The Chinese zongzi — sticky rice wrapped in leaves then steamed — has many variations all over Asia. Some are savory while others are sweet. Although bamboo leaves are traditionally used for zongzi, elsewhere in Asia, other leaves like lotus and banana are used. The filling that goes with the rice varies from region to region in China, and from country to country elsewhere in Asia. The shape varies too from pyramidal to conical to cylindrical to square.
My version of steamed sticky rice has a pork and shiitake mushroom filling. I used banana leaves to wrap them. You have to prepare the banana leaves correctly.
Prepare the banana leaves. Cut the fibrous part along the side. Save it for tying the parcels. Cut the leaves into eight pieces about 10-inch square.
Wipe the leaves then pass over the flame of the stove to wilt. If you don’t wilt the leaves, they won’t be pliable enough for wrapping.
When the leaves have been softened, you can start wrapping the rice and pork in them.
Wrap the rice and pork as you would a sandwich. Wrap with a second piece of banana leaf. Tie to secure.
Then, place the banana leaf-wrapped rice and pork in the steamer basket.
Forty minutes later, they are ready.
- 1 and 1/2 cups sticky (glutinous) rice cooked with the minimal amount of water
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 200 to 300 grams cooked pork belly cut into half-inch cubes
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 3 shallots or 1 to 2 onions, finely sliced
- 1 half-inch piece ginger grated
- 1 star anise
- 4 to 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste (or use tamarind juice)
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar (brown sugar may be substituted)
- 10 shiitake mushrooms stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
- banana leaf trimmed, wilted and cut into 10-inch squares
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the pork and cook until the edges start to brown. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise and shallots. Continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute.
Pour in the soy sauce, oyster sauce and tamarind paste (or juice). Stir in the palm sugar. Stir fry for about a minute.
Add the sliced mushrooms. Stir fry for another minute. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Divide the rice and filling into four portions (don’t forget to discard the star anise in the filling!).
Place two pieces of banana leaf one on top of the other, shiny sides up.
Spread one portion of rice on a piece of on the banana leaf. Top with a portion of the filling. Wrap securely. Take another piece of banana leaf and wrap again. Tie up the parcel. Repeat with the remaining three portions of rice and pork.
Place the parcels in steamer baskets. Steam for 40 minutes.
To serve: Unwrap, sprinkle with crisp onion slices and sliced shallots.