Glutinous Rice (Balls)

I have a confession to make: I'm an Asian, but I'm terrible at cooking Asian food. Over the past year, I’ve made a bunch of flatbreads, salsas, (non-Asian) salads, stews, and way too much cheese/avo toasties, but not a single 烧肉 (shao rou; crispy roast pork belly), fried rice or curry, let alone a simple stir-fry. The closest I've probably come to cooking Asian is through a pack of Shin Ramyun instant noodles (if you can call that cooking at all). What a disgrace to my heritage eh. :(

If you’re wondering, yes I do have cravings. I do occasionally yearn for the comfort of Chinese herbal soups and spicy sambals and curries, and all the shaved ice and kuihs and Cantonese dim sum desserts, and don’t even get me started on satays and rotis and classic Malaysian hawker fare like chicken rice and char kuay teow. Mmmm. But in between daydreams about the food of my homeland, I’ve never once attempted to cook these dishes in my months of being abroad. Because in my head, I’ve somehow managed to convince myself that whatever I make will never come close to tasting half as good as the original, and as a result my Asian cooking skills are now probably on par with that of an Asian preteen surviving on cup noodles and rice cooker rice.

But now that I’m back in Malaysia for a bit, it has dawned on me that I've lost touch with this part of my heritage that's been there for the taking all this time, patiently waiting for me while I was waltzing around the US and Europe learning about French haute cuisine and farm-to-table cooking. So over the next months, I'm taking it upon myself to plug this gap in my cooking knowledge, and I’m now taking lessons from the best Asian cook I know – my mom. So may I present Mama Loh’s Asian Cooking 101, Lesson #1 – Glutinous Rice.

*Embarrassingly, my only contribution to this recipe is rolling the rice into balls, making them a bit fun/weird. I'm calling them "Chinese tapas" (don't cringe). You never know, it might just be the next big food trend. Actually maybe not, since it already exists... in the form of dim sum. (Great job, Jun -_-) 

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Glutinous Rice Balls

makes ~25 balls

Ingredients:

500g glutinous rice, soaked in water for 4-6 hours, then drained
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5 shallots, sliced thinly and fried until crispy, for serving
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in water for ~an hour, then sliced thinly
1 salted cuttlefish, cut into thin strips*
20g dried shrimp

50ml oil
50ml chicken stock, or any other stock or water
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
salt
pepper

Method:

  1. Heat up the oil in a pan or a wok. Fry the garlic in the oil until it gets a light shade of gold (about 2 minutes), then add the cuttlefish and shrimp and fry until aromatic (a minute or so). Finally, add the mushrooms and fry until soft (another minute or so).
  2. Add the chicken stock, dark soy sauce and fish sauce to the mixture, and simmer for 2 minutes. If the mixture is looking a bit dry, add some more stock or water. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the glutinous rice to the pan and stir until evenly distributed. Transfer everything into a tray/bowl, and to this add water until the rice is just covered. Steam for 40-50 minutes, or until desired texture. (This process is totally doable in a rice cooker, in which case you’d cook it with slightly less water than you would regular rice.)
  4. Remove the rice from steamer/rice cooker, taste and adjust seasoning if need, and let cool.
  5. Roll into balls, or leave loose. Top with fried shallots and spring onion, and enjoy!

Notes:

  • It’s easiest to cut the cuttlefish lengthwise with a pair of scissors so they’ll curl up nicely when you cook them.
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