YouFan might be my favorite rice dish of all time. This Taiwanese steamed sticky rice dish is made with glutinous rice mixed together with lots of savory seasonings and often dried ingredients such as dried mushrooms, dried shrimp or scallops, and Chinese dried sausage. While you can commonly find youfan on the streets of Taiwan, more elaborate versions are often reserved for special occasions such as Lunar New Year. YouFan can be time- and labor-intensive to prepare, but this streamlined version is easy to prepare at home using equipment you likely already have (you’re welcome). You’ll need either a rack that can fit inside a large pot or some tin foil to form into balls for a makeshift steaming “rack.”
I love using larger dried shiitake mushrooms here to make sure there’s lot of mushroom in every bite; if you can only find smaller ones, just use a few more to compensate. The umami of the mushrooms is complemented by seasonings that pack a punch, such as nutty black sesame oil, aromatic fried ginger, and complex-tasting aged soy sauce. The optional small dried shrimp (available at Asian grocery stores and online) adds even more intense umami flavor to the youfan, but you can omit it to make this dish vegan. This dish has a special place in my heart, and I hope it will make it onto your dining table sometime. —Jessie YuChen
See Jessie’s recipes for Jessie’s Special Steamed Whole Fish and Mochi-Stuffed Jujubes (Soft Hearts) to complete your Lunar New Year feast, and read about their favorite Lunar New Year traditions here.
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2 – 4 servings
10 large caps dried shiitake mushrooms, divided
2 Tbsp. small dried shrimp (optional)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 2″ piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
2 cups long- or short-grain glutinous rice (such as Koda Farms Superior Short Grain Sweet Rice), rinsed
¼ cup store-bought or homemade fried shallots
¼ cup dry rice wine (such as michiu or sake)
2 Tbsp. black sesame oil or toasted sesame oil, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp. Kimlan aged soy sauce or regular soy sauce
½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
Combine 8 large caps dried shiitake mushrooms and 2 Tbsp. small dried shrimp (if using) in a medium bowl and pour in 2½ cups hot water. Let sit at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour to rehydrate.
Remove mushrooms from liquid and squeeze out liquid over bowl; place on a cutting board. Drain shrimp, reserving soaking liquid; set aside separately. Remove stems from mushrooms; discard. Thinly slice mushroom caps; set aside.
Heat 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high. Cook one 2″ piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, in a single layer, turning halfway through, until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes. Push ginger to one side of pan and add reserved sliced mushrooms and dried shrimp (if using) to empty space. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups long- or short-grain glutinous rice, rinsed, and ¼ cup store-bought or homemade fried shallots and cook, stirring often, until well mixed but without rice browning, about 1 minute. Transfer rice mixture to a medium heatproof bowl (use one that can fit entirely inside a large pot with a lid).
Add ¼ cup dry rice wine (such as michiu or sake), 2 Tbsp. black sesame oil, 2 Tbsp. Kimlan aged soy sauce or regular soy sauce, ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, 1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper, and 2 cups reserved soaking liquid to rice mixture and stir well to combine. (Make sure the mixture fills no more than two thirds of the bowl since the rice will expand as it steams).
Set a rack or 3 tinfoil balls in a large pot (this will keep the bowl of rice from touching the bottom of the pot; you want it elevated above the water when you add it); pour in water to come 2″ up sides of pot and bring to a boil. Place bowl on rack (keep the bowl uncovered so steam can circulate into the bowl as the rice cooks), cover pot, and steam rice mixture until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 35–40 minutes. Remove from heat and let youfan sit (still covered) 10 minutes.
Alternatively, if you have a rice cooker, transfer rice mixture to cooker. Add ¼ cup dry rice wine (such as michiu or sake), 2 Tbsp. black sesame oil, 2 Tbsp. Kimlan aged soy sauce or regular soy sauce, ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, 1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper, and 2 cups reserved soaking liquid and stir well to combine. Close cooker and steam rice mixture (on the white/sweet rice setting if you have it) until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30–50 minutes, depending on the brand of your cooker. If rice is still not cooked through by the time the liquid is absorbed, add ¼ cup water and continue steaming until cooked through. Let youfan sit (still covered) 10 minutes, then use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix everything together.
To serve, transfer youfan to a large bowl and pat down into a dome shape. Top with 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped, and drizzle more sesame oil over.
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