Monday, May 26, 2008

The Asian Steamed Sticky Rice Burrito

Forgive the less-than-artful title; there just isn't a more illustrative and concise way of describing this Southeast Asian creation. It is almost like an overgrown sushi roll, but I think of it as burrito because of its size. They consist of strips of pork belly, mung bean, and glutinous rice wrapped tightly inside banana leaves and steamed. I've seen ones that are humongous and square-shaped, but most are around eight inches long and two or three inches in diameter, depending on who makes them. (That sounds... funny.)

These "nuhm nsahm" (a phonetic spelling completely of my own fabrication) are ubiquitous on special occasions such as Lunar New Year, weddings, or my aunt's whim.

I don't really like them very much. I find them a bit on the bland side and the sticky twice-cooked texture of the rice doesn't really do anything for me...

when the very dense item is sliced and fried on both sides, to be consumed with soy sauce and Sriracha. That, ohhh, that is a completely different animal. Er, food.

Here's how the magic happens:

I heat it in the microwave with the banana leaves intact, then unwrap and slice it. My aunt makes exceptional nuhm nsahm. The process is somewhat similar to sushi making: the cooked rice is spread on the banana leaf, then a layer of mung ben, then long strips of pork belly are added. The pork belly is seasoned with ground black pepper. This particular specimen doesn't have as much as I normally like, but that's okay.

Once the nsahm is sliced, fry each piece on both sides in a pan with a generous layer of well-heated vegetable oil. As with any frying, t is important to use very hot oil and to avoid flipping the slices until the edges begin to look white and bubbly, which usually takes around 3 minutes. Using a non-stick pan is helpful as sticky rice is, well, sticky.

Drain on paper towels before preparing to devour.

The contrast of the fatty pork belly with the crisped rice and the almost creamy texture of the mung bean is what turns nuhm nsahm from a bland, sticky log into something completely different and much more exciting. I've seen it eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf with cucumber, but I generally just drizzle on some soy sauce and Sriracha:

A few pieces could be a snack I suppose, but an entire nuhm nsahm cooked this way is more than enough for a filling meal. Crispy, sticky, salty, fatty, and delicious.


foodhoe said...

yum, I just stumbled upon your site, those look delicious, especially panfried and crispy with the sriracha sauce... can you get those at the store, or just home made by your aunt?

the grocery fiend said...

Hi foodhoe! These can sometimes be found in Asian supermarkets or bakeries, where they may come in various sizes and shapes-- I've seen some that come in a long block and seem to weigh two pounds. Thanks for dropping by. :n)