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Lotus leaf wrap helps serve up bundle of joy

06-04-2011 13:33 BJT Special Report:Chinese Dragon Boat Festival |

BEIJING, June 4 -- The zongzi rice dumpling is not the only famous Chinese food wrapped in leaves. Bundled in a package of scented lotus leaf, nuomiji, or sticky rice chicken, is a must if you are hungry for dim sum in Guangdong province.

Famous for its variety of ingredients and enormous number of dishes, dim sum usually entertains the taste buds with a sequence of flavors and textures. These include savory, sweet, rich, soft and strong. In one dish of nuomiji alone, you are guaranteed all of these plus the herbal taste from the lotus leaf.

The pillow-shaped dish of delicious sticky rice is mixed with mushrooms, chicken, shrimp and Chinese smoked pork sausage. The mix is then wrapped in dried lotus leaves and steamed. The leaves impart a slightly sweet aroma and taste when opened - that is why the unwrapping itself is my favorite part of enjoying the dish.

To ensure its unique fragrance and tastes, fresh lotus leaves of summer are the best choice for the dish. But dried leaves have replaced them because the fresh produce is hard to obtain.

It is said that in the ancient night markets of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, smart vendors used lotus leaves to replace small bowls to hold nuomiji. They reduced the weight of the dish (vendors peddled such snacks on their shoulders) and added a signature scent.

Sticky rice with diced chicken is a major feature of the dish. If the cook is generous enough, traces of sausage, seasonings, salty egg yolk and even dried scallops are detected in the second or third bites.

The recipe presents a daunting list of ingredients and demands an afternoon's concentration for the beginner. For those out of China, a side trip to an Asian grocery for wrappers is recommended.

But all the painstaking slicing, chopping, wrapping, steaming and frying can also lead one to head for a restaurant to enjoy the tasty morsel without the hard work.

In typical Cantonese style, food comes first rather than the dcor and the same philosophy applies to nuomiji.

Almost any unassuming, small restaurant in Guangdong offers dim sum during tea time for customers to savor a steaming hot nuomiji.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: China Daily

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