You can make these guys in individual pudding tins, rice bowls or molds, but the traditional vessel is a cup made from the stalk of a bamboo plant, which imparts a light fragrance of bamboo to the rice as it cooks. A couple months ago, Mom was so super cool, because she asked a good friend of hers in Taiwan to buy a dozen and ship them over to us in LA. Once I got the bamboo cups, though, I didn't quite know how to proceed because I didn't have a satisfactory recipe to work off of. I had found a couple online and another in a Taiwanese cookbook, but none incorporated those perfect ingredients from what I remembered of my childhood fav. Time to improvise. I ended up using the recipes for making "Ba Tsang" (Taiwanese rice dumplings, leaving out the 5-spice powder), and soy-braised pork belly. For the sauce, I reduced some of the braising liquid from the pork belly & thickened it with some cornstarch. For a first run, this recipe turned out pretty darned good.
2 red-cooked pork bellies + 5 cups of reserved braising liquid (I usually cook a large batch of these and freeze the pork bellies & cooking liquid separately: defrost the day before using):
4 cups glutinous rice
2 1/2 cups water
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted in hot tap water
2 tbsp. dried shrimp (add to same soaking liquid as mushrooms to soften)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup. fried shallots
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. 5-spice powder (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (garnish)
Sweet chili sauce (optional)
12 bamboo cups, rice bowls or individual pudding tins (if using tins, oil sides with vegetable oil before filling with rice mixture)
1. Rinse glutinous (sticky) rice until water runs clear. Cover with water & soak at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain water from rice, and add enough water to just barely cover the rice. Steam in rice cooker, as directed.
2. In the meantime, soak dried shiitakes and shrimp in hot tap water for about 20-30 minutes until softened. Drain. Slice mushrooms (discarding stem) and chop the shrimp. Set aside.
3. Heat pork bellies in their braising liquid. Remove pork bellies to a chopping board & cut into large slices (1/2-3/4"). Reserve 2 cups of liquid for the rice, and 3 cups for the sauce.
4. Heat 3 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large wok or saute pan. Add sliced shiitake mushrooms & chopped dried shrimp and cook for a couple minutes until fragrant. Add 2 cups of the reserved braising liquid & cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in rice. Add 1 tsp. sesame oil, 5 tbsp. of fried shallots, and 1/2 tsp. of white pepper. Turn off heat.
5. Place 1-2 slices of pork belly at the bottom of each bamboo cup or pudding tin. Add rice mixture on top and press down with a spoon. Cover the top of each cup with plastic wrap.
6. Prepare steamer: place your steamer of choice over a pot or wok of water, and bring to a boil. Place bamboo cups in the steamer, cover, and steam over medium high heat for about 20 minutes or until heated through.
7. In the meantime, remove 3 tbsp. of the remaining pork belly braising liquid to a small bowl and stir in 2 tbsp. of cornstarch. Heat the rest of the braising liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to about 2 1/2 cups. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and stir constantly about 5 minutes to thicken. Turn off heat & set aside.
8. To serve: unmold the bamboo cup on to a plate. Drizzle a couple spoons of the reduced pork belly sauce* over the rice, and top with some chopped fresh cilantro.
*NOTE: If you like it spicy, you can use a sweet chili sauce instead of the reduced pork belly braising liquid for the final saucing.
Place cups in a steamer & steam over high heat about 20 minutes or until heated through.
In the meantime, make the sauce. Remove about 3 tbsp. of the braising liquid to a bowl or measuring cup. Add 2 tbsp. of cornstarch & mix well.
Bring remaining braising liquid to a boil (reduce to about 2 1/2 cups). Stir in cornstarch slurry & cook several minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Unmold the rice onto a plate, and drizzle with sauce (you can sub with sweet chili sauce if you like it spicy). Garnish with chopped cilantro.