The way the steam inside the banana leaf wrapped parcel heats up and cooks the Chinese sausage imparts a subtle, flavor of the ever so aromatic banana leaf (almost a jasmine tea like smell), yet leaves a dynamic impact as you bite into it, as the oils from the Chinese sausage had slowly absorbed its flavor onto the rice, beans and ground turkey. It is a perfectly balanced combination of flavors from the humble and plain sticky rice and beans, fatty, sweet unami Chinese sausage and earthy flavor of the ground turkey and banana leaves .
I’m sure most of you have heard of sushi rice, long, basmati, short or medium grained rice? How many of you have ever heard of glutinous or sticky rice? The first time I tried to make sticky rice years ago, I had almost mistaken sushi rice for the sticky rice. It wasn’t until my first child was born and my mom made me food fit for my traditional one month stay at home (Chinese postpartum tradition) that she taught me how to soak and steam glutinous rice overnight. After I figured that out, I made Sticky rice with Chinese sausage and mushrooms that you often see at dim sum quite often.
Last year, I made it for our Cape May, NJ Getaway for our arrival meal there; it was easy to eat, not messy like regular rice because it’s sticky and doesn’t scatter; it microwaves really well and the flavors are usually pleasing no matter what you’re in the mood for because it gives the best of both worlds, being both a savory and sweet dish.
I’ve had banana leaf wrapped things from both my Chinese Side of the family and my husband’s Filipino Side.
Chinese wise, I had every year at least once a year during the Dragon Boat Festival and my mom would either buy it or get it from close family members or friends usually steamed plain with no seasoning or with plain peanuts and you have it dipped in sugar. I also loved the Wrapped Lotus Version if Chicken and Sticky rice I get often during dim sum. I highly recommend you get this if your dim sum place serves this. Sooo good!
Filipino wise, I’ve had it at family gatherings with Suman, coconut and glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves steamed and topped with caramel coconut sauce. Sooo good too! I can eat so many of those in one sitting; that coconut sauce is sweet and rich, without being overly sweet or dried up coconut topping (Latik) you get from cooking down by evaporating coconut condensed milk. I guess you can say I do rather love my sticky rice!
This year, I was craving it and didn’t get to have any, so I decided to make my own. I wanted it to be relatively healthier than what I usually had, so I knew I wanted to add some sort of beans to it. I thought red beans would go rather well with it since it seems to hold its shape pretty well when cooked. Almost peanut like, which I’m used to. I would’ve loved to include salt duck egg too, but I omitted this time since I’m trying to limit salt these days in our diet.
I chose ground turkey because funny story, Esme popped the baggies of the ground turkey open by keeling in it before I got to put it away in the freezer after our trip from Costco the other day. I figured, I’ll make it work anyway. I initially planned to use meat from chicken drumsticks.
So here we are, my version of Banana Wrapped Sticky Rice! My kids, brother in law and husband really seemed to have enjoyed it and it was all gone in less than two days.
For the Banana Leaves & Rice and Beans:
1 cup dried adzuki/red beans (rinsed and soaked in water overnight)
*Note- The red beans should double in size overnight- plan the container you soak it in according to prevent overflowing beans in the morning
1 cup of sweet sticky/glutinous rice (rinsed and soaked in water overnight (different from sushi rice)
1/2 pack of banana leaves cut into desired size- mine were about 5x7inches (rinse quickly under tap water and with the same water I steam the rice and beans with, I dipped the banana leaves in there to wilt)
For the ground turkey and Chinese sausage filling:
6-8 long pieces of Chinese sausage cut into bite size pieces (we used half in the wrap and steamed the other half to have on the side and purchased it from Costco)
1 package ground turkey from Costco or about 1 lb seasoned with the following as a marinade:
-1 tbsp oyster sauce
-1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
– 1 tbsp soy sauce
– 1/4 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp cornstarch
-1 tsp white pepper
-1 to 2 tsp sesame oil
*Notes (warning: long chatty notes ahead- feel free to skip down to the Steps portion, if you are short in time;)):
–Just work with and use what you have at home. Sometimes I like to add some dark soy sauce too.
-If you don’t have oyster sauce, try adding an extra tbsp spoon of soy sauce and 1/2 tsp of sugar instead.
-I actually usually just eye my ingredients. I think some of the beauty of cooking is that we are all in the know that not one time a dish is made, will be exactly the same as the next, no matter how you follow the instructions. It depends on the weather, humidity, the sizes and freshness of ingredients, the brand of sauce or salt you use. I love cooking just as much as I love art; cooking is an art in itself:) But, eating is my favorite; it wins everything!
-You kind of follow ingredients when you’re a beginner and then you just adjust accordingly once you’re more comfortable it seasoned. After reading and comparing so many different recipes and ingredients from everywhere over the years, I’ve learned people can vary greatly from what they use to cook from 1/3 cup of sugar in recipe and 3/4 cup in; or 2 tbsp of soy sauce in a recipe to 4 tbsp! Isn’t that a little shocking? Reading about all that made me a braver cook and encouraged me to just go with my gut feeling a lot of times these days.
For the rice and beans:
1- Drain the water both the beans and rice were soaked in and mix it together evenly where you plan to steam it. You can try cooking it in your rice cooker or do it over the stove with water in a wok like me.
2- Bring water to a boil in the wok and steam on medium low/low for about 40 minutes. The rice and beans should be just cooked.
For the ground turkey:
1- I mixed in all the ground turkey ingredients together, except Chinese sausage (like a marinade) and let sit for about 10 minutes.
2- Heat up some oil in the pan and cook the ground meat mixture until it’s done.
Assembly and Steaming
1- Lay down banana leaf and scoop about 2-3 tbsp of rice and beans, a tbsp of ground turkey mixture and 1-2 pieces of the Chinese sausage.
2- Wrap it so it doesn’t open. I wrapped the banana parcels my own way because I was trying to look up traditional ways to wrap with the triangular cone shape ; and I thought it was a bit complicated and I just didn’t have the time to deal with those instructions that day. I wrapped it like I would when I wrapped a gift. I figured as long as nothing was sticking out, it was perfect and more realistic for a busy mom attempting this for the first time.
3- Line the steaming dish with a layer of banana leaves and line them up with open side down next to each other and stacked on top too.
4- Steam between 40-60 minutes on medium low. The longer it steams, the softer the sticky rice. I did 40 minutes and it yielded a slightly drier rice and beans than I normally eat.
4- Eat right away! Or let it sit for a few minutes before opening the aromatic parcels of banana leaves. You can add 1/4 tsp of soy sauce drizzled on top too if you wish or simply have it like we did with extra Chinese sausage on the side.
What kind of Banana Leaf or type of wrapped foods have you had before? We love tamales and I have two packs of Masa Harina that I plan to be using soon to try for the first time in making tamales with the other half of the banana leaves in the freezer.