In Beijing, it's easy to find fruits like carambola, rambutans, and dragonfruit in almost every major supermarket. However, I couldn't for the life of me find a single lime in this city. I've bought them in Guangdong, but up north it's a whole different story. Even Carrefour and the foreign import stores didn't have them, nor did any of J's Chinese-English picture dictionaries show "lime" alongside "apple", "banana", and "durian". What I took for granted as a common grocery item in the US is, apparently, as exotic to Beijingers as a waxberry is to Americans.
I finally found limes at Jenny Lou's near Dongzhimen station. I was so excited I bought in bulk (5 kilos maybe?). The cashier looked at me as though no other person had ever bought so many limes at once in this city.
What I wanted limes for was to make, in addition to Southeast Asian curries, this Coconut Lime Rice Pudding. A medley of sweet and tart flavors of the tropics out of a single pan. Lemons would not have added the same zing.
Besides tracking down the limes, making this dessert was incredibly simple. Including the time it takes to soak the rice, this can be done in about an hour without much conscious effort. In fact, I spent 45 minutes of that hour away from the stove, watching Ratatouille for the umpteenth time. I'm sure you can find another activity equally as fulfilling, while this delicious dessert cooks on the stove.
Coconut Lime Rice Pudding Adapted from Gourmet
1/2 cup jasmine rice a 13- to 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk 1 1/4 cups whole milk 1/2 cup sugar 1 pinch salt 2 teaspoons fresh lime zest, finely grated
Optional for garnish: diced mangos or sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
In a bowl cover rice with cold water and let soak 30 minutes. Drain rice in a sieve. In a medium-sized sauce pan bring coconut milk, whole milk, rice, sugar, and a pinch salt to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and stir lime zest into mixture. Divide pudding among four glasses or custard cups. You can make the puddings up to 2 days ahead of time; just chill them in the fridge, covered.
Serve puddings warm or chilled, and garnish with mangos or toasted coconut if desired.