September 10, 2008

Pork, Sticky Rice and Shiitake Mushrooms Wrapped in Banana Leaf

1 cup sticky rice
1 lb ground pork
3 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons kecap manis
1 tablespoon kalamansi infused soy sauce*
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 shallot, minced
white pepper

10 6 x 10 inch squares of banana leaf
10 1/2 inch x 10 inch strips of banana leaf


Prepare rice according to package instructions. In a large pan, saute the shallot in both of the oils until soft. Add the mushrooms and pork, saute until almost cooked through. Make sure you break up any large chunks with your spoon. Add the sauces and pepper. Continue to saute until the pork is cooked through.


Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the rice. Pour into a 8x8 inch pan and use a spatula to press the mixture down firmly.


Allow to cool then invert on to a platter and cut into 9 equal squares.


Place one square in the middle of a leaf and fold the smaller ends inward and then the longer pieces towards the center as if you were wrapping a present. Secure with banana leaf strip if needed. Repeat for remaining squares. If you make no mistakes, you should have one leaf and one strip leftover. Discard the leftover leaf and strip. Place the packets in a bamboo steamer.


You can stack them if you run out of room, they will not stick. Steam over boiling water in a wok for about 45 minutes. Make sure the water does not boil away, add extra during the cooking time if the need arises. Remove, unwrap and eat.


My thoughts:
This is sort of a cross between my favorite thing to get at a dim sum restaurant- sticky rice surrounding Chinese sausage wrapped in a lotus leaf and suman, a Filipino treat that comes in a variety of both sweet and savory fillings. I have a huge amount of ground pork in my freezer (as a result of a unadvertised 99 cents a pound special I came across at the grocery, a 20 lb bag of sticky rice and some frozen banana leaves so it seemed pretty clear what I had to make. Rather than stuff the rice which is a some what tedious process when you are using ground meat, I merely mixed it in. This gave it a hardier and meatier flavor that then filled packets I've had in the made and make them extra filling. While steaming them for 40 minutes seems like a lot of extra work, it really infused the rice and meat with a wonderful, delicate flavor that was worth the effort.

Notes about ingredients:
Kecap Manis is a thick, palm sugar sweetened soy sauce available at many Asian groceries and well stocked supermarkets. If you had to, substitute dark soy sauce with a pinch of sugar stirred in.

Banana leaves are frequently found Asian, Caribbean or African groceries or well stocked supermarkets. Occasionally I have seen them for sale fresh but more often they are sold frozen. If using frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.

I found kalamansi flavored soy sauce (toyomansi)at my local Asian grocer, but you could mix light soy sauce with fresh or bottled kalamansi (calamansi) juice or lime juice for a similar effect.