Steamed chicken in lotus leaves are often called Lo Mai Gai in Cantonese language is popular not only in China, but throughout Asia. In the summer, lotus leaves cover the entire surface of the ponds in the Hunanese countryside. The lotus leaves are sold in dried form in large package. The leaf itself is packed in half circle, but when you unfold it into a full circle, it’s really large in size. Using it as a wrapper is simply a gorgeous idea. The lotus leaf will impart flavor to your dish and it is simply amazing.
The steamed chicken in lotus leaves is made with chicken coated in rice meal (glutinous rice and long-grain rice). The coated chicken is then wrapped in the lotus leaves and steamed until cooked through. It is very fun to serve this to your guests as well because they get to open up the parcel on their own to discover the delicious food they get to eat.
When I just had a baby 19 months ago, my mom made lo mai gai too, but it is different version to this one. This is the version you will find at my hometown. Instead of wrapping with lotus leaves, she used banana leaves, and she used Chinese barbecued pork and other ingredients that is quite similar to glutinous rice cone/ Zong zi. That was really delicious too.
If you ever go for a dim sum. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but if you ever wonder what dim sum is, it is basically a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Dim Sum is usually linked with the older tradition of yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travellers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest.
If you feel adventurous (that’s why you are here reading this post right ?), give this a try, you will love it!
This recipe is adopted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop, published by Norton (US)/Ebury Press (UK). www.fuchsiadunlop.com
- 1/4 cup long-grain rice
- 1/4 cup glutinous rice
- 1 star anise
- 1 lb boned chicken thighs , breasts, or what-ever cut suits you, with skin
- 2-4 dried lotus leaves , soaked in hot water, wipe it dry and then cut into half and then into half again on each leaf, aiming to get 12 pieces in total
- Peanut oil
- 1 Tbsp shaoxing wine
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2 scallions , whites only, finely chopped
- Toast the long-grain rice, glutinous rice, and star anise in t dry wok over a medium flame, stirring constantly, until the rice is brittle and yellowish; set aside. When cool, remove the star anise and grind the rice in a food processor. Do not grind to a fine powder- the mixture should be of similar coarseness to couscous (This step can be done some time in advance)
- Cut the chicken into slices about 1/4-inch thick and place in a bowl (If you are using breasts, cut on a steep angle into large slices). Add marinade ingredients, mix well, and leave for 15 minutes or so to let the flavors penetrate
- Remove the lotus leaves from the water and pat dry. Cut each lotus leaf into about 8 segments, discarding any raggedy pieces. Trim off the coarse, spiny bottom of each segment, and lay on a plate or cutting board with the shiny side of the leaf underneath. Brush the leaves with a little oil to prevent sticking
- Add 4 Tbsp of peanut oil into the chicken mixture. Stir the rice meal and a scant 1/2 cup cold water in as well and mix well
- Use chopsticks to place a few slices of chicken in each leaf segment, then turn the sides of the leaf in and roll up to make a rectangular package (aim to make about 12 packages). Lay the packages in a heatproof bowl, in a single layer if possible (The recipe can be prepared in advance to this stage)
- Shortly before you eat, set the bowl in a steamer and steam over a high heat for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and infused with the fragrance of the leaves. Let your guests open the lotus-leaf packages themselves