Congratulations to all who gave the correct answer to our mystery fruit contest..which is gac or spiny bitter gourd, baby jackfruit, cochinchin gourd, or sweet gourd. We are very impressed! These fruits are not commonly found in Asian groceries and can be found in specialty Asian produce stores here in Little Saigon during the winter time when they’re in season–it’s one of the more expensive fruits at around $15/lb. Fortunately for us, these exotic fruits occupy about half of my aunts’ prize winning garden. Since gac fruit ripens during the winter, my aunt usually gives it as Christmas gifts and along with vines for those who want to grow it as well.
Gac is used medicinally and is a great source of antioxidants and beta carotene which is great for skin and vision. The seeds of this fruit have a red aril coating that gives a bright red orange color and sweet and fragrant flavor to xoi gac.
Since the color red is symbolic for good fortune and happiness in Asian cultures, xoi gac is served at many special occasions such as engagements, weddings, and holidays such as the lunar new year, Tet. Authentic xoi gac is made without a single drop of red food coloring and seeds of the fruit are dressed on top of the dish to show authenticity. It’s commonly eaten with cha lua, (Vietnamese ham).
Since these are so prized and precious, I babied them like mother, carrying them from California to Arizona and finally to Michigan over the Thanksgiving holiday. Hong’s family was so mesmerized by the fruit and we made xoi gac as a side dish for Thanksgiving.
We have become glutinous rice fanatics but have to say this is our favorite xoi especially since we have access to fresh gac. However, you can find frozen gac as well in Asian grocery markets.
Xoi Gac Red Sticky Rice
- 2-3 pounds of glutinous rice (may vary depending how much gac you have)
- Gac fruit
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 2 tablespoon red wine
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 2 cups of sugar
Soak the glutinous rice over night and when ready to make the xoi, drain and allow to dry.
Use gloves because the seeds can stain your hands. Cut open the gac and pick out the seeds and place in small mixing bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of red wine and using your hands rub the red coating off the seeds as much as possible. Add this to the rice along with the salt. Mix well to fully coat all the grains of glutinous rice in beautiful gac red.
Steam the rice until almost fully cooked–about 15 minutes or so. Then add sugar and coconut milk–mix and cook for another 5 minutes. You may have to cook in batches if your steamer can’t hold all the rice all at once. The rice should be semi sweet, but not too sweet–but adjust to your liking.