Thursday, June 10, 2010

Joong/Zong: Chinese Sticky Rice with Red Snapper

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Me being a blogging noob, I didn’t realize that one had to authenticate in order to post comments.  This should now be resolved, so I expect to see a huge influx of comments that’ll bump the average comments per post from 0.45 to a solid 0.5!    Another telltale sign of my blogging noobiness is the recent lack of updates.  My bad.  Anyway…

Sticky rice is one of those magical things that when stuffed with a variety of sweet (Vietnamese sticky rice with banana) or savory fillings, wrapped in some sort of leaf, and steamed will always turn out delightful to eat even if it does look rather sloppy as is the case here.  Joong, or zong, is a typical Chinese rendition of tried and true sticky rice, filling, and leaf combination commonly found at dim sum places, Chinese bakeries, and Chinese markets.  I swear my dad calls it “dung,” which makes me laugh.  It’s almost as good as “tit.”

Nine times out of ten, when going out for dim sum with my family, we’ll grab a couple orders of sticky rice.  One to eat at the restaurant, and one to take home and eat later.  Chinese sticky rice is so comforting (and conveniently packaged) that many times when I was at home during for break during college, I’d make sure to order a couple extra to take back to campus.

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Lotus leaves are traditionally used to wrap the rice and give the little package of goodness a subtle tea-like aroma and flavor.  I thought it was pretty cool how the water beaded on one side of the leaf.  It was like the entire side was waterproof.

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Chinese sausage gives the package some fatty goodness and is essential to any respectable package of Chinese sticky rice.  I typically prefer the sweet variety of Chinese sausage as I find it has more depth of flavor and the balance between salty and sweet is quite nice.

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Another typical ingredient for Chinese sticky rice are tiny dried shrimp.  These add a salty brininess to the rice and help bring out the flavors of the other components of the rice.

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The sausage and dried shrimp are stir fried with the Chinese trinity of ginger, scallion, and garlic along with mushrooms, oyster sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, and Chinese wine.  Traditionally, ground pork or chicken is used as the main protein in the rice with an accompanying egg, but I opted for some fresh red snapper just to mix things up.

The filling and fish are then sandwiched between the steamed sticky rice.  You may notice that the sticky rice doesn’t look as glutinous as it should be.  I’ve made many forms of sticky rice many, many times with no issues, but something went wrong this time and I’m not too sure what.  I’m pretty sure I soaked the rice for long enough before steaming.

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Parceling up sticky rice is way easier than filling and wrapping tamales.  I think the next time I make tamales, I won’t be so exacting with the spreading of the masa.  The parcels then go for a steam to cook the fish and finish off the rice.  I’ve seen some recipes actually bundle the already-wrapped sticky rice in some foil and boil the package rather than steam it.  I’d like to try this technique some time since it seems like less of a hassle than dealing with my huge Chinese steamer.

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I didn’t really follow a recipe for this sticky rice and did things mostly by taste, but this recipe seems decent for a non-steamed/wrapped version.  Using red snapper turned out pretty good, but I must admit that I prefer the traditional ground pork with egg for the main protein.  Even with the sausage, there just wasn’t enough fat in the parcel for my tastes.

Perhaps next time I’ll try using Chilean sea bass instead since is nice and fatty.  Imagining those flavors actually reminds me of a Chilean sea bass dish that my mom makes every time we visit one of my aunts.  It’s steamed Chilean sea bass topped with a Vietnamese ground pork topping of ginger, scallion, glass noodles, fish sauce, and oyster sauce.  There’s probably a little more to the topping, but those are the main flavors that I can recall.

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