coconut rice pudding with persimmons and almonds


When I was 18, I spent Christmas with my aunt and uncle in San Francisco. I’d just dropped out of college after one semester, and a few days before the holiday I flew across the country with the intention of staying in their basement for a while. Eventually I’d end up working in few restaurants, wandering through the every inch of Golden Gate Park, and seeing a lot of movies by myself at the dollar theater. But first, there was Christmas.


The aunt was my mother’s brother’s wife. She was a devotee of Martha Stewart, an ex-model and spiritual seeker who never went to college but read her way through every great book and then some. She taught me about paint colors and when to wear pearls (subjects that had never been covered in my upbringing thus far), but she also taught me how to pee out of a moving car (Death Valley, long story), and she attempted to teach me how to iron.

“You’ll never be respected,” she told me, “if you can’t pull yourself together and look respectable”.

Even to this day, I can only iron wrinkles into my clothes.

On that first Christmas I spent in San Francisco, my aunt also taught me how to eat a persimmon. It might have even been the first thing I ate when I walked into their perfectly twinkling and decked out house, and in the days after, I worked my way through the bowl of bright orange fruit. I ate my way through many things that holiday–a large box of Godiva chocolates, a small case of blood oranges, and, quite memorably, a few pounds of salty smoked ham that went with the loaves of gushy white bread from the bakery around the corner. I ate and ate, and I was never full.


That Christmas eve before we went to bed, she and I walked around the corner to the big Catholic church on Balboa Street. We stood on the other side of street and watched everyone pack in to the church for midnight mass. I could hear the music and see the light inside, and we stayed on the sidewalk until everyone had gone inside and the wooden doors had closed and gone dark again. I decided I’d stay in San Francisco until I found myself. I’d been born there after all, and I thought I must be there somewhere.

DSC_0320The next morning I opened up my gifts–all far more extravagant and lovely than anything I’d ever gotten for Christmas. I got my first cashmere sweater, a pair of matching flannel pajamas, fancy long underwear made of some high-tech fabric. And that day especially–I remember even nearly 20 years later–the persimmons were ripe and had to be eaten.

It wasn’t hard to do. And maybe because of that day, or maybe because of their deep spice and sweet red-orange flesh, I think of persimmons as Christmas fruit. Here on the east coast, we don’t see them very often, but in these few weeks they show up in a bin at the supermarket, ripening, neglected, usually on sale. Something between a tomato and a mango, mysterious and hard to know exactly how to eat.

There are two main types of persimmons in the supermarket: Fuyu and Hachiya. Hachiyas are slightly oblong, and they have to be so ripe the fruit is very soft to the touch before you eat them. The skin is edible but I don’t love it, so I just scoop the flesh out with a spoon and fish out any seeds. Fuyus are smaller and squatter (that’s what’s pictured here), and they can be eaten when they’re firm or when they’re soft and overripe. I prefer them when the flesh has give when you press it. The taste is somewhere between a sweet citrus fruit and a mango, and they’re beautiful enough to make just looking at them a treat. Both types of persimmon are delicious on their own or stirred into a little yogurt or something similar. Many people make persimmon pudding around the holidays, a baked, spicy, damp bread more than an actual pudding. flavor.

The idea for this rice pudding came from a beautiful book I wrote about in my last post, Tammy Donroe Inman’s WintersweetThere’s something about the soft persimmon with rice pudding–it might be my favorite persimmon situation yet. And we’ve been talking over on the FB about Christmas morning food (a conversation I start over there every year and always look forward to), and I actually think this would be a great one to add to the Christmas morning menu list. It’s both light and satisfying, and the whole parfait set-up always makes everything seem fancy.

Happy holiday week, friends. Sending love, and ripe persimmons.






  1. Terri says

    Hello :) You have great stories, thanks for the persimmon love. Here’s one back for you…I’m in MO, and my family is from the back hills of the Ozarks, a hardy, albeit wacky lot, sort of like Duck Dynasty meets the Addams Family. My grandmother was a sharecropper during the Depression, and every year would predict the weather by looking at what are locally called “wooly worms” and persimmon seeds. She was freakishly accurate in all of her predictions, so here follows the method…
    Cut open a persimmon seed. (Find persimmon fruit in your supermarket. It should be locally-grown to reflect your weather.)

    If the kernel is spoon-shaped, lots of heavy, wet snow will fall. Spoon = shovel :)
    If it is fork-shaped, you can expect powdery, light snow and a mild winter.
    If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect to be “cut” by icy, cutting winds.

    Love your stuff and your cookbook is all loved up as well.
    Looking forward to the new one.
    Whatever you celebrate this time of year, Happy Merry!

  2. says

    you tell stories so well!

    I’m not on facebook, but I will say that we are pretty serious about Christmas morning food around here. It’s been Russian kulich the last two years, before that homemade sesame bagels with salt and butter and eggnog on the side, but this year I also found a new bun to love that I made up from a few recipes. I call them Midwinter Buns.

    Kulich is here:

    Midwinter buns are here:

  3. Alna Kleid says

    I like Asian pear and Fuyu persimmon salad so we planted those trees a very long time ago. The pears are ripe in August and the persimmon in November which I didn’t consider at the time. I put pears in the frig. and they keep until November!
    I miss your blog very much, so please reinstate me at my new e mail address.
    Aunt Alna

    • alana says

      Hello Alna! So good to hear from you. I’ll give the email signup another try for you- just let me know if it doesn’t work. All my best, and happy new year!

  4. says

    Lovely Christmas story Alana. For us mangoes are the fruit that says Christmas like nothing else – we used to get one in our stocking each year, just like the kids in the stories got oranges :)
    Happy New Year

    • alana says

      Mangoes! It’s funny how everyone has their traditions. Our kids get a can of black olives in their stockings–just because I did and my mother did. I have no idea where the tradition comes from.

  5. Katie says

    As someone who wears pearl earrings every day, I’m curious… when’s the appropriate time to wear pearls?!

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