Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chinese Sticky Rice 糯米飯

I have not been able to find very many good sticky rice (糯米飯)recipes online. This wonderful dish was a Thanksgiving staple in my house for years, our Chinese answer to traditional stuffing. For each step, I have included some interesting facts as an aside in italics. Here's my recipe; there are quite a few steps, but I'll try to make it as simple as I can.

Inactive Prep Time: 30 mins
Active Cook Time: 40 mins
Serves 3 as a main course, 5-6 as a side

1 1/2 cups glutinous rice
1/2 cup jasmine rice
3 Chinese sausages
8 Dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 bunch of cilantro
1/2 yellow or white onion
2 stalks green onions
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1 tbls. rice wine or cooking brandy
2 tsps. soy sauce
1 tbls. oyster sauce
2 tsps. sweet chili sauce

1. Find a short-grain glutinous rice. This is the one I picked up at my local 99 Ranch. It is also known as sweet rice. For this recipe, I mix 3 parts short-grain rice with 4 parts Jasmine rice. Do not wash the rice, but instead soak it in cold water.

Rice is made up of two types of starch: amylose, a long chain of glucose, and amylopectin, branched chains of glucose. Long-grain rice has more amylose and need more water to cook than short-grain rice which has more amylopectin. The more amylopectin, the softer and stickier the texture of the rice. Arborio rice used in Italian risotto is short- to medium-grain resulting in a fluffy texture similar to sticky rice.

2. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water to allow them to rehydrate.

Shiitake mushrooms are cultivated decomposers that grow on rotting oak trees. Chinese have been harvesting shiitakes since the 13th century. Studies have linked these mushrooms to tumor inhibition in humans. Contrary to popular belief, mushrooms should be washed before preparation and not just brushed. They will not absorb much water considering they are mostly water to begin with.

3. While the mushrooms and rice are soaking, begin chopping the onion, green onion and cilantro. Set the green onion and cilantro aside in the fridge under a damp paper towel for garnish.

Cilantro is actually the plant that grows from coriander seed. Though they are the same plant, the taste is widely different and cannot be substituted. Cilantro grows in sand, so make sure to wash it thoroughly. If you want it to keep longer in your fridge, put it into a small bottle of water like a vase. Even then, make sure to use it in less than a week or so.

4. Remove the shiitakes from the water but reserve the soaking liquid. It will be used to cook the rice and infuse it with mushroom flavor (I hate the word "infuse" in cooking, but in this case it actually applies). Reserve two mushrooms whole and place to the side. Chop the remainder of the mushrooms finely. When chopping the mushrooms, remove the stem; they are typically too woody and not good eats very fun to chew on.

5. Slice the sausage into quarters lengthwise. Then chop those quarters into small pieces. It is a versatile ingredient that lasts long and is useful for all types of stir-fries. You can find it at most Chinese groceries.

6. Heat a large frying pan or wok on medium-high until a drop of water sizzles. Combine the sausage, onion and mushrooms and place in the pan. Don't add extra oil because the sausage has plenty of fat to fry the shiitakes and onions. Add a dash of rice wine or brandy and stir-fry until the onions have turned golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and oyster sauce to the mixture. Be careful not to add too much, although at this point it will be excessively salty because it will also flavor the rice later.

Oyster sauce is actually made from oysters unlike its counterpart hoisin sauce which means seafood sauce but has no seafood ingredients.

This is what the mixture should look like at the point of adding the oyster and soy sauces. Notice that the onions have softened and that the sausage has browned nicely. This kind of sausage needs to be fully-cooked before eating.

On lazy nights, simply place two sausage on top of the raw rice and water in your rice cooker and let it all cook together. The sausage will flavor the rice and the steam will cook the sausage thoroughly. Consider adding a steamer attachment that comes with most modern rice cookers and steaming some vegetables at the same time.

7. Drain the rice and put into a medium to large pot with a lid. Place the reserved two shiitake mushrooms in with the rice. Pour in equal parts of the liquid used to soak the mushrooms and chicken broth. The liquid should come cover the rice. Lid the pot, keeping it to one side to let a small opening for steam to escape. Turn the heat to medium-low.

8. When the rice has absorbed some of the liquid, about 10 minutes, spoon the fried mixture over the rice. Do not stir or otherwise disturb the rice yet. It is not done. Recover the pot and let it cook for an additional 10 minutes or so.

9. When the rice has finished cooking and absorbed all of the free-standing liquid, it should reach this consistency. At this point, you can stir the rice to incorporate all the ingredients together. Also, you can add additional oyster sauce to taste. To plate like my serving suggestion above, fill a bowl with sticky rice and simply turn over onto a place. Garnish with green onion, cilantro and sweet chili sauce.

There are many variations to the recipe. Some ingredients I would consider adding include dried shrimp and Chinese dried pork. As I mentioned before, consider using this as an alternative to stuffing. It is great as a main course to a simple meal or a side dish to a more elaborate feast.

Some research from On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.


Sheri said...

Sounds delicious! I LOVE sticky rice. I'll try and make your version this week. Thanks for the great article and the beautiful pictures.

Cooking with tien said...

Thanks for sharing. I was researching sticky rice recipes and came across your blog. -Tien

Anonymous said...

Just want to say thanks. I used your recipe to make sticky rice last night and it turn out very good. In addition to the recipe, I also added chicken and substituted fresh shitake mushroom for dry ones. I am surpraise since I am not much of a cook (thought I would mess up). Thanks for walking me through it and the pics really helped. - LM

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I grew up eating this and have always wanted to know how to make it. Great recipe and great instructions.

Anonymous said...

Why do you save 2 mushrooms and add it with the liquid over the rice? What do you do with it afterwards? Cut it up? Use it for garnish?? What does the 2 mushrooms doe?

Aaron said...

I think two more mushrooms would be too much to keep in the rice. With dried shiitakes, sometimes the fragrance is enough. The two extra mushrooms are to impart more of the mushroom flavor without overwhelming the dish. I suppose you can use it as a garnish. I didn't do anything with them.

Unknown said...
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Rosey said...

Inadvertantly bought the wrong bag of short grain rice (sweet rice), so I have been looking for sweet rice recipes -- not too many of them out there in cyberspace! Thanks for this recipe! Will be trying it this week.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recipe! I will try it today :) Very detailed and nicely written for us without too much experience in cooking :)

Anonymous said...

We love yum cha and my kids love sticky rice and prawn dumplings especially. I have made this recipe many times for them and they love it every time, it is the closest we can get to the real thing without wrapping in the leaves. I cook it in our rice cooker and I always serve it with homemade prawn dumplings. It comes out great every time.

Thank you for sharing your recipe.

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