If you are seeking a non-dairy, no-sugar and overall healthier alternative to the typical sugar and milk-rich rice pudding, then this recipe will be it. Usually it takes me a couple of experiments to make a no-sugar alternative of something, but this one is almost a no-brainer, because both my mom and grandma had often made something similar when I was a kid.
I didn’t initially associate this childhood favorite with “pudding,” since it was a congee dish, and as such very different from most of the puddings served in America. But when I started to think about how to make a sugarless rice pudding, the connection seemed clear, and it inspired me to make some interesting changes. Isn’t it fascinating that how we define things shapes the way we think and create?
This recipe only calls for 6 ingredients, two of which are optional: sweet rice, long-grain rice (optional), Asian-style sugar-free soy milk, Japanese mountain yam, pure honey, and goji berries (optional).
The personal preference had me use the Asian-style no-sugar soy milk to replace the regular milk. I like it because it’s thicker and actually preserves much stronger soy flavor. But if it saves you trouble and time to find regular sugar-free soy milk, then go for it.
Japanese mountain yam (also called Nagaimo yam, or in Chinese ‘山药’) is not something you would usually find in congee, but I figured its starchy and creamy texture after being heated and slightly sweet taste could really hold the rice pudding thick and sticky together and boost the flavor. Oh, did I mention the high nutritional value of nagaimo? If as a young person you’ve ever sat at the dinner table with Chinese of older generation, you know they’d go over each dish’s nutritional value – “eat those pig kidneys, they are full of iron!”, “carrots are good for your eyesight!” which is kind of like small talks over each meal. Whenever I was fed nagaimo, I was told it’s ‘you ying yang‘, meaning nutritious. Basically, It’s anti-inflammatory, relieves pain and muscle spasms. —Ariel
Leave both sweet and long-grain rice soaked in water for several hours.
Steam or boil Japanese mountain yam over medium-high heat, turn off heat when the yams are soft and starting to fall apart (can poke through with a fork). Drain and bring the yams to blend until you get a nice puree. Set aside.
Combine soy milk and water and bring to a boil. Drain the rice mix and transfer it to the boiling soy milk and water over medium-high heat. Keep stirring the rice and when it boils again, reduce heat to medium-low, add yam puree and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning at bottom.
Add honey, to taste. Chill, and serve with Goji berries on top, or anything you like.