February 10th is the start of the Chinese New Year, and whilst most coeliacs will be recoiling from Chinese menus due to ever-present soy sauce and wheaty batters, Chinese sweets and cakes are often made with glutinous rice flour. Don’t get confused between glutinous and gluten – this is a whole treasure trove of naturally gluten free sweet treats!
Examples include Nian Gao– a traditional cake served at New Year. A sticky, steamed dessert. Western palettes often struggle with the glutinous texture so here’s a gentler introduction with some Asian-ish flavours adapted from this recipe. Chinese sweets are often sweetened naturally with vegetables like sweet potato or red beans. I’ve gone light on the sugar here, if you want something sweeter, add a little brown sugar into the dough or dust with icing sugar after cooking. You can pick up glutinous (or sweet) rice flour easily from most asian supermarkets – of course, take care with cross contamination.
Makes 12 small dumplings
- 1 large sweet potato
- 100g glutinous rice flour
- 50g dark chocolate
- 1 piece of crystallised stem ginger and syrup from the jar (to serve)
- First, cook the sweet potato. The easiest way is to stab it all over with a fork and cook on full power in the microwave for approx 6 minutes or until soft.
- When the potato is done, split it in half and scoop out the flesh. Whizz into a purée with a hand blender and set aside to cool to just above room temperature.
- While the potato is cooling, chop the chocolate into small chunks (approx half a centimetre across).
- Weigh out approximately 150g of the sweet potato. Using a knife, and then your hands, mix with the rice flour to form a smooth dough. Adjust the consistency with water if too dry or more flour if sticky.
- Set a large pan of water to boil while you make the dumplings. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a ball with your hands. Poke your thumb in the middle to make a cup and fill with chocolate pieces. Squish the sides together to seal the chocolate in, and squidge in your hand to make a round dumpling.
- Cook the dumplings by lowering into a large pot of boiling water. Make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or each other. When they rise to the surface, reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. They will be very sticky when they dry, so you may wish to put them on a lightly oiled plate. Make sure they don’t touch one another.
- Serve warm with a drizzle of ginger syrup and slivers of the stem ginger. If making in advance, store in the fridge in an airtight tub and gently warm up for a few seconds in the microwave.
For more ideas on naturally gluten free Chinese sweets using glutinous rice, visit our Pinterest board.