Sticky Rice Cones
Food memories are powerful things. One whiff or taste of something can send me to a past place and time so vividly that, if I close my eyes, I might believe I was there. A distant food memory can also send me in search of that elusive dish that I had so many moons ago that it would be difficult for me to identify it accurately, but for some instinct that assures me that I will know it when I taste it. Food memories are what causes immigrants to make specialty dishes that they would not otherwise make if they had not moved from their homelands.
I have vivid memories of my mother making these fragrant sticky rice packages when I was young. She would sit by our garage door with strings hanging from the doorknob, a bucket of soaked sticky rice in front of her, a large bowl of filling on one side of her, and a stack of meticulously cleaned and soaked bamboo leaves on the other side of her. She would spend hours making these little packages and then boil them until the smell of them filled the house.
The smell of these alone can take me back to that house and that time. That is my most vivid food memory associated with these rice packages, though, of course, I have other, more faint ones. I know I have eaten these on the busy streets of market places in Taiwan and, occasionally, in restaurants. The sticky rice packages in restaurants invariably come wrapped in lotus leaves, which does not impart the same scent, but the flavor is still similar.
These are definitely a big project. It took me just about an entire day to make them, but really, that’s just because I chose to make a lot. I think in the end, I made somewhere around 93, but who’s counting? I am including some weights and measures here to go with my photo-recipe, but they are really just a guideline. This is one of those foods that can be whatever you want to make of it. Some people like them with peanuts and not beans. Most authentic recipes call for dried shrimp, but I have never liked their papery texture, so I chose to omit them and add some fish sauce instead. I wanted more variety in my filling, so I added some pressed, smoked tofu and some okara, that soybean pulp you have leftover when you make your own tofu.
The thing about making these that makes me the happiest is that my children love them as much as I loved them as a kid. Hopefully, they will have some great food memories of their own. That makes all the work and grumbling (and believe me there was plenty of grumbling during the wrapping stage) worth it in the end.
Sticky Rice Cones (Jungdz)
Rinse, then soak about 3.5 kilos of sticky rice with 500 grams of split yellow mung beans for three hours.
In a large bowl, combine and mix thoroughly the following:
3 pounds raw pork belly cubed
1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1 package of chinese air-dried pork sausage, cubed
1.5 pounds pressed and seasoned tofu, cubed
1 pound of taro root, peeled and diced
1 cup dried mushrooms that have been re-hydrated and diced
2 bunches of green onions, cleaned and sliced thinly
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup golden mountain seasoning sauce or soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup scallion oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup okara (optional)
Clean and rinse all bamboo leaves. Then, soak them for at least 30 minutes. Take two and form into a cone like this. Notice how the stem end of one leaf is matched up to the pointy end of the other. Also, they are offset just a little to give you a bigger cone shape.
Fill with 1/4 cup of rice mixture, followed by 1/4 cup of meat mixture, then top off with 1/4 cup of rice. There should be some space left in the cone, about 1/2 inch or more.
Here’s the tricky part. Pinch the sides of the cone, fold the top down the long top part of the leaves that are sticking up over the rice and fold down the sides. I really don’t have great pictures of this since I was doing the deed and my older son was the one taking pictures. There are some handy videos on Youtube, though.
I make a bunch of strings ahead of time by taking five 2-yard pieces of string, fold them in the center and make a slip knot to make a bunch of ten strings that can hang from something. Having the strings attached to something will give you some leverage that you might need to tighten the strings around the bundles. You want to tie them tightly or else they will come unraveled in the pot and then they will be inedible.
Boil them for about an hour. Then, fish them out carefully. Some of them came undone, so I clearly have some work to do in the wrapping and tying department.
Unwrap and serve with soy sauce. These can be placed, still in their bamboo wrapping, in a plastic freezer bag and frozen for future snacks or meals. They reheat beautifully, which is why I made a lot. They will come in handy on those days when I just don’t have the time or inclination to cook.