Learn how to make this auspicious Hakka hee pan that is soft and slightly chewy with this easy and delicious recipe. Variations to make other flavors and colors using natural ingredients too.
JOYFUL RICE CAKE (喜粄)
Xi Ban or Hee Pan literally translated into joyful rice cake. In Hokkien dialect, it is known as Ki Ka Ku. Hee pan is a traditional Hakka steamed rice cake that is made to celebrate joyful events like Chinese New Year, weddings, baby’s full-month birthday, etc. Traditional hee pan is made pink/red in color. The Chinese like to use red to celebrate joyful events.
Traditional hee pan back in the super old days also made with wheat flour, but over the years, to make a long history short, due to wheat shortage, the recipe has been adapted to use a combination of rice and glutinous rice flour.
The modern-day hee pan, like this recipe, is made with wheat flour like all-purpose flour and glutinous rice flour.
TASTE AND TEXTURE OF HEE PAN
If you asked me, hee pan is almost like a hybrid of steamed buns and steamed cake. It’s soft and slightly chewy and cake-like in texture. I made mine not too sweet, but you can adjust the level of sweetness to your preference.
HOW TO MAKE SOFT AND CHEWY HEE PAN
1. PREPARE THE SYRUP
Pour pandan juice into a saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil and then lower heat to cook until sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let it cool down completely. You can prepare this one day before too
2. MAKE THE DOUGH
Mix all-purpose flour, glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, and instant yeast in a mixing bowl.
Add 1/2 of the pandan juice you prepared earlier followed by cooking oil. Continue to add the pandan juice as needed. Knead into a smooth dough. You may use a stand mixer like KitchenAid or knead by hand until the dough is smooth.
3. SHAPE THE DOUGH
Roll the dough into a long log. Try not to work the dough too much.
Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (roughly about 60 gr each). Keep them covered and work with one dough at a time.
Lightly dust your palm with a bit of all-purpose flour. Roll the dough into a smooth ball.
Place on top of the banana leaf
Gently press it down with your palm to flatten slightly into a disc. Repeat with the rest of the dough and banana leaves.
4. PROOF THE DOUGH
Covered with a clean dry cloth and let the dough proof for about 30-45 minutes (or longer in a colder climate) or until they are light and puffy.
5. STEAM THE CAKE
Bring the water in a steamer to a boil. Wrap the lid with a cloth. This will prevent water dripping from the lid creating burn spots. Place some of the buns on the steamer. Lower the heat to MEDIUM. Close the lid and leave about 1/4-inch of gap to let some steam escapes. Steam on MEDIUM heat for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat after and leave for 5 minutes before uncovering the lid.
You can trim the banana leaves into round shape for presentation. Let the cake cool down before serving. If you wish to “stamp” the cake with cute image or Chinese characters, you may do so now by dipping the stamp in red food coloring. Dab off extra food coloring before stamp on the hee pan. My mom got me some nice stamp with Chinese characters and I was overjoyed to be able to stamp these hee pan LOL!
FLAVOR AND COLOR IDEAS FOR HEE PAN USING NATURAL INGREDIENTS
Use 1/2 tsp of red yeast rice powder or beetroot powder or replace the liquid in this recipe with beet juice.
Use 1/8 tsp of turmeric powder or replace the liquid with carrot juice. You can also use mashed pumpkin (refer to this recipe)
Use 1/2 tsp of culinary matcha powder. You can also use the skin of the cucumber to make a juice. It gives a really nice green color
Replace the white sugar with coconut sugar (gula Melaka). If you use coconut sugar, make sure you cook it with the liquid calls for in the recipe and then strain it. You can also use 1 tsp of cinnamon powder, cocoa powder, or milo powder.
Use a purple mashed sweet potato. Like this purple sweet potato hee pan I made.
Replace the liquid with blue pea flower juice. Soak about 3 Tbsp of dried blue pea flower with about 90 gr of hot water and let it steeps for 10 minutes then the juice is ready to be used.
HOW TO STORE HEE PAN
REFRIGERATOR: You may store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week
FREEZER: For longer storage, I suggest placing the hee pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and then put hee pan on top without touching each other. Pop into the freezer for about 1 hour, they won’t be fully frozen yet. Transfer them to a freezer bag and they can be kept for 3 months there
REHEATING: Simply reheat in the steamer until heated through. If frozen, you don’t need to thaw, you can steam over high heat for 10 minutes or until heated through. Please keep in mind if you stamp the hee pan, the red will bleed when you steam the hee pan again.
Look at that soft and slightly chewy texture. I plan to make more with mashed pumpkin and mashed purple sweet potatoes soon. My kids love hee pan A LOT!
DID YOU MAKE THIS PANDAN HEE PAN (XI BAN) RECIPE?
I love it when you guys snap a photo and tag to show me what you’ve made 🙂 Simply tag me @WhatToCookToday #WhatToCookToday on Instagram and I’ll be sure to stop by and take a peek for real!
*UPDATE: After many rounds of testing again with different flavors, I decided to update this recipe that yields soft, yet slightly chewy (but not so chewy). When I used 50-50 ratio of all-purpose flour and glutinous rice flour, the result wasn’t as good compared to this most current version where I’ve reduced the amount of glutinous rice flour slightly and add Chinese wheat starch. The texture improves quite a bit!
For baking/ kueh making: I highly encourage to weigh ingredients with a digital kitchen scale instead of using measuring cups as they are not very accurate especially when it comes to recipe that requires precision.GRAMS TO CUPS CONVERSION (UNSIFTED)
- 180 gr pandan juice - see notes 2
- 120 gr sugar
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 200 gr all-purpose flour - plus more for dusting. See notes 1
- 20 gr wheat starch - or use cornstarch
- 120 gr glutinous rice flour
- 30 gr cooking oil - neutral taste like vegetable oil, grapeseeds oil (plus more for brushing)
- 12 pieces banana leaves - cut into about 10x10 cm pieces, or just use parchment paper instead of leaves
- Pour pandan juice into a saucepan. Add sugar and bring to a boil and then lower heat to cook until sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let it cool down completely. You can prepare this one day before too
Make the dough:
- Mix all-purpose flour, glutinous rice flour, and instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 of the pandan juice you prepared earlier followed by cooking oil. Continue to add the pandan juice as needed. You may not need all or you may need a bit more liquid if the dough is dry. Knead into a smooth dough. You may use stand mixer like KitchenAid or knead by hand
Shape the dough:
- Oil the cut banana leaves with some cooking oil. Set aside. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (roughly about 60 gr each). Keep them covered and work with one dough at a time
- Lightly dust your palm with a bit of all-purpose flour. Roll the dough into a smooth ball. Place on top of the banana leaf and then gently press it down with your palm to flatten slightly into a disc. Repeat with the rest of the dough and banana leaves
Proof the dough:
- Covered with a clean cloth and let the dough proof for about 30-45 minutes (may take longer if in a colder climate) or until the dough is light and puffy. Take care not to overproof the dough too
Steam the hee pan:
- You may need to steam in batches as your steamer may not be big enough to steam all at one go. DO NOT let the hee pan proof for too long or they will not be smooth after steaming. You may put the rest of the hee pan in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity until they are ready to be steamed
- Bring the water in a steamer to a boil. Wrap the lid with a cloth. This will prevent water dripping from the lid creating burn spots. Place some of the buns on the steamer. Lower the heat to MEDIUM. Close the lid and leave about 1/4-inch of gap to let some steam escapes. Steam on MEDIUM heat for about 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and wait for 5 minutes and then remove steamed buns from the steamer to a cooling rack. This will prevent the bottom from getting wet and soggy
- Bring water in the steamer back to a boil and place the next batch for steaming. Remember to lower down the heat to medium again and repeat with the rest of the batch
- You can use all 220 gr Hong Kong or Vietnamese bao flour and omit the wheat starch
- Simply use water or other flavor if you do not want a pandan flavor. You can add other powdered flavoring like matcha powder, cocoa powder, etc.