Stuck on sticky rice

Sticky Rice with fillings

My sticky rice is not much to look at, but the flavor is good.

Turns out it is incredibly easy to turn out perfect Asian-style sticky rice… why didn’t somebody tell me about this before? Cheap, simple and delicious—that’s what we are all about at Burnt My Fingers.

You can use it as a utensil like they do in Laos and Northern Thailand and push your brisket and beans around the plate with a sticky ball of rice instead of a slice of Mrs. Baird’s. Or, add your favorite fillings, wrap in a piece of parchment paper, and make your own version of Chinese Lo Mai Gai.

My bag of sticky rice

My bag of sticky rice

But you need the right kind of rice—you can’t take ordinary jasmine rice and make it sticky. You want khao neow, sold in Asian markets as “sweet” (it’s not) or “glutinous” (it contains no gluten). It looks the same as regular rice (actually it’s less translucent, like koji) but is very low on amylose, the starch component that preserves the identity of the individual grains.

Start by soaking the rice—overnight or longer. Drain and transfer to a steamer, where you will probably need to spread some cheesecloth or some other layer to keep it falling through. Don’t worry about those grains rolling around, though; it will become more cohesive as it cooks. Check in about 20 minutes then test a bit; when done it should be tender and sticky. The traditional method is to serve in a central bowl or basket and guests take out small portions with their fingers, then roll them into a ball which they eat or dip in sauces.

Sticky Rice Bundles

Rice wrapped in parchment paper goes into the steamer. The bundles will plump up as they cook.

You can also add fillings, as in my photo at the top of this post. For a poor relation of Lo Mai Gai, I sliced 2 dry Chinese sausages (Lap Cheong) on the bias and deboned and chopped 4 oz of smoked duck from the Chinese BBQ place. I mixed this with 2 t dark soy sauce, 1 t toasted sesame oil, 1 t oyster sauce and 1 t Xiao Xing cooking wine. The day before I had soaked 1 dry cup sticky rice which had expanded somewhat; I drained this and put a couple spoonfuls onto each of four 6 inch squares of parchment paper, added a couple spoonfuls of the meats, then a couple spoonfuls of rice. I then folded the parchment paper in on itself and secured with kitchen twine. Since the ingredients were already cooked they were done in half an hour, but Serious Eats (in the recipe where I also got the simple marinade above) recommends steaming for 90 minutes if you are using raw chicken (gai). If you do this, be sure to check and replenish the water regularly.

The result was definitely within striking distance of a Clement Street product and I look forward to trying pork belly, mushrooms and maybe some roasted garlic as fillings. I’ve since procured some dried lotus leaves which are a more authentic wrapper than parchment paper (though the paper works fine).

Note that because sticky rice does not take on as much water, it’s denser and you need less to fill you up. It’s good stuff but go easy.

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