Steamed glutinous rice, or sticky rice, is one of my favourite things to eat. I’ve previously touched about the subject of glutinous (or sticky) rice in my post about lo mai gai, but my parents used to periodically cook sticky rice for us all as a treat which we all loved and given how easy it is to make, I thought I would treat myself and make some to eat, too. Years ago, I wouldn’t have done it because I thought you could only cook it on the hob which invariably meant that the bottom of the rice in the pan would stick and burn to the pan which on the one hand meant that you would get some really crisp parts to give an extra textural crunch, but if it was too black then not only would that part of the sticky rice be inedible, but would most likely ruin your pan, too.
I’m very lucky too in that I have easy access to an abundance of high quality Chinese dried seafood and meats but they’re all ingredients which are easily found in a Chinese supermarket. The dried seafood I used were dried shrimps and also some dried scallops, both of which were soaked in lukewarm water for about 30mins. The dried cured belly pork (lap yuk) was sliced into small, thin slices and the dried chinese sausage (lap cheung) were briefly soaked to loosen the casings then peeled and sliced into thin rounds. All of these will plump up slightly once steamed so you don’t want them too thin, nor do you want them too thick and so overpower each mouthful.
The glutinous rice itself was soaked in cold water for an hour or so before drained and lightly seasoned – You don’t want too much salt as the idea is that the steamed dried meats and seafood will permeate the rice with their juices as the whole thing is steamed. To avoid any danger of ruining any pans by cooking the rice on the hob, I decided to steam the whole thing; Using a basket steamer which neatly fits onto one of my pots, I cut out some parchment paper to cover the base and then pierced the paper where all the steam holes were. The idea of the parchment is to not only prevent any rice from falling through the holes and into the water bubbling beneath, but it also means that the cooked rice won’t stick to the base of the steamer (and so not waste anything). It’s a bit of a laborious task but trust me, the final results will be worth it.
With the holes in the parchment marked, the (lightly seasoned) glutinous rice is tipped into the steamer basket, before the chopped and drained dried meats and seafood are scattered on top layer by layer. Cover it all with a lid and let it steam on a high heat until the rice and meat above are cooked. How long depends on how much you are cooking – Mines took about an hour, but that’s because I cooked a stupidly large amount and still had too much seafood on top.
Once it’s cooked, you will see that the seafood on top will have plumped up slightly as it absorbs the steam. Also, the fat in the cooked meats will be translucent and almost sparkle. The rice itself will have transformed from pearly white grains to a slightly brown, again translucent colour in it’s now cooked state and it will have absorbed all the oils and juices released by the dried meats in the steaming process. The whole thing will look like the rice has been bejewelled by the cooked meats glistening in the light and the smells of a deep and full savoury umami will permeate the air, enticing and teasing you to pick at it to eat.
Mix everything together so that the dried goodies are well mixed into the rice, you could add some thinly sliced spring onions or even some peanuts for that added textural crunch, but I like to eat my steamed rice as it comes – Savouring every mouthful of delicious rice with the combination of dried meats and seafood. Each mouthful is very similar but never quite the same – you may get a bit more dried scallop in this mouthful, or a bit more lap cheung in that mouthful. It’s something that makes me very happy to be able to eat it and as I ponder how different each mouthful is with a smile on my face, before I know it I’ve eaten a whole bowlful and yearn for more. However, you can’t eat too much glutinous rice as, let’s say too much severely tests your digestive capabilities. That said, I still enjoy it every time I get to eat it and have a big smile on my face every time I do get to eat it as a result. True, I don’t get the crust at the bottom as I would if I were to cook the rice on the hob, but by steaming it, I don’t waste anything and get to eat ALL of it. If you can get hold of dried goodies from your local Asian supermarket, try it – I hope it brings you as much joy to eat it as it does for me.
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