I’ve been experimenting with a vegan version of sticky rice in lotus leaf (called lo mai gai in Cantonese). It’s very popular at dim sum, although I have yet to come across a veggie one in a restaurant. It usually has chicken and maybe other meats in it. Hence the experiment.
It’s basically sticky rice (which is also known as glutinous or sweet rice) with a savory filling wrapped in a lotus leaf and then steamed. The lotus leaf imparts a fragrant, delicate flavor to the rice. While steaming, it smells a bit like tea.
Lotus leaves are sold dried and can be found at the Asian supermarket. To use, soak in hot water until they become pliable and darker in color. The sticky rice (sweet rice) can also be found at the Asian grocery store. It is not the same as sushi rice; it’s stickier. Above is the brand I always use, I cooked it in my fuzzy logic rice cooker on the sweet rice setting.
Surprisingly easy to make, as it’s mostly just assembly and waiting for things to soak. Well, I wasn’t actually standing there waiting, that would be silly. But it’s well worth the little bit of effort and planning to make this classic dim sum dish.
Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf
Makes 6 dim sum sized packets
2 cups sweet rice (using the measuring cup that came with the rice cooker)
3 dried lotus leaves
4 dried mushrooms, soaked and diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
3 1/2 ounces vegan sausage (or 1 Tofurky Italian sausage), sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
2 medium green onions, diced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons vegetarian oyster sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Cooking directions is for use with a rice cooker with a 5.5 cups capacity. Using the inner pot of the rice cooker, rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water is clear. Add enough water to cook the sweet rice as indicated on the inner pot. Let the rice soak in the water for 2 hours before cooking. Cook the rice according to the rice cooker directions.
Trim off the ragged edges of the lotus leaf with kitchen scissors, then cut off the hard knobby part at the pointy end and cut the leaf in half. Soak in hot water for about an hour, turning them over halfway through and weighting the leaves down if necessary.
Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.
Heat a wok to hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the veggie sausage and stir fry until lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and carrot and continue to stir fry for another minute or so, if it seems dry, add a little bit of water. Add the green onions and then the sauce, combine well. Place on a plate and set aside.
Rinse the lotus leaves and gently squeeze out any excess water. Place on a work surface with the curved edge facing away from you. Rub a little oil evenly onto the leaf.
Take 1/6 of the rice and divide it in 2, place one half onto the lower center of a leaf and work it into a small rectangle shape. Place 1/6 of the filling on the rice, then top with the other rice half and pat down.
Fold the tip end of the leaf up over the rice, then fold in the left and right sides. Roll up towards the curved edge to form a rectangular package. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to make all 6 packets.
Put the packets seam side down in a steamer and steam for 30 minutes. To serve, unwrap the lotus leaves and transfer the rice onto a plate.