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What is Lo Mai Gai
Lo Mai Gai (in Cantonese), literally translated as “glutinous rice chicken” or 糯米鸡 in Chinese is a classic dim sum dish served in Cantonese dim sum restaurants during yum cha (in Cantonese and literally means “drink tea” / 饮茶). It’s a delicious savoury bowl of tender and sticky glutinous rice steamed with chicken, mushrooms, pork belly, Chinese sausage, and sometimes salted egg yolk. It’s common presented in a single-bowl portion or wrapped in dried lotus leaf. Lo mai gai is also sometimes called the zan zyu gai, which means “pearl chicken” in Cantonese or 珍珠鸡, or lotus leaf rice (荷叶饭).
How to make Lo Mai Gai
Making the lo mai gai requires a few steps which may be quite time-consuming, in Singapore and Malaysia, it’s very convenient and easy to buy these little bowl of rice snacks in food courts, supermarkets or restaurants. But making it is a whole new different level, especially if you would like to add more ingredients to it.
You will need glutinous rice, or otherwise known as sweet rice or sticky rice. Any other rice such as basmati rice, short grain rice (Japanese rice used for sushi), jasmine rice will not yield the same sticky texture. Glutinous rice requires more time to prepare as it requires at least 6 hours of soaking to make it soft after steaming. I usually soak the rice overnight.
Dried mushrooms are usually used and it’s a great source of the umami flavour. In this recipe, I opted to use fresh Shiitake mushrooms as I love fresh mushrooms.
For the chicken, skinless and boneless thigh meat will be ideal due to its tender texture. If you prefer to leave the skin on, you can do that too. The chicken is marinated with Chinese wine, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, grated ginger and corn flour, as you can see, these are great sauces to marinate meat for Chinese cuisine.
Most lo mai gai you find in commercial outlets will not have salted eggs. In this recipe, I used the salted egg yolks and it really elevates this dish a lot!
Other ingredients such as the Chinese sausage, dried shrimps, the aromatics are great complements to make this dish delicious.
Tips on making the Lo Mai Gai
- Rinse the glutinous rice a few times and soak it as long as you can, for at least six hours. I soaked the rice for 10 hours overnight. The longer you soak the rice, the softer the texture will be. Also do make sure you use good quality glutinous rice. I once bought a bag of glutinous rice from the supermarket and even after soaking it overnight, there are bits of hard rice after cooking. After testing the recipe with other brands of glutinous rice, I will never buy that brand again!
- That said, use good quality ingredients and you will get a really delicious dish.
- I mentioned using corn flour in the chicken marinade, it’s commonly called corn flour in Singapore but you should be using corn starch in other parts of the world. I used the Pagoda brand corn flour I bought in Singapore. It’s a fine white coloured flour. In other parts of the world, it might be called corn starch. Apparently corn flour is a yellow coloured powder made from dried finely ground corn, and corn starch is a fine white coloured powder derived from the starchy part of a corn kernel. Corn starch is mainly used as a thickener or added to meat marinade to help tenderise the meat.
- Cook the mushrooms and chicken and save the gravy to drizzle over the rice before steaming. That adds on the umami factor of the dish.
- Briefly stir fry the glutinous rice with sesame oil, dried shrimps, garlic and shallots, and add on seasonings such as oyster sauce, fish sauce and white pepper. This adds on the umami flavour to the whole dish. There is no need to steam the rice before assembling it with the other ingredients as we will steam it in the bowl together.
- You can use stainless steel little bowls to contain the lo mai gai or porcelain ones, as long as they are safe and heat-proof for steaming. You can even make 1 big bowl instead of using small bowls, or use lotus leaf to wrap it for steaming, whichever presentation you prefer.
- Cover the bowls with aluminum foil before steaming. It will help to minimise the water condensation from dripping into the rice.
- I like to make a big batch, which is usually consumed within the same day by my family. If there are any leftovers, you can cover it and chill in the fridge or even freeze it for a longer time. Just re-steam the lo mai gai until softened before consuming it, no thawing is required.
- In Singapore, sometimes we eat the lo mai gai with chilli sauce, that’s completely optional as it tastes good even on its own.
Watch how to make Glutinous Rice Chicken on YouTube
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Lo Mai Gai 糯米鸡 Chinese Glutinous Rice Chicken
- 500 g glutinous rice
- 300 g chicken thigh meat skinless and boneless
- 4-5 fresh Shiitake mushrooms if using dry mushrooms, hydrate by soaking till softened for about 30 minutes
- 1 tbsp dried shrimps
- ½ Chinese cured sausage
- 4-8 salted egg yolks
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 4-5 shallots
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ cup water for cooking the chicken
- ½ cup water for cooking the rice
Marinade for chicken
Prepare all the ingredients
- Rinse 500 g glutinous rice 2-3 times. Then soak the rice overnight at room temperature or for at least 6 hours. Make sure to add more water to fully cover the rice.Then drain off water and set the rice aside. Note: the longer you soak the softer the rice.500 g glutinous rice
- If using fresh salted eggs, wash off the black mud covering, then separate the 4-8 salted egg yolks from the whites.Optional to cut the egg yolks into half, you can add one entire egg yolk into each lo mai gai. Note: If using ready-to-use egg yolks, you can skip the above.4-8 salted egg yolks
- Rinse and pat dry 4-5 fresh Shiitake mushrooms , trim off the stems and slice the mushrooms into thick chunks.Note: If using dried mushrooms, soak in water for 30 minutes until softened, then slice into thick chunks.4-5 fresh Shiitake mushrooms
- Peel off the skin of 1 knob ginger by scraping it with a spoon. Then grate the ginger to yield 1 tsp of grated ginger.1 knob ginger
- Remove the skin of the 1/2 Chinese cured sausage by cutting a slit and tearing the skin off. Then slice into 3mm thickness. Note: If the skin is difficult to tear off, soak the sausage in hot water for 15 minutes, then tear off the skin.1/2 Chinese cured sausage
- Peel and mince the 4-5 shallots and 4-5 garlic cloves.4-5 garlic cloves, 4-5 shallots
- Soak 1 tbsp dried shrimps in water for 30 minutes or until softened. Then drain off the water and mince the dried shrimps.1 tbsp dried shrimps
- Remove skin, bone and fats of the 300 g chicken thigh meat. Then cut the chicken into chunks (about 2"). Add the marinade (2 tbsp Chinese Hua Diao wine, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp white pepper powder, 1 tbsp sesame oil, grated ginger, 1 tsp corn starch) and mix well with the chicken. Cover and marinate the chicken for 1 hour at room temperature.300 g chicken thigh meat, 2 tbsp Chinese Hua Diao wine, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tsp white pepper powder, 1 tsp corn starch
Cook the mushrooms and chicken
- In a non-stick pot over low heat, sauté Chinese sausage until the oil separates. Remove the Chinese sausage and set aside, leaving the oil in the pot. Note: Don't sauté for too long or the Chinese sausage turns hard.
- Add 1 tbsp sesame oil in the same pan to warm up over low heat. Add half of the minced garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.1 tbsp sesame oil
- Increase heat to medium high. Add chicken and mushrooms and cook for about 1 min. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to boil. Once boiled, reduce to simmer for another 3 minutes.Once chicken cooked to about 60-70% cooked, remove and set aside.1/2 cup water
Fry the glutinous rice
- Using the same pot over low heat, add 2 tbsp sesame oil to warm up. Add dried shrimps and the remaining minced shallots and garlic, and sauté until fragrant.2 tbsp sesame oil
- Add the glutinous rice and all the seasonings (2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp white pepper powder) and 1/2 cup water. Stir fry to ensure even coating of seasoning on rice. Turn off heat and set aside.2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp white pepper powder, 1/2 cup water
Assemble and steam the Lo Mai Gai
- In separate small heat-proof bowls, place 2-3 pieces of chicken, half or whole salted egg yolks, 2-3 pieces of mushrooms and 2-3 sausage slices at the bottom of the bowl. Top with glutinous rice and press gently to even out the surface. Top with 2 tbsp sauce from chicken and mushrooms stew.
- Boil water in a steamer pot. Once boiled, place the glutinous rice bowls in, cover with aluminium foil to minimise moisture condensation on the rice bowls.Steam for 45 minutes on medium-high heat or until the rice is softened.
- To serve, use a spatula to run around the edge of each bowl. Place a plate over each glutinous rice bowl and flip over. Remove the bowl and you get a nice domed shape glutinous rice Lo Mai Gai. Best served warm.