The first time I had sweet rice was when we traveled around Thailand in 2009. By sweet rice, I mean mango sticky rice. By had, I mean I ordered it at just about every location with it on the menu.
That stuff is the best of all dessert worlds in one — fresh mango, nutty, chewy rice and a heavy drizzle of rich sweetened condensed milk. It really broadened my vision of rice for dessert.
To be honest, I’ve never made it at home. That is mainly because I have yet to find a mango in the US that holds a candle to those that we ate in Southeast Asia and Brazil.
It came to mind, though, recently when I started talking with the organizers of the Fresno Food Expo.
I know. I didn’t realize there was a Fresno Food Expo until just this year.
I was immediately excited about it when I heard the news because my discovery of local foods around our new home has been a slow process.
Another thing I learned is that rice is grown in the San Joaquin Valley and we have some pretty fantastic coffee roasters here, too.
As part of my willingness to help spread the word about the event, I was put in touch with Koda Farms, the state’s oldest family-owned and operated farm and mill producing heirloom Japanese-style rice and rice flours, and with Amber Avenue Coffee Roasters, a family-owned coffee roastery in Clovis. (I’ll write about Clovis soon. I’m a huge fan of that little town.)
Soon after, a box arrived stuffed with Sweet Rice Flour, Organic Heirloom Whole Grain Brown and Medium Grain White Rices and Superior Short Grain White Sweet Rice.
A couple days after that, I received a text from my husband telling me that I must have received coffee because he could smell it’s aroma in the mailbox. I arrived home to bags of Organic Fair Trade Amber Avenue Honduras Marcala and Colombia Magdalena Red Ecolsierra, both delicious medium-dark roasts.
I decided I wanted to work with the Short Grain White Rice and the Honduras Marcala. My challenge? I wanted to use them together in a recipe as a way to let you know about these great California products.
That’s when I started thinking about sweet rice. And that’s when my mind switched from mango to the bananas I had sitting on the counter. It’s also when I stopped thinking of sweetened condensed milk and started envisioning a caramel sauce spiked with richly roasted coffee.
It turns out that these are not bad substitutes at all. Far from it. The flavors go pretty wonderfully together.
I steamed the rice like I do sticky rice, with a cheese cloth set inside my veggie steaming basket. After soaking it in water for 6 hours, 1 cup of the dry rice only took about 10 minutes to steam.
I made the coffee strong, 3 tablespoons to 8 ounces of water. I also used some finely ground coffee as a garnish to sprinkle on the final dish.
It’s a globally inspired dessert with a few local ingredients that are right around the corner.
I’ll be attending the Expo as media, but you don’t have to work in food like I do to attend. You can buy tickets to the public event on Thursday, July 28 from 5-8 pm where you will be able sample some of the area’s finest foods yourself. And if you aren’t around, follow the hashtags #FresnoFoodExpo and #TasteTallyTweet to discover some new foods over the next couple of weeks!
Banana Sweet Rice with Caramel-Coffee Sauce
Makes: 4 servings
What you’ll need:
1 cup dry short grain white sweet rice, pre-soaked and steamed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup half + half
1/4 cup strong brewed medium-dark roast coffee
1/4 teaspoon pure vanlla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 bananas, split and halved
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Finely ground coffee for garnish
How to make it:
To make the caramel sauce, combine the 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and half + half in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce the heat to medium and boil, stirring often for 3 minutes or until the sauce begins to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from the heat and add the coffee. Return to the heat and boil for 90 more seconds, until it coats the back of the spoon again. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour into a heat-safe dish to cool.
To make the bananas, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the brown sugar and cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add the bananas, cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in the vanilla and salt.
To serve divide the rice and bananas into 4 portions. Place the rice on a plate or in a bowl, top with bananas. Drizzle each serving with some of the caramel sauce. Serve warm.