Lo Mai Gai

During the past 7 weeks in MCO, I've been both inspired and uninspired to cook. I now understand why my Mum gave up at some point and just cooked a small repertoire of dishes on repeat. I'm child number 4 so you can imagine how fed up she was by then. This is why I've thoroughly enjoyed looking at everyone's meals online. The everyday dishes that is a like a warm hug at the end of the day. God knows, we all need it. The hug. And the warm meal.

Its been awhile since I made lo mai gai. The sad truth is no one at home likes it except me. I've always loved it. I remember sitting in the car, in my pyjamas, with Mum as she drove to the shop along Jalan Ipoh at night. She would order a large amount of char siew pau and lo mai gai to go. The ride home would be unbearable as the smell of steaming hot pau and glutinous rice filled the car. That's what I think of when I want to eat lo mai gai. Its hot, sticky, oily, salty and sweet. 

I made 2 batches of lo mai gai back to back. One with chicken stock and one without. Honestly, both were good. Maybe the one with chicken stock just rounded off all the flavours nicely. I used half a cube with 450mls water which is half the recommended amount. It tasted like those weak-ass flavoured water they chuck wantons in. You know what I mean. Those noodle stalls have that non-descript peppery water with a faint taste of maybe boiled chicken and spring onions. After looking through some recipes online (referencing taste asian food and nasi lemak lover) and remembering my previous attempts, here is my recipe for a soft, sticky, lo mai gai. If you like your lo mai gai to have more of a bite, this is not the recipe for you.

Recipe (makes 8 x 4" bowls) 
for the chicken
3 x chicken thighs, cut into 8-10 pieces 
10 chinese mushrooms, soaked in hot water for an hour. Drain and reserve water (see notes below)*
knob of ginger, grated (about 2 tbls of ginger juice)
1 tbls sesame oil
2 tbls shao xing wine
1 tbls oyster sauce
1 tbls soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
Mixed everything together and leave to marinate over night 

for the rice
500g glutinous rice, washed & soaked over night (see notes below)*
1/4 cup shallot oil
2 tbls soy sauce
2 tbls oyster sauce
1.5 tbls dark soy sauce (I like my rice brown)
2 tbls brown sugar
white pepper to taste
dash of 5 spice powder (not more than half teaspoon unless you love it)
450ml water with half a chicken stock cube crumbled in OR 450ml water mixed with dash of soy sauce, sesame oil + white pepper)

1. Prepare the rice. Mix all ingredients into the rice except for the shallot oil and water
2. Heat shallot oil in work and stir-fry the rice on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Pour in the 450ml water mixture, give it a mix and put the lid on. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes. Just keep an eye on it. There should still be some moisture left. (I left first batch to cook til dry and discovered rice had stuck to the bottom. Luckily not burnt. I cook it in the wok because I use it to steam after. Less cleaning up is always a plus).
3. While the rice is going, braise the mushrooms. Pick out the marinated mushrooms from the chicken and place in a small pot with reserved mushroom water to cover the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms in a gentle simmer until tender. I used very meaty mushrooms and it took about 20 minutes. 
4. Soak the sausages in hot water for a few minutes until the casing starts to come away. Remove the casing and slice diagonally. Set aside
5. To assemble, place a piece of chicken skin side down in the bowl. Place mushroom cap side down and sausage next to it. Spoon cooked rice into the bowl and fill to the top, pressing down with the spoon as you go along to make a nice compact bowl. Spoon remaining marinade liquid over. Repeat and line up the bowls in a steamer tray
6. Pour water into the wok (you see how easy it is to clean after, yes!), cover with lid and let it come to a boil. Place steamer in, cover and steam on medium-high heat for 15 - 20 minutes for soft, sticky rice! 

I used fresh shiitakes and I found they had soaked up a lot of the marinade. Cooked them in a pot with some water for 5 minutes and left it to steam in the pot. Removed it and placed it back with the chicken. I like the fresh ones because it has a soft bouncy feel compared to the more meaty and heavy texture of dried ones

The good thing about cooking the rice beforehand is you can adjust the seasoning. This is when I discovered it needed more sugar. I know it seems like a lot but don't skip the sugar. It really adds to that "msg sweetness" flavour 


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