This rice pudding was actually supposed to be black rice pudding. With strawberries. It was going to be sexy, for Valentine’s Day. Like the LBD of puddings. But the grocery store within walking distance of my house apparently doesn’t carry black rice, so we have this, which is still pretty sexy, but in a more exotic way.
After I got over the shock and panic of not being able to find black rice, I pulled myself together and improvised. I picked up a can of coconut milk, and a mango instead of strawberries. And jasmine rice. See? Exotic.
When I was a little kid, I loved the rice pudding my mother would make. It was thick and creamy, with a skin on top covered in cinnamon. It was a treat, because she hates to make it. I would beg her for it (and still do, sometimes), and she would complain that it takes so long. I always had the impression that she would have to wake up at 5 a.m. just to get the stuff started. So when she did make it, I was like, “That’s love.”
My mother doesn’t think this is true, but for some reason I remember her making rice pudding on the day she told me my grandmother (her mother) had died. Whether this is a real memory or a conflation of two separate ones, I like to remember it like that. There is something comforting about the thought of my mother, in her grief, pouring the hot pudding into a giant bowl, the steam rising to the ceiling, while my six-year-old self looks on. In my memory, that’s when she told me the news, which I didn’t fully understand.
My grandmother lived in the basement of our house for a few years when I was very young. I would go down to visit her every morning. She always had a jar of honey—the kind shaped like a bear—and she would put a drop on my finger to eat. I would sit on her bed as she smoked her morning cigarette and watch the smoke curl upwards in front of the little window that streamed the morning light.
When I poured the pudding into its final bowl yesterday and saw the steam swirling out, it reminded me of her cigarette smoke. Maybe that’s why I link rice pudding and her death. And real or not, I cherish that memory.
This pudding, although dressed up with fancy rice and toasted coconut, is that pudding at its heart. And it brought me the same comfort as it always has.
- 1 cup (200 grams) jasmine rice
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (57 grams)
- pinch of coarse salt
- 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
- 6¼ cups whole milk
- 1½ cups (300 grams) sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 ripe mangoes, skin removed, diced
- toasted coconut (for garnish, optional)
- ground star anise (for garnish, optional)
- In a 6-quart stockpot, combine rice, butter, and salt. Add enough water to cover the rice, and cook, covered, over low heat until all the water has evaporated.
- Remove lid and pour in coconut milk and milk, stirring to combine. Continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, until the rice mixture thickens and you can make a path through it, about 1½ hours. Stir frequently (every ten minutes at least), to avoid the rice burning on the bottom of the pan.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot rice mixture, stirring constantly. When all eggs have been added and stirred in, remove the pot from the heat, and pour the pudding into a large serving bowl. Cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and move to the refrigerator to cool completely.
- If serving with mango: Place a layer of diced mango on the bottom of a serving cup, cover with ¼ cup of pudding, add another layer of mango, and another ¼ of pudding. Top with toasted coconut and a sprinkle of ground anise, if desired.