Last night, I demonstrated on Periscope how you can make a nutrient-rich, hot soupy dessert from the Nusantara region called Bubur Pulut Hitam. This is a popular dessert that is said to originate from Indonesia, although, truth be told people in political Malaysia and Singapore are part of the larger Nusantara historical narrative, so this is actually a regional dessert.
This hot dessert features the simple flavors of the black glutinous rice (or sticky black rice), which has a distinct nutty flavor and aroma that comes from the rich anthocyanins. Although sticky rice has a high glycemic index, the black variety is unpolished and still has its bran intact, so the glycemic load is actually lower than white sticky rice.
The Chinese people in the region have taken this Indo-Malayan ethnic pudding, and transformed it by improving its texture to resemble the velvety Chinese hot soup desserts they are used to.
I do like the Chinese version better, because it goes down smoother and doesn’t cloy your throat. I do notice a slight difference in taste and texture from shop to shop, and this boils down to the quality of the black glutinous rice, coconut milk, palm sugar, and the ratio of rice to starch. Some shops water it down and add starch to the soup to cut their costs down, but my recipe today will be one that you can enjoy knowing that it is pure and will have no additional starch fillers.
I also source for very pure, high quality palm and coconut sugar when possible, because it taste better. There are many types of natural palm and coconut sugars that you can get in South East Asia. Brand does matter to a sensitive palate, but if you don’t eat a lot of palm sugar to begin with, you won’t really know or care about the difference.
As long as you have some, the dessert will turn out just fine. The palm sugar they sell in the U.S. comes in disc, and are usually quite pale looking. As a gourmet myself, the paleness puts me off because it means that the flavor is weak as it has not bee properly caramelized. As an alternative, I like using Indonesian Gula Aren, or Gula Jawa instead of the pale domes pictured below.
If you cannot find palm sugar, you can totally use coconut blossom sugar, or coconut sugar. It gives the Bubur Pulut Hitam a better aroma and flavor than just sugar from sugar cane. If you can get it, this dessert would be best served with palm sugar from the Arenga Pinnata species (pictured in the dark block above).
COOKING TIME: 1 hr 15 min (with overnight soaking)
- 2 cups of black glutinous rice, washed in 3 changes of water, then soaked overnight
- 1-2 pieces of rock sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1-2 blades of pandan leaves, knotted
- 4-6 tbsp of palm sugar or coconut blossom sugar (to taste)
- 1.5 – 2 liters of water
- Fresh coconut milk or a can of coconut milk
- Wash your black glutinous rice in 3 changes of water. Then, soak your rice in a bowl with ample water overnight (minimum 6 hours, but you may have to cook your rice longer if your soaking period is shorter). The water level should be at least an inch above the surface of your rice level. Discard the water that has been soaked.
- Add your soaked rice, rock sugar into the pot with 1 liter of water, and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer to a gentle rolling bubble for 1 hour. Stir it every 15 minutes to make sure the grains are not sticking to the pot. Add your pandan leaf after 30 minutes.
- If the water evaporates to a point where your soup becomes thick, add a cup of water to loosen your rice soup.
- Repeat this step, until your rice mixture is soft, velvety, and drips in a steady stream without breaking off in blobs. This is how you know that the glutinous starch from the rice granules have been released. To finish the soup, you must stir continuously so that the whole pot of soup has the same viscosity and consistency.