Lo Mai Gai (Chinese Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf) Recipe

A dim sum classic of steamed lotus leaves stuffed with sticky rice.

Chinese sticky rice wrapped in lots leaves.

Serious Eats / Shao Z.

Why It Works

  • Chinese cured pork belly can be added to the sticky rice mixture without needing to be cooked first.
  • Salted egg yolks add a savory, salty note that contrasts beautifully with the rich pork.

Lately I've been craving some of my favorite dim sum dishes at home. First, I made har gow (crystal shrimp dumplings) and then I got on a sui mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) kick. Now I've fixed my eyes on lo mai gai—sticky rice wrapped in a dried lotus leaf.

Lo mai gai contains glutinous rice flavored with chicken, shiitake mushrooms, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), pork belly, dried shrimp, and salted egg yolk. It's wrapped into a rectangular parcel, then steamed for over an hour. One of the best parts, besides eating it, of course, is unwrapping it. The first thing you notice is the scent of the lotus leaf. As you start unwrapping it, that scent lingers, but now it's joined by the smell of the sweet sausage and seasonings like soy sauce and shallot. When you start eating it, all the ingredients come together.

There are different variations of lo mai gai with different fillings, but sticky rice and chicken are always included. It just wouldn't be lo mai gai without them—the exact translation of the dish's name is, after all, "sticky rice chicken."

A bag of uncooked sweet sticky rice and a bowl holding the grains of rice on a stone counter.

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To make these, you first need sticky rice. Commonly labeled as "sweet rice" or "glutinous rice", sticky rice is not the same as short grain rice, which is the rice you would use for sushi. To soften the sticky rice for steaming, it first needs to be soaked in water for at least 2 hours. If you want to prepare these in advance, you can also soak the rice overnight.

After soaking, drain the rice well. Next, you'll mix sautéed shallots, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil into the rice. I like to add a little bit of dried shrimp too, for both flavor and texture. Dried shrimp are sort of an acquired taste—feel free to skip them if you prefer.

A yellow bowl with dried shrimp inside of it

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Another important component of this recipe is the chicken. It needs to be marinated first and then stir-fried before being folded into the rice.

For the pork belly, instead of braising fresh belly, I like to use lap yuk (Chinese bacon). It's flavorful, adds just a hint of smokiness to the filling, and doesn't need to be cooked beforehand.

A ceramic plate with a peeled salted egg on it, with more salted eggs in packaging on the periphery.

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To give the filling a little bit of richness, I add half of a salted egg yolk. You can use either cooked or uncooked salted egg yolks here.

A package of dried lotus leaves

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When you have all the ingredients for the filling ready, it's time to wrap it all up. Lo mai gai just wouldn't be the same without the lotus leaf. Not only does it hold everything together, but it adds that subtle fragrance to the dish.

Lotus leaves are usually sold at well-stocked Asian supermarkets, and they need to be soaked for an hour before being used to wrap up the rice. If you don't can't find lotus leaves, you still can make this recipe using parchment paper (which I've shown in some of the photo at the top), but the taste will be slightly different.

Unlike other dim sum dishes, such as dumplings, lo mai gai is quite easy to form—just put the sticky rice mixture in the middle of a leaf and fold the leaf around it, then tie with twine.

A sticky rice package opened, showing the contents are not fully cooked.

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Since the sticky rice is raw inside, it needs to be cooked, which you can do by steaming the wraps for about an hour and a half. Make sure to check the water level every 30 minutes to make sure it doesn't fully evaporate away.

A sticky rice package tied up with twine on a black cutting board.

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Lo mai gai are best when they are hot and right out of the steamer. To eat, remove the string that's holding it together and carefully unwrap the lotus leaf. They can also be eaten later in the day, and just need to be resteamed, and they freeze well.

As for me, I'll be eating mine right away. I can't help it!

March 30, 2015

This recipe originally appeared as part of the series Dim Sum Classics.

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 5 hrs
Serves: 4 to 8 servings

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups sticky rice (sweet rice)

For the Marinated Chicken:

  • 1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, sliced thinly

  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil

  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon wine

  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

  • 2 pinches kosher salt

For the Sticky Rice Seasoning:

  • 1 teaspoon wine

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce

  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

For the Lotus Leaf Packages:

  • 2 dried lotus leaves or 4 sheets of 2-foot-long parchment paper

  • 2 tablespoons small dried shrimp, soaked in water for 5 minutes, then drained, rinsed, and patted dry (optional)

  • 3 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil, divided

  • 1 whole shallot, minced

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 8 dried shiitake mushroom caps, rehydrated in hot water for 15 minutes, then drained, squeezed dry, and sliced thinly

  • 2 egg salted duck eggs (cooked or uncooked)

  • 3 ounces Chinese bacon (lap yuk), sliced thinly

  • 2 Chinese sausages (lap cheong), sliced thinly on the bias

Directions

  1. Place sticky rice in a large bowl and cover completely with water. Let stand for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  2. For the Marinated Chicken: In a medium bowl, mix chicken with the remaining marinade ingredients until thoroughly combined. Let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  3. For the Sticky Rice Seasoning: Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

  4. For the Lotus Leaf Packages: Cut each lotus leaf in half down the middle. Place leaves in a large container, cover with water, weighing leaves down with a plate if necessary, and soak for 1 hour.

    Lotus leaves soaking in water in a plastic container.

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  5. Drain sticky rice well and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in dried shrimp, if using.

  6. In a non-stick skillet or wok, heat 2 teaspoons of oil over high heat until shimmering. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add shiitake mushrooms and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Scrape mixture into the sticky rice and stir to combine. Stir in the Sticky Rice Seasoning.

    Sticky rice filling being mixed together in a ceramic bowl.

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  7. In the same skillet or wok, heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil over high heat until shimmering. Add marinated chicken, and cook, stirring, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

  8. If you are using cooked salted duck eggs, peel the eggs, then slice in half and gently scoop out yolks with a spoon (it’s ok if some of the egg whites are attached). If you are using raw salted duck eggs, crack the eggs into a small bowl and separate the whites from the yolks (the yolks should be bright orange and fairly firm); carefully slice the yolks in half with a knife. Set cooked or uncooked yolks aside on a small plate.

  9. To form packages, drain lotus leaves, pat dry with towels, and arrange on a work surface. Alternatively, arrange 4 pieces parchment paper on work surface.

  10. Place about 1/2 cup of sticky rice mixture in the center of each lotus leaf. Arrange cooked chicken, Chinese bacon, Chinese sausage, and salted duck yolks on top of each sticky rice mound. Scoop another 1/2 cup of sticky rice mixture directly on top of the rice mounds on each lotus leaf, carefully spreading it out to cover the meats and egg yolk; it's okay if the rice can’t cover everything.

    Wrap each lotus-leaf or parchment package by folding edges around filling to form a tight package. Using kitchen twine, tie up each package.

    A six image collage showing the sticky rice packages being assembled.

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  11. Bring water to a boil in a steamer setup. Arrange rice packages in steamer and steam for 1 hour 30 minutes; make sure to check water level occasionally, topping up with more boiling water if needed to prevent it from going dry.

  12. Remove rice packages from steamer with tongs, cut off and discard kitchen twine, and serve right away.

    A cooked sticky rice package cut open, exposing the interior.

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Special Equipment

Steamer

Notes

If you are planning to eat these later in the day or the next day, steam the packages, allow them to cool and then refrigerate; to reheat, steam for 10 to 20 minutes until heated through. Lo mai gai also freeze well. Just steam them, allow them to cool, wrap with a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze; to reheat, there's no need to defrost first, they can go straight to the steamer for 30 minutes until heated through.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
235 Calories
13g Fat
14g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 235
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Cholesterol 171mg 57%
Sodium 600mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 32mg 2%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 289mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)