tip: I like to spray my bowls with Pam to allow for easier removal if the cakes later]
- In a large saucepan, combine the 2 cups water with the 2/3 cups sugar and heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk the rice flour while slowly incorporating the 1/2 cup cold water. The batter will be thick.
- Slowly pour the sugar mixture into the rice mixture, whisking to thoroughly combine.
- Carefully pour the mixture into the preheated clay bowls.
- Cover and steam for 20 minutes. If you’ve done this right, you’ll get an indent in the centre; what I like to call a “belly-button” in the middle of your little cake.
- Important: remove the clay bowls from the steamer and allow to cool on the counter for at least an hour or until set. Use a wooden skewer to remove the cakes from the clay molds. When cooled, store covered with plastic wrap at room temperature. You can briefly resteam the cakes if you like to eat them a little warm. I like mine at room temperature.