Friday, August 8, 2014

Fragrant Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice...

If you are a dim sum aficionado, you will be familiar with popular "lo mai gai" aka Chinese sticky rice wrapped and steamed in lotus leaf parcels with chicken, Chinese sausage and shiitake mushrooms. To make it hassle-free, I prefer to steam my version in one large lotus leaf-lined steam basket which produces a fragrant pot of moist, savoury sticky rice ready to be scooped and enjoyed by the entire family. One that is easy to eat and ultra satisfying!

Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice
Makes 5 servings
Total Time: 2-1/2 hours (include steaming)

1 dried lotus leaf (look for this in the dried section of an Asian supermarket)
6 Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 2 hours to hydrate, diced
a pinch each of salt, ground white pepper and sugar
3 Chinese sausages "lap cheurng", halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1/4 cup dried shrimp, soaked in 1/2 cup water for 1 hour to soften
3-1/2 cups glutinous rice, washed, and soaked in water for 2 hours, drained
1 tsp. chicken seasoning
1 Tbsp. dark mushroom soy sauce
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce
2 green onions, sliced

Cook’s Note: Glutinous rice, often called sweet rice, is prepared by first thoroughly rinsing rice in water to remove excess starch until the water runs clear.

Stored in a dry, cool place dried lotus leaves can be kept for a long time.

In a large bowl or in a clean sink, soak the lotus leaf in enough
hot water to cover for 20 minutes, then drain and set aside. 

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat and sauté shiitake mushrooms for one minute. Add salt, pepper and sugar; stir for one minute. Add sausage and sauté for one minute. Add dried shrimp, reserving liquid and cook for one minute. Then add rice and toss well to combine. Pour 1/3 cup reserved shrimp liquid and chicken seasoning. Add both soy sauces and sauté until all the rice is well coated about another two minutes.

Remove lotus leaf from soaking water (if you haven’t already), open and pat dry with paper towels. Cut out the hard stem. TIP: Line leaf, shiny side down into steam basket (the dull side is conducive to sticking), overlapping once with the sides hanging over slightly (trim excess). Using a wooden skewer poke through the bottom of the leaf to create plenty of holes for steaming. Carefully pour rice mixture evenly and wrap to cover. Cover with lid and steam on high heat until boiling and steam is emitted. Turn down heat to medium-high and cook for around two hours. Check rice halfway; gently lift rice with large spoon; pour a little reserved shrimp liquid if rice looks dry. TIP: Make sure to check that there is water to keep steaming or you risk burning your pot dry. Once ready, add green onions, use spoon to stir slightly and cover for ten minutes before serving. Eat while hot. 

Serve with a side of Chinese greens such as "choy sum" and you've got a complete meal!

If you don't want to go out and buy lotus leaf, an all-purpose cheesecloth is what I normally use to line the steam basket to make this method of Chinese sticky rice. It's just as delicious, and cooks in lesser time.

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