Thai Sticky Rice Dumplings with Chicken
- 1 stalk lemon grass
- Zest and juice of 1 lime, lime rinds reserved
- 6 cups Thai sticky rice (also known as Thai sweet rice), soaked overnight in cold water and drained
- 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 medium)
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 large yellow onion, small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 6 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 to 2 Thai bird chiles, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Special equipment: a large pot with a steamer insert; parchment paper; and kitchen twine
For the rice: Fill a large pot with at least 3 inches of water. Trim the root end, fibrous green stalk and hard outer leaves from the lemongrass. Halve and finely mince the remaining 3-inch tender section (about 2 teaspoons) and reserve. Toss the lemongrass trimmings and lime rinds into the pot of water and bring to a strong simmer over medium-high heat.
Cut 12 pieces of parchment into 12-by-16-inch rectangles. Cut a circle of parchment large enough to line the steamer insert and fit 2 inches up the sides. Place the parchment in the insert and spread the rice evenly over it. Put the insert in the pot, cover and steam until the rice is translucent and tender, about 30 minutes.
For the filling: Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt. Heat the oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Sear the chicken on both sides until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board. Reserve. (The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point; it will finish cooking in the sauce.)
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the minced lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chiles and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar and let simmer while you cut up the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the chicken and cook until cooked through and the sauce is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the lime zest and juice. Reserve.
To make the dumplings: Carefully remove the steamer insert onto a baking sheet. Allow to cool slightly, then carefully flip the rice out onto the baking sheet. Peel off the parchment and let the rice cool slightly until cool enough to handle. Divide the rice in to 24 equal balls, about 1/2 cup each.
Refill the large pot with about 3 inches of water. Return the steamer insert to the pot.
Working with 1 piece of parchment at a time, place a rectangle on a flat surface with one of the long sides facing you. Lightly brush the parchment with canola oil, leaving a 2-inch border around the edges. Place a rice ball in the middle of the parchment. Lightly wet your hands and flatten the rice to an approximate 3-inch square. Don't worry about making it perfect; these are rustic dumplings. Mound 1/4 cup of the filling onto the middle of the rice and drizzle with a little of the sauce from the pan. Flatten out a second ball of rice so it is large enough to cover the filling. Place it over the filling and, without removing the rice dumpling from the parchment, use your fingers to pinch the edges of the rice together to enclose the filling. (It's fine if you can see a little of the filling through the rice.)
Fold the top of the parchment (the part furthest away from you) over the dumpling, then fold up the bottom of the parchment, like a letter. Turn the package over so it is seam-side down. Fold the left and right flaps of the parchment over the dumpling. Tie the package with kitchen twine like a little gift. Repeat with the remaining rice, filling and parchment.
Neatly nestle 6 of the dumplings standing upright in the steamer insert. Put the insert in the pot, cover and steam for 30 minutes. Remove the dumplings from the steamer basket with tongs and repeat with the remaining dumplings. Serve immediately.
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