Thanksgiving Stuffing the Chinese Way
I can’t believe it’s only 3 weeks to Thanksgiving.
My husband and I will be celebrating our first Thanksgiving in California but my whole family–parents, sister, and brother with his wife and two boys in tow–is driving down from Seattle to pay us a visit in Pacific Grove. It’ll be crazy-busy times but I’m sure I won’t mind. I miss having my family just minutes away (my hubby, not so much).
Although I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, over the years, the annual ensemble of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce has grown on me. I’ve realized that turkey doesn’t always have to taste like cardboard (darn those dorm dining hall meals). In fact, a deep fried turkey comes out so moist and juicy, usually-bland breast meat isn’t objectionable to my dark-meat loving palate. I have also learned that just about anything, including miraculous just-add-water from-powder-to-mush mashed potatoes (trust Betty Crocker to come up with instant mashed potatoes), when drowned in gravy and cranberry sauce can be edible.
And of course, there’s a never-ending succession of Thanksgiving recipes unfurled year after year in magazines, on TV and on the World Wide Web to help the impassioned cook present yet another winning holiday menu. If you’re cracking your head trying to figure out what to make for this year’s gathering, try Pearl Fong’s delicious Chinese-American stuffing recipe. It is probably adapted from the Cantonese dish called lo mai gai: glutinous rice, black mushrooms, and Chinese sausage wrapped in a dried lotus leaf and steamed. (An aside: Before seeing this recipe in my manuscript, my editor had assumed his mom invented this dish!)
Whatever I end up preparing for my Thanksgiving table, I will give thanks for family, friends, peace where I live, and the very fact that I can actually put food, even a feast, on the table. Happy Thanksgiving!
Sticky Rice Stuffing (Naw Mai Fun)
Many Chinese-American families have incorporated this Chinese-style sticky rice stuffing into their Thanksgiving tradition, serving it right alongside turkey. However, the turkey is not always roasted. Instead, it may be steamed, which is the traditional way chicken or duck is cooked. Pearl Fong’s rice stuffing recipe blends both traditional Thanksgiving ingredients (chestnuts) with traditional Chinese ones (water chestnuts) to create a side dish that is delicious anytime of the year.
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes (45 minutes active)
Makes: 8 to 10 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal
1 1/2 cups sticky rice
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
3 3/4 cup water or chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 (about 6 ounces) Chinese sausages, steamed and cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
8 medium dried black mushrooms, rehydrated and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (reserve the soaking liquid)
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) peeled and chopped water chestnuts
15 (about 4 ounces) peeled, cooked chestnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Put the sticky rice and long grain rice in a large pot and wash well. Drain and add 3 3/4 cups fresh cold water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside for 1 hour.
In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Fry the onions until they’re soft and translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
Set the pot of rice on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the water is almost completely absorbed.
Place all the prepared ingredients on top of the rice and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the steam to cook the rice.
After 15 to 20 minutes, add the remaining salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Stir from the bottom to distribute the ingredients. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the rice is tender but not mushy; the grains should still be separated. If the rice is still hard, make a well in the center of the pot and add a little water, stock, or mushroom liquid. Raise the heat to high to generate more steam, then reduce and cook a few more minutes.
Moisten the rice stuffing with turkey drippings and/or chicken stock and serve as a side dish with your cooked turkey.
One key ingredient is glutinous rice (also called sticky rice, naw mai [Cantonese], or malagkit [Tagalog]). You can find both white and black glutinous rice at Asian stores. To avoid confusion, remember that raw glutinous rice is fat and opaque, while long grain rice is skinny and translucent. Once cooked, however, glutinous rice turns translucent and clumps together much more instead of separating as regular long grain rice does.