May Your Rice Bowl Overflow
[Chinese-style Glutinous Rice]
It's the fifth day of the Lunar Calendar and most East Asian countries including Vietnam, Korea, China, Malaysia, and Singapore have been celebrating the Lunar New Year in one form or another e.g. Spring Festival. I thought it'll be most appropriate to share with you a Chinese recipe I've improvised: chinese-style glutinous rice with chicken and shitake mushrooms.
Also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, the difference between glutinous rice and normal rice lies in its consistency. When cooked, it is very sticky and therefore perfect for making dumplings, rice balls or rice cakes. Despite its name, it is not sweet, nor does it contain dietary gluten. And like most dried beans, glutinous rice usually requires hours of soaking before it is being cooked.
I love the chewy and clingy texture the rice gives. When done right, it is a pure delight, bringing out its own characteristics and the flavors and ingredients that are added. (At least to my own culinary experiences, the rice is never served or cooked plain.) Various asian cultures employ the flour made out of glutinous rice as a base for their sweet cakes and pastries. For Chinese New Year, round cakes that are sweet and sticky called Nian Gao are found in every Chinese home, first as decoration and later to be devoured. They are ubiquitious for the holiday because Nian is a homonym in Chinese meaning both year and sticky, thus implying the ushering-in of a new year that brings you close to your love ones.
In traditional Chinese cuisine, the rice is often made into parcels (Lo Mai Gai) or pyramid-shaped rice dumplings (Zong Zi) -- both my all-time favorites. They are wrapped with dried lotus leaves or bamboo leaves that gives the dish its form, and at the same time imparting its fragrance.
The following recipe is a variation of Lo Mai Gai that is often found in Dim Sum menus, minus the lotus leaves. (Lo Mai Gai means glutinous rice with chicken in cantonese.) When you can't get the real thing and you crave for it, improvise and make it in your own kitchen. After all, that's really how I got into creative home cooking.
Chinese-style Glutinous Rice
Ingredients: (Recipe for 4)
1 1/2 cup glutinous rice (rinsed and soaked overnight)
10 chinese (shitake) mushrooms (soaked till softened and thinly sliced, minus the hard tips on stems)
2 shallots (or red onions) finely chopped
1 chicken breast (or dark meat if you prefer) thinly sliced into strips
1/4 cup of dried shrimps (soaked in 1 cup water for 10 min and drained. Reserve water)
5 cloves of garlic (minced or finely chopped)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Chinese or Japanese sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
3 tablespoon light soy sauce
A generous dash of salt and white pepper.
1 stalk of scallion or spring onion thinly sliced (white and green ends)
Steps to recreate the picture above:
Marinate chicken with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil and let sit.
Place skillet over high fire. Let it heat up for about 2 minutes. Add oil and wait till it heats up a little. Add garlic and shallots and stir-fry 30 seconds till its wonderful aroma is imparted. Next, the dried shrimps go in for a 30-second stir-fry. Then add chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then mushrooms for another 1 minute.
Now comes the drained rice. Stir-fry it good and deftly stir in all the seasonings listed above, one by one. Keep on stir-frying for about 2 minutes and add reserved shrimpy water. At this point, bring it down to a simmer and cover with a lid. Wait for 3 minutes or until water has reduced before transfering rice to a ceramic bowl.
Meanwhile, prepare another wok or a large pot and fill with half inch of water. If you do not have a metal stand for steaming, place two chopsticks slightly longer than the base of the pot in an "x" to form a support that stands right above the water. (If chopsticks don't work, try using other utensils. I once used two forks in a pinch.) Bring water to boil and place rice in bowl above the improvised rack. Cover the pot and reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until rice is just right i.e. not too soft and not too hard. Garnish with scallions before serving.
(Note: During the steaming process, check water level to ensure it is not dried out. In the latter case, add more water.)
This is an entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging.