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Photo by: Joseph De Leo
This delicious version of rice pudding, known as de-sil in Tibetan, uses broken rice (the lowest grade of rice), which is ideal for the pudding because the broken grains release starch as they cook, creating a thicker, smoother texture.
In Tibet, there’s a little brown root, rather like a miniature yam, that is gathered in the wild and then dried. Small piles of it are for sale in the markets, and it is traditionally used as a sweet flavoring in this rice pudding, sometimes in combination with raisins from Xinjiang. We substitute dried apple, chopped into small pieces, for the Tibetan root, and we skip the raisins, as we prefer to let the subtle perfume of the apple stand on its own. Do feel free to substitute golden raisins for some or all of the dried apple if you wish. The other sweet flavoring is honey. Use a pale, clean-tasting flower honey.
Serve the pudding in small bowls for dessert or as a snack, either plain, or drizzled with a little more honey or butter or yogurt, or a combination. Leftovers make a welcoming breakfast (see Note).
Bring the water to a boil in a small heavy pot. Place the rice in a sieve and rinse with cold water to clean it, then sprinkle into the boiling water. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is soft, about 15 minutes.
Add the salt, then stir in the milk and apples. Raise the heat and bring back nearly to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure the rice is not sticking; after about 30 minutes, add the honey and stir in. When cooked, the pudding will be very thick.
Just before serving, stir in the butter, if using.
NOTE ON REHEATING: If left to stand for any time after cooking, the pudding will thicken even more. To reheat it or to loosen the texture, place over low heat, and stir in up to 1 cup more milk (as well as the optional butter). Stir frequently as the pudding warms, to prevent sticking.
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