Sticky rice dumplings (zongzi in Chinese) are common throughout Southeast Asia -- both savory and sweet versions. This savory recipe is like having a full meal all wrapped up in one neat little package, featuring a healthy chicken and shiitake mushroom filling wrapped up in banana leaves and either steamed, barbecued, or baked in the oven. Serve as the main course with a salad or stir-fry vegetables on the side, or as a snack. They also make a great lunch -- just take one of these compact packets to work and microwave it for a quick, deliciously unique meal.
- 1 package banana leaves (fresh or frozen: if frozen, thaw for at least 1 hour)
- 2 cups prepared sticky rice
- 2 boneless chicken breasts (cut into bite-size pieces or smaller)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch (stirred into 3 tablespoons soy sauce)
- 1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms (diced)
- 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger (1 grated and the other cut into matchstick pieces)
- 1/4 cup white wine or sherry
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- Oil for stir-frying
Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 3 tablespoons soy sauce until cornstarch dissolves. Pour over chopped chicken breasts in a small mixing bowl. Stir well and set aside.
Place a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl around, then add the ginger. Stir-fry 30 seconds and add the chicken. As you stir-fry, add 1 tablespoon white wine or stock whenever the wok/pan becomes dry. After about 2 minutes (or when chicken is cooked), add the mushrooms and stir-fry another 1 to 2 minutes, or until mushrooms have softened.
Add the stir-fry sauce (combine fish sauce, brown sugar, 1 piece grated peeled ginger, lime juice, dark soy sauce, and oyster sauce) and turn heat down to low while you stir it in. Do a taste-test, adding more lime juice if too salty for your taste, more sugar if too sour. Switch off heat and set aside to cool.
Unfold banana leaves. Using scissors, cut one large rectangular piece (approximately 1 foot by 1 1/2 feet). Then cut a smaller piece to go inside (approximately 8- to 10-inch rectangle). The smaller piece is like a lining (banana leaves are naturally porous).
Bring out the prepared sticky rice. Scoop out enough rice to make a square patty in the center of the 2 banana leaves (the patty should be about 4" square or slightly larger, and about 1/2" thick). Now place about 1 heaping tablespoon of the chicken stir-fry filling (or slightly more) over the rice.
Take another scoop of sticky rice and cover the filling so that it's almost like a sandwich. Sticky rice is easy to work with -- if you find there are places where the filling is left uncovered, simply patch these areas with a little more sticky rice.
Now fold down the top of the banana leaf rectangle over the sticky rice. Holding this in place, bring up the bottom of the rectangle then fold over the sides. Think of wrapping a present or parcel. Use a toothpick, satay stick or some baker's twine to secure your banana leaf packets.
When ready to eat, heat them up in the oven 15 minutes at 350 degrees, or you can also microwave or steam them. Eat the dumplings out of the banana leaves (the leaf lends the dumpling a delicate, unique fragrance and flavor).