Lotus leaf rice, inspired by claypot rice
Hello from Australia! We’ve just returned from a week of house-hunting in the Netherlands. It was a productive trip and we are so relieved to have secured a property for ourselves in this crazy rental market. For those of you who are new to this newsletter, we currently live in Daylesford, a small town of 2,000-3,000 inhabitants. As much as I enjoy the tranquility, it has been very difficult at times because there’s no public transport here and I can’t drive. We felt that a medium-sized city like Breda in the Netherlands would be the perfect compromise between connectedness and peace.
The day we viewed our property, there was a huge magnolia tree blooming across the road and it felt like a sign ✨ (I later learned that the petals are edible so there might be some magnolia adventures on this newsletter in the future! 😛)
We have exactly four weeks left in Australia and top of the agenda is to finish eating everything in our pantry (or as much as we can). A couple of weeks ago, I made Teochew steamed fish with salted plums and now my attention is turned to the heap of dried lotus leaves that has been sitting in the cupboard for months. It caught my eye at the Asian grocer and I just had to purchase it - ingredients like this don’t come by very easily where I live - but procrastination got the better of me.
Glutinous rice steamed in lotus leaf (or lotus leaf rice) is the obvious thing to make and there are so many versions of glutinous rice that one can make for this dish. I thought of the really good Hokkien version that my mother-in-law had prepared when we were back in Singapore. Hokkien cuisine is all about pang (fragrance), and her version was robust and rich with deep-fried peanuts, dried shiitake mushroom, fried shallots, dried shrimp, lapcheong (Chinese sausage) and pork belly:
But I find that the older I get, the simpler I prefer my food to taste and the more I gravitate to the kind of Cantonese cooking that I ate growing up at home. I’ve a go-to dish of ginger and sesame oil chicken that I make regularly - I based my lotus leaf rice off that.
The dish begins with frying minced garlic and ginger in sesame oil until fragrant. The heat is turned off before seasonings like soy sauce and oyster sauce are added:
Here’s the magic of the dish: a little cornstarch is tossed through the chicken so that when steamed, the chicken has a velvety, silky mouthfeel. The chicken, along with dried mushrooms and lapcheong, is tossed in the gingery, garlicky marinade.
I love op-shopping and one of my purchases was this pair of bamboo steamers. I lined them with lotus leaves and filled them with soaked glutinous rice:
Once the rice is mostly cooked, the raw chicken mixture goes on top:
Everything steams together in the lotus leaf parcel until the chicken and rice are completely cooked through. As the chicken cooks, it releases its juices - this essence gets absorbed by the rice as it steams. You could try making this dish with jasmine rice instead of glutinous rice for a result closer to traditional claypot rice, but I find glutinous rice way more forgiving in terms of amount of water to use.
Add some boiled vegetables and you’ve got yourself a complete meal. If you’re after more robust flavours, you can drizzle over dark soy sauce and sesame oil over the top to taste and mix them through.
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Ginger and sesame oil chicken