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Friday, July 29, 2016

Xôi Lá Cẩm (Magenta Sticky Rice)

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I am excited that our magenta plants (cây lá cẩm) are growing brilliantly. We just harvested our first bunch of the magenta leaves for xôi lá cẩm - magenta sticky rice (sweet rice aka glutinous rice) that I have been wanting to share the recipe for a long while.



As I was boiling the water with the magenta leaves, my girls were super excited to see how just a bunch of little green leaves can turn into a beautifully radiant purple.  This is a natural food coloring plant, therefore, it is tasteless and won't affect the taste or the fragrance of food.


As soon as my first batch of magenta sticky rice came off the stove, it was an instant hit with the family.  This magenta sticky  rice is flavored in the rich, and creamy coconut cream and topped with fresh shredded coconut, a mixture of salted, slightly sweetened roasted peanut and sesame seeds.  Xôi (sticky rice) served warm or room temperature, wrapped in banana leaf not only holds everything together perfectly, but it also adds that subtle fragrance to the sticky rice.  I am lucky this year that both magenta plants and banana trees are thriving.


The natural mild sweetness of warm sticky rice brought back fond childhood memories in the 80's of how almost everyday I received breakfast money from my mom to enjoy such treats. As I stepped right out in front of my house, I could smell the wonderful Vietnamese street food breakfast. Sticky rice was always a comforting, traditional favorite.  And it's so pleasing to the eye.
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RECIPE: Magenta Sticky Rice
Printable Recipe

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Ingredients


1 liter bottle magenta water
4 cups sweet rice
1 cup coconut cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

for toppings
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
 1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1 coconut
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Directions

Cooking Magenta Leaves



Thoroughly wash and rinse magenta leaves or leaves with stems. Bruise the leaves and stems then place them into a pot, cover with water to the same level of the leaves above the leaves level. Bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.


The leaves will emit a beautiful violet color. Turn off the heat and let it cool down completely. The color will turn a deeper tone of purple. Drain the magenta water into a bowl. Squeeze the leaves to extract the liquid. Discard the leaves. I stored magenta water in the 1 liter water bottles and freeze them for use later.

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Soaking Sweet Rice


Wash the sweet rice a few times until water is cleared. Pour a bottle of the magenta water to the sweet rice and soak for an hour or two or overnight (I soaked mine for about an hour). Since the sweet rice is not submerged under the magenta water, be sure to mix it up occasionally so that the rice absorb the magenta water extract.
 


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Preparing Coconut Cream


Combine coconut cream, salt, and sugar.  Mix well. 
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Preparing Shredded Coconut 


Crack a coconut in half. Scrape the coconut meat using a bottle cap attached to a piece of flat wood or any tool that works for you.

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Preparing Nuts


Toast sesame seeds on a skillet over medium low heat until golden. Do the same with peanuts. When both sesame seeds and peanuts are cool down completely, put them in a ziploc bag and slightly crush them to release the nutty flavors.

In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, crushed roasted sesame seeds and peanuts. Mix well.

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Steaming Sweet Rice



Add water (1/2 of the pot) into the bottom of the steamer pot. Place the top steamer tray on top of the bottom pot. Pour the rice into the steamer tray. Make a small well in the center to create convection currents to help hot steam circulate. Cover it and steam on gentle, steady boiling water for about 10 minutes. 


Drizzle half of the coconut cream mixture to the sticky rice and fluff it well with chopsticks. Cover and continue steaming for another 10 minutes. Drizzle the remaining coconut cream mixture and fluff it well. Steam it for another 10 minutes (total steaming time is 30 minutes) until the sticky rice is soft and translucent. Fluff with chopsticks for the last time then turn off the heat.  

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Presentation



Serve magenta sticky rice warm or at room temperature on a serving plate or a banana leaf;  mound the shredded coconut on top, spread a spoonful of crushed nuts mix over the shredded coconut. Dig in!
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Eat well.  Stay hungry.

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