Thanksgiving Stuffing the Chinese Way

IMG_1276 by you.


I can’t believe it’s only 3 weeks to Thanksgiving.


My husband and I will be celebrating our first Thanksgiving in California but my whole family–parents, sister, and brother with his wife and two boys in tow–is driving down from Seattle to pay us a visit in Pacific Grove. It’ll be crazy-busy times but I’m sure I won’t mind. I miss having my family just minutes away (my hubby, not so much).

Although I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, over the years, the annual ensemble of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce has grown on me. I’ve realized that turkey doesn’t always have to taste like cardboard (darn those dorm dining hall meals). In fact, a deep fried turkey comes out so moist and juicy, usually-bland breast meat isn’t objectionable to my dark-meat loving palate. I have also learned that just about anything, including miraculous just-add-water from-powder-to-mush mashed potatoes (trust Betty Crocker to come up with instant mashed potatoes), when drowned in gravy and cranberry sauce can be edible.

And of course, there’s a never-ending succession of Thanksgiving recipes unfurled year after year in magazines, on TV and on the World Wide Web to help the impassioned cook present yet another winning holiday menu. If you’re cracking your head trying to figure out what to make for this year’s gathering, try Pearl Fong’s delicious Chinese-American stuffing recipe. It is probably adapted from the Cantonese dish called lo mai gai: glutinous rice, black mushrooms, and Chinese sausage wrapped in a dried lotus leaf and steamed. (An aside: Before seeing this recipe in my manuscript, my editor had assumed his mom invented this dish!)

Whatever I end up preparing for my Thanksgiving table, I will give thanks for family, friends, peace where I live, and the very fact that I can actually put food, even a feast, on the table. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sticky Rice Stuffing (Naw Mai Fun)

IMG_1275 by you.

Many Chinese-American families have incorporated this Chinese-style sticky rice stuffing into their Thanksgiving tradition, serving it right alongside turkey. However, the turkey is not always roasted. Instead, it may be steamed, which is the traditional way chicken or duck is cooked. Pearl Fong’s rice stuffing recipe blends both traditional Thanksgiving ingredients (chestnuts) with traditional Chinese ones (water chestnuts) to create a side dish that is delicious anytime of the year.

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes (45 minutes active)
Makes: 8 to 10 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

1 1/2 cups sticky rice
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
3 3/4 cup water or chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 (about 6 ounces) Chinese sausages, steamed and cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
8 medium dried black mushrooms, rehydrated and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (reserve the soaking liquid)
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) peeled and chopped water chestnuts
15 (about 4 ounces) peeled, cooked chestnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Put the sticky rice and long grain rice in a large pot and wash well. Drain and add 3 3/4 cups fresh cold water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside for 1 hour.

In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Fry the onions until they’re soft and translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Set the pot of rice on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the water is almost completely absorbed.

Place all the prepared ingredients on top of the rice and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the steam to cook the rice.

After 15 to 20 minutes, add the remaining salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Stir from the bottom to distribute the ingredients. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the rice is tender but not mushy; the grains should still be separated. If the rice is still hard, make a well in the center of the pot and add a little water, stock, or mushroom liquid. Raise the heat to high to generate more steam, then reduce and cook a few more minutes.

Moisten the rice stuffing with turkey drippings and/or chicken stock and serve as a side dish with your cooked turkey.

Pat’s notes:
One key ingredient is glutinous rice (also called sticky rice, naw mai [Cantonese], or malagkit [Tagalog]). You can find both white and black glutinous rice at Asian stores. To avoid confusion, remember that raw glutinous rice is fat and opaque, while long grain rice is skinny and translucent. Once cooked, however, glutinous rice turns translucent and clumps together much more instead of separating as regular long grain rice does.


27 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Stuffing the Chinese Way

    1. Hi Jocelyn,
      To be honest, I haven’t tried using a rice cooker to make this. But I don’t see why it shouldn’t work using the same measurements. Try it and let me know how it goes!

  1. The recipe was excellent! Thank you. It tastes just like the version my mom used to make. Is there a way to cook it so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom? It’s difficult to remove.

    1. Hi Hoai, I’m so happy you enjoyed it. It’s a great alternative to the more traditional stuffings usually served at the Thanksgiving table. Try coating your pot or rice cooker bowl with a light sheen of oil. Hope it works!

      1. Hi Pat, thanks very much for responding. I asked my mom also and she said the same thing! I’ll try it again for the upcoming holidays. Kind regards, Hoai

  2. Dear Pat,

    I am searching for the Chinese recipe on steaming a turkey, however, most sites gave me roasted turkey. Living in Malaysia, we don’t normally use big oven, so it is more convenient to steam rather than roast. I’ve read your article that you mentioned traditionally Chinese used to steam, if you have any recipe or guidelines in doing so, I would love to hear from you.

    Thanks, Amylya.

  3. Yummy! My mother made this for Thanksgiving when I was growing up. She still makes it, but we don’t live close enough to share it with her.

    I’ll have to try to make it myself now!

    I just stumbled across your blog, and it is great – keep up the good work.

  4. Happy Belated Thanksgiving to you!
    I am just loving that stuffing with the Chinese sausage! I’ll have to make that soon, as a whole meal. Can’t wait till next year, I want it very soon.

  5. Sounds great! Maybe I’ll try this as a new addition this year. Neither my wife or myself with be with our families this year, so now is a good time to experiment with new dishes! Thank you and keep up the great work with bringing me recipes that are unique (to me). I love asian cooking!!!

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