On the rare occasion that I set foot in a jewelry store, the proprietor will generally take one glance at me, then carefully ignore my presence. They’d rather tend to the nervous young man and his girlfriend, or perhaps re-polish, for the third time, the mirror behind the earring display. Not that I blame them. Lacking any talent or genetic affinity for bling, I wear no earrings, necklace, bracelet—heck, I don’t even wear my wedding ring (a consequence of washing my hands over 30 times daily). My only adornment, not counting my reading glasses, is a stretchy black elastic hairband around my wrist (when not in my hair). Not that I don’t appreciate jewelry. I just never learned to accessorize. And so my favorite jewels, are, of course, edible. Specifically, Jeweled Rice. More specifically, eight jeweled rice, or Ba Bao Fan—a sweet steamed sticky dessert rice. I’ve never made it, but my Auntie made the best Ba Bao Fan. In modern times, jeweled rice also has a savory version (I just made that up), so I decided to wrap my savory jeweled rice in small bundles, a smaller “dumpling size” than Nuo Mi Ji (see previous “Not Quite Elven Fare” post). This rice is delicious all by itself, wrapped or not—HOWEVER, once again, if you are preparing a dumpling extravaganza for guests, and want to offer little bits of everything, I highly recommend this more labor intensive, and more delightful, method of serving the rice.
Homemade “Jeweled” Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf
1 bunch (7-8 stalks) green onions, washed and thinly sliced
3 Chinese sausages (Lap Cheong), thinly sliced
1/4 pound Chinese barbecue pork (char siu, available from the deli in your chinese market), diced
7 large dried Shitake mushrooms
2 cups uncooked sweet (sticky) rice
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 can (15 oz) Swanson’s chicken broth
6 Dried Lotus Leaves—they are often found near the dried mushrooms in your Chinese Market.
Soak mushrooms in water overnight, or bring to a boil in a pot of water, turn off heat, and let soak 1-2 hours until hydrated.
Meanwhile, wash the rice and put into a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Cut off and discard the tough stems from mushrooms. Finely dice the mushroom caps.
Saute Chinese sausage, barbecue pork, mushrooms, and green onions together for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and pepper.
Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve. Mix uncooked rice together with sausage mixture. Place mixture in a shallow heatproof dish.
Prepare a pot for steaming, bringing at least 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of the steamer. Place the dish of rice in the top of the steamer. Boil the chicken broth, and carefully pour over rice. Cover the steamer and steam on medium-high heat for 12 minutes. Uncover the steamer, and with a spatula, turn a section of rice over once, repeating till you’ve turned all the rice. Steam for another 13 minutes and rice should be cooked all the way through. Remove from steamer and let cool to room temperature.
While the rice is cooking and cooling, prepare the lotus leaf: (The following is copied verbatim from my “Not Quite Elven Fare” post and edited a bit. Aforementioned subsection of post in turn is adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings book. Is plagiarizing oneself a punishable offense?) Cut each lotus leaf down the middle into 2 double-layered fans. You will have 12 pieces of lotus leaf in total. Soak them in hot water for 30 minutes to soften them; I use a large roasting pan. Submerge the leaves completely by putting a plate on top. Remove from water, rinse and shake off excess water. Use scissors to cut off about 1.5 inches of the pointy bottom. To separate the double layers of each piece, cut each piece in half where the leaf was folded by the packing company. Then trim any excessively ragged edges. You should now have 24 pieces of leaf, each one representing one quarter of the original whole leaf. Stack with the darker side facing up so that when you wrap the packets, the darker side will color the outer layer of rice a rich brown. For each packet, use 1 piece of lotus leaf. If the leaf is pretty intact, no need to cut it. If it’s a bit more distressed, cut in half and overlap them. (You should have enough leftover pieces because some will need to be discarded and you won’t have enough rice for 24 packets.)
Arrange them, darker side facing up, on your work surface with narrow ends pointing toward you. Take a scoop of rice, about 2 tablespoons (I use a food scooper, MUCH easier) of rice, and wrap as in the photos. Steam over boiling water for 15 minutes, until heated through and soft. If you are not steaming right away, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days.
Critique: I made these for three different dumpling dinners. The first two dinners, they were overwhelmingly pronounced “my favorite!” — in competition with pot stickers, egg rolls, shrimp dumplings, and Sheng Jian Baozi, the previous favorite. At the third dumpling extravaganza dinner there were several leftover and not one guest said it was their favorite. Go figure.
Proper attire while consuming these goodies would include one or more of the following: locket, diadem, time-turner, resurrection stone, elven brooch.
You may want to steer clear of the One Ring.
Can I just comment on Ruth Reichl’s gingerbread? Ms. Reichl is, of course, the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine. I found her new-ish novel, Delicious! to be just that, a delicious treat of a read. Her gingerbread, which is the centerpiece of the story, is more of a ginger cake. I’ve made it twice and brought it to work. It has wonderful complexity of flavor, and when I mentioned to my friend Michael that I was going to make several different gingerbread recipes to find the best one, he simply said: “you can stop now”. I agree with him.
Buy or borrow the book. Get the recipe.
Shameless promotion of another non-dumpling recipe:
Phil came over for dinner, and when I asked him what he wanted, he replied “fried chicken”. I’ve never made fried chicken. I’ve stir fried, pan fried, oven fried, and otherwise cooked chicken several times a week for the past 30 years–but never the dreaded deep frying of the gallinaceous bird. So I decided to try my hand at Chicken Karaage, that wonderful flavorful morsel residing in your friendly neighborhood bento box. I made this recipe up.
Homemade Chicken Karaage
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup wine—I used leftover champagne from New Year’s eve
potato starch for dredging
canola oil for deep frying
Cut each chicken thigh into 4-6 pieces, depending on the size of the meat—you want chunks about 2×2 or 2×3 inches.
Mix soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and wine together till sugar is dissolved, then add the chicken, mix, and let marinade for a few hours. When ready to cook, pour off the marinade and discard, then dry the chicken on paper towels. Pour about a cup of potato starch into a large bowl and add the chicken, stirring to coat.
Heat canola or other vegetable oil in a heavy pan—I use my flat bottom wok and pour about an inch of oil—heat until hot, then place chicken pieces in a single layer, don’t crowd. After 3 minutes turn and cook the other side. Remove after another 3 minutes and drain on paper towels. Repeat, frying in batches till all the chicken is cooked.
Serve with bottled Thai chile sauce.
Shatteringly crispy. OH MY GOODNESS. This was really good.