One of my favorite foodstuffs in the world is glutenous rice. The QQ texture is just something I love. Whether it is ground into chewy mochi or in more hearty forms such as zongzi. Lucky for me, and not at all surprising, the Taiwanese also hold a special regard for glutenous rice. In Taiwan a traditional use of glutenous rice is in 油飯 (yóu fàn), literally “oil rice.” Perhaps not the best sounding name in English, so I think maybe “Taiwanese Sticky Rice” is probably the best English name I have come across.
油飯 is a very common celebration and festival food in Taiwan. It is often served to celebrate the birth of a child, at New Year’s meals, and at temple celebrations. But it is also not at all uncommon to find 油飯 in more everyday settings as well. In fact my favorite place to get油飯 is on the station platform at Taichung’s train station. It is one of my favorite parts of the railroad experience in central Taiwan, something I always look forward to. Something to snack on while the trains speeds through the rice paddies of the southern plain.
The ubiquitous presence of 油飯 is possibly owing to the simplicity of it. Even though it is a pretty rich dish it is essentially fried (glutenous) rice. It is a little more involved than regular fried rice, as in there is a steamer involved (twice), but nothing too daunting. There is also nothing too exotic about the ingredients. Though I would suggest finding long grained glutenous rice (長糯米 zhǎng nuò mǐ) which is favored by the Taiwanese for glutenous rice dishes. It tends to hold its shape better than the short grained variety. Fortunately long grained glutenous rice is pretty easy to track down at most any SE Asian market.
I am going to pass on a traditional and simple recipe for 油飯 though there are numerous variations and manifestations. Such as there are braised peanuts (滷花生 lǔ huā shēng) in the 油飯 I get from the train station from Taichung, which I really like. Some people like to substitute sesame oil for some of the oil or lard used in the recipe. This gives it a pleasant flavor and aroma, just remember to substitute not add extra. As the addition of too much oil makes it unpleasantly greasy.
- 3 c. (600g) long grained glutenous rice
- 7 oz. (200g) pork belly, cut into thin strips*
- 5-10 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
- 2 T. (30g) dried shrimp, soaked and chopped
- 8 shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 T. lard
- 1 T. sugar
- 3 T. soy sauce
- 1/2 c. (100 ml) stock
- 2 T. rice wine
- pinch of salt
- dash of white pepper
- fresh cilantro leaves (and maybe some chili sauce)
- Wash and soak the long grained glutenous rice for at least 5 hours.
- Soak the dried mushrooms and dried shrimp in warm water for 30 minutes. Then slice the mushrooms and roughly chop the shrimp.
- Line a steamer basket with cheese cloth or other similar light fabric. Place the soaked rice in the lined steamer and steam on high for about 30 minutes. Until the grains are translucent and tender.
- While the rice is steaming heat your wok over medium high heat. To the hot wok add the 4 T. of lard (or oil). Once the lard is hot add the sliced shallots. Fry until lightly golden brown.
- Next add the sliced mushrooms, chopped dried shrimp Stir fry until fragrant.
- Then add the sliced pork and fry until it changes color.
- Add the sugar, soy sauce, stock, rice wine, salt and white pepper.
- Lower the heat to low then add the steamed glutenous rice. Carefully and slowly mix in the rice until it is fully combined. Remove from heat.
- Place the rice mixture into a heat proof bowl(s) that fits in your steamer. Place the bowl(s) of rice mixture into a steamer and steam for a further 10 minutes.
- Serve with chopped cilantro and some chili sauce if so desired.
* If you would like you can marinate the sliced pork in a mixture of 1 T. rice wine, 1 T. soy sauce, and 1 t. of corn starch, for 30 minutes prior to frying. Strictly speaking it is not necessary, but it is totally worth it. Also you really can use whatever cut of pork you want, some prefer leaner cuts.