Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice Parcels...

Chinese Dragon Boat Festival kicks off for three days, and people across Asia celebrate with dragon boat races and making, giving and eating zong zi (sticky rice parcels wrapped in bamboo leaves)-- read previous post for the history of this annual tradition. Making zong zi has been a family affair since I started replicating my grandma's recipe two years ago. My parents were busy so we will defer our cooking session to next week (yes, it's a session alright as it takes hours to ready). 

You can say a cousin of these popular rice dumplings could be lotus leaf sticky rice. The plus is that it takes a much shorter time to make and also very tasty. 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 made with chicken, Chinese sausage and shiitake mushrooms. Then there are plates of sticky rice of same minus the chicken that comes around in push carts (this is what I'll be doing in lotus leaf-style). In place of dragon boat tradition, making lotus leaf sticky rice parcels in a bamboo steamer for the family, and going to enjoy the unravelling of the leaves to a steamy sticky interior just like zong zi, but at a fraction of the hard work and effort :D.

Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice Parcels
Makes 12 parcels

1 pkg. dried lotus leaves (look for in the dried section of an Asian supermarket)-- about 4 pieces
10 Chinese dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 2 hours to hydrate, diced, water reserved
a pinch each of salt, ground white pepper and sugar
5 Chinese sausages "lap cheurng", halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/3 cup dried shrimp, soaked in 1/2 cup water for 1 hour to soften, water reserved
5-1/2 cups glutinous rice, washed, and soaked in water for 2 hours, drained
2 tsp. chicken seasoning
1-1/2 Tbsp. dark mushroom soy sauce
3 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, open and rinse between the leaves and soak in enough hot water to cover for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients. Drain leaves and set aside. Cut out the hard centre stems. Cut each leaf into three equal pieces.

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, reserved shrimp liquid and cook for one minute. Then add rice and toss well to combine. Pour 1/3 cup reserved mushroom liquid and chicken seasoning. Add both soy sauces and sauté until the rice is well coated about another two minutes. Toss well with the green onions.

Leaf shiny side up, scoop 1 cup rice mixture to its centre, first fold up leaf in front, one side over then the other, then wrap and roll to seal. Repeat with leaves until rice is finished. Place side-by-side with seam down into one large steam basket or into two smaller ones, over pot(s) filled 1/2 with water.

Bamboo steamers can be found in kitchenware section of Asian stores.

Cover with lid and steam on high heat until boiling and steam is emitted. Turn down heat to medium-high and cook for around 1-1/2 hours. Open one parcel and check centre for doneness. TIP: Make sure to check that there is always ample water in pot to keep steaming or you risk burning your pot dry. 

The overlapping lotus leaf acts as a vessel for other foods. Served here with Chinese steamed yu choy and my mom's homemade pickled radish.

I like to add my favourite dim sum chili sauce by Koon Yick Wah Kee.

So adorable I couldn't choose just one!

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