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Rice pudding


Rice pudding

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Rice pudding being served during the traditional Scandinavian Christmas meal, in Denmark
Rice pudding being served during the traditional Scandinavian Christmas meal, in Denmark
Rice pudding (Arroz Doce) in a typical Christmas meal, in Portugal
Rice pudding (Arroz Doce) in a typical Christmas meal, in Portugal
Pulut hitam served in a Malaysian restaurant
Pulut hitam served in a Malaysian restaurant

Rice pudding is a dessert enjoyed by people of different cultures all over the world. It is made by combining rice with a sweetener and other ingredients often including milk. Those who prize rice pudding often regard it as a comfort food. Others find some of the varieties to be unpleasantly bland and glutinous.


Types of Rice Pudding

Rice puddings are found in nearly every area of the world. Recipes can greatly vary even within a single country. The dessert can be boiled or baked. Different types of pudding vary depending on preparation methods and the ingredients selected. The following ingredients are regularly found in rice puddings.

  • rice; long or short grain white rice, brown rice, black rice, basmati, or jasmine rice
    milk; (whole milk, coconut milk, cream or evaporated)
    spices; (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger etc.),
    flavorings; (vanilla, orange, lemon, pistachio, rose water etc.),
    sweetener; (sugar, brown sugar, honey, sweetened condensed milk, fruit or syrups)

The following is a short list of various rice puddings from different regions.

East Asia

  • Kao Niow Dahm (Thai) Black Rice Pudding
  • Banana Rice Pudding (Cambodian)
  • Babao Fan (Chinese, 八寶飯) Eight Treasure Rice Pudding
  • Pulut Hitam (Malaysian) Black glutinous rice pudding

South Asia

  • Kheer (Pakistani/Indian) with slow-boiled milk
  • Firni (Pakistani/Afghan/North Indian) with broken rice, cardamom and pistachio served cold.

Middle East

  • Firni(Afghan/Pakistani), Rice ground to powder cooked with milk and sugar, usually flavored with cardamom, garnished with slivers of pistachios and almonds, as well as with gold or silver warq (decorative, edible foil). Today, restaurants offer firni in a wide range of flavours including mango, fig, custard apple, etc.
  • Sütlaç (Turkish) with milk and vanilla
  • Muhallebi (Turkish) with rice flour
  • Moghlie (Arab) with anise and ginger
  • Riz bi Haleeb (Arab) with rose water
  • Shola-e-zard (Persian) with saffron


  • Arroz con leche (Spanish) with cinnamon and lemon
  • Arroz Doce or Arroz de Leite (Portuguese) with milk, cinnamon and lemon
  • Budino di Riso (Italian) with raisins and orange peel
  • Сутлијаш (Macedonian)
  • Milchreis (German) with cinnamon or cherries
  • Mliečna ryža (Slovak)
  • Orez cu lapte (Romanian) with milk and cinnamon
  • Risengrød (Danish) with milk and cinnamon
  • Risalamande (Danish, after French: Riz à l'amande) with whipped cream, vanilla, and almonds, often served with cherry sauce
  • Ryzogalo (Ρυζόγαλο-Greek) with milk and cinnamon
  • Riskrem (Norwegian)
  • Risengrynsgrøt (Norwegian)
  • Risgrynsgröt (Swedish)
  • Riisipuuro (Finnish)
  • Rijstebrij (Dutch)
  • Riža na mlijeku (Croatian)
  • Sutlijaš (Bosnian/Serbian)
  • Sytlijash (Albanian)
  • Teurgoule (Normandy)
  • Oriz na vareniku (Montenegrin)
  • Tejberizs (Hungarian) with milk, cinnamon or cocoa powder

Latin America

  • Arroz con leche (Latin American) varied preparation
  • Arroz con dulce (Puerto Rican) with coconut milk

North America

In Canada and the United States most recipes have descended from European immigrants. In the latter half of the twentieth century Asian and Middle Eastern recipes have become more common. In the U.S. region called New England the most popular is made with long grain rice, eggs, milk, sugar, or in the U.S. state of Vermont maple syrup. This is combined with nutmeg, cinnamon, and raisins. The pudding is usually partially cooked on top of the stove in a double boiler, and then "finished" in an oven.


Rice was first cultivated in Asia. Over thousands of years, various pudding recipes have developed in the Eastern Asia. Some include fruit and honey, while others are far simpler consisting of only rice, water and sugar.

For the west, rice pudding originated in the Middle East or Persia. The dessert gained popularity during the middle ages. Firni, one of the oldest of these middle eastern puddings, is made with rice flour and was introduced to India by the Moghuls. Records of an Indian sweet milk pudding occur in the 14th century. Shola, flavored with rose water, was introduced to Perisa by the 13th century Mongols and is now eaten in much of west Asia.

In Europe, rice pudding with goat’s milk was first used by the Romans for medicinal purposes. For this reason, the first written records of rice pudding occur in medical texts. Medieval European sweet boiled rice pudding often was made with almond or cow’s milk. Rice pudding appears in 1542 in the then Danish town of Malmö. However, rice was an imported luxury item reserved for the rich. Baked rice puddings featuring elaborate spices and other ingredients appeared in the 17th century. In the 18th century, Rice pudding began to replace rye porridge and barley porridge at festivities in Scandinavia. Over centuries, the European recipe has been simplified resulting the modern dish often criticized for its blandness.

Rice pudding in folklore

In Scandinavia, rice pudding is traditionally served at Christmas. It sometimes goes by the names julegrøt (Yule porridge), or tomtegröt/nissegrød (see tomte). The latter name is due to the old tradition of sharing the meal with the guardian of the homestead, called tomte or nisse (see also blót). The pudding is usually eaten with cinnamon and sugar, with an 'eye' of butter in the middle. Sometimes an almond is hidden in the pudding. In Sweden, popular belief has it that the one who eats it will be married the following year, whereas in Norway and Denmark, the one who finds the almond will get a prize, often a marzipan figure. Often the leftovers or overproduction of the rice porridge is converted to risalamande by adding whipped cream and chopped almonds. In Denmark the game of hidding an almond is usually done with risalamande making it harder to find the whole almond among all the chopped ones.

Rice pudding in literature

A reference to rice pudding is found in the third verse of the seventeenth-century nursery rhyme, "Pop Goes the Weasel:"

    Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
      Half a pound of treacle.
    Mix it up and make it nice,
      Pop goes the weasel.

Rice pudding is mentioned frequently in literature of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, typically in the context of a cheap, plain, familiar food, often served to children or invalids, and often rendered boring by too-frequent inclusion in menus.

In Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Kenelm Chillingly, a would-be host reassures a prospective guest: "Don't fear that you shall have only mutton-chops and a rice-pudding...". In Henry James' A Passionate Pilgrim, the narrator laments: "having dreamed of lamb and spinach and a salade de saison, I sat down in penitence to a mutton-chop and a rice pudding."

Charles Dickens relates an incident of shabby treatment in A Schoolboy's Story: "it was imposing on Old Cheeseman to give him nothing but boiled mutton through a whole Vacation, but that was just like the system. When they didn't give him boiled mutton, they gave him rice pudding, pretending it was a treat. And saved the butcher."

In Ethel Turner's Seven Little Australians, the children express dissatisfaction with their food. "My father and Esther... are having roast fowl, three vegetables, and four kinds of pudding," Pip says angrily. "It isn't fair!" His sister notes that "we had dinner at one o'clock." "Boiled mutton and carrots and rice pudding!" her brother replies, witheringly.

Rice Pudding is the title and subject of a poem by A. A. Milne, in which the narrator professes puzzlement as to what is the matter with Mary Jane, who is "crying with all her might and main/And she won't eat her dinner—rice pudding again—/What is the matter with Mary Jane?" As the poem proceeds, the reader comes to suspect that Mary Jane's problem is connected with the word "again."

An 1884 New York Times article is entitled Living on a Small Salary: Close Economy Practiced by a Clerk and his Wife. They Live Comfortably in a Brooklyn Flat and Save Nearly $300 Out of a Yearly Income of $1000. "You observe," says the husband, "that although we have but little beyond the bare necessities of life we manage to live comfortably and happily." "Yes, indeed, we are happy," interjects the wife. The reporter describes their evening meal as a plate containing "a nice cut of beef, a couple of boiled potatoes, and a liberal portion of green peas." For dessert, there is rice pudding, which the reporter describes as "truly a delicious compound of rice and egg and sugared frosting."

A 1917 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, on treatment of Turkish prisoners of war in Egypt describes the food with approval. The "ordinary diet" is described as "Breakfast: Arab bread; sweetened fresh milk. Lunch: Arab bread; beef; rice, vegetables. Dinner: Arab bread; rice soup; rice pudding."

Rice pudding is mentioned with much more affection in an incident related by Walt Whitman in Specimen Days. Whitman visited an invalid soldier who "was very sick, with no appetite... he confess'd that he had a hankering for a good home-made rice pudding—thought he could relish it better than anything... I soon procured B. his rice pudding. A Washington lady, (Mrs. O'C.), hearing his wish, made the pudding herself, and I took it up to him the next day. He subsequently told me he lived upon it for three or four days."

In Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the supercomputer Deep Thought derives the existence of rice pudding from first principles. This is to counterpoint between the complexity of Deep Thought and its task of exploring the eternal verities, with simplicity of the pudding.


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Christmas Guide, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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