Loh mai kai is a popular snack served at Chinese dim sum. Made with flavoured glutinous rice, topped with delicious chicken chunks, fried shiitake mushroom and sliced Chinese sausages, this homemade version is easy to make and always turns out amazing!
If you love Chinese dim sum, you’ve probably seen or tasted a popular snack called loh mai kai. Literally translated, it is steamed glutinous rice with chicken.
Loh mai kai is sticky, moist, rich with varying textures of the ingredients steamed together with the rice. Ultimately, it is very delicious!
Often times, the dim sum dish you see in Chinese restaurants are wrapped and steamed with tasty ingredients including minced pork, dried shrimp, chestnuts, gingko nuts, beans and even salted egg.
So in spite of its name, chicken is not necessarily the only ingredient with rice. Loh mai kai can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish.
The signature appearance is the lotus leaf used to wrap the rice mixture. When steamed, the lotus leaf imparts a unique aroma and flavour into the rice.
Definitely not to be missed when you are having dim sum in a restaurant!
Easy-to-make loh mai kai
Here, I’m sharing an easy and delicious homemade loh mai kai that does away with any kind of wrapping. Keeping it as simple as I can!
Anyone can make this at home and you won’t need any special equipment. In fact, once you’ve had a taste of homemade, you probably will want to make this again and again.
The best thing about making loh mai kai from scratch is that you can control the quality of the ingredients, as well as the seasonings and flavourings.
One issue I have with store-bought variety is that those tend to taste quite processed and often, a little too salted for my taste.
Having said that, after you try this recipe, please feel free to make it your own and adjust the seasonings. Some of us enjoy the glutinous rice in loh mai kai really soft, sticky and super compact, others may like their rice more loose, and not overly sticky.
My suggestion is to try this recipe as is if you’re making it for the very first time. Then decide what you’d like to tweak differently for next time.
Equipment you’ll need
The good news is that you don’t need special equipment to prepare loh mai kai at home. Here’s what you need:
- Wok or skillet
- Steaming equipment – bamboo steamer, metal steamer, or a wok with lid and a steaming rack
- Heatproof metal or glass bowls or disposable aluminium foil cups
Ingredients for making loh mai kai
Today, we enjoy loh mai kai as an amazingly delicious dish because of the masterful skills of Chinese cooks who have created this dim sum specialty.
These cooks have excelled in their use of food ingredients, sauces and spices, seasonings as well as flavourings to create the unique and defining flavours of loh mai kai.
Here are the ingredients (try not to skip any!):
- Glutinous rice
- Boneless chicken, preferably thigh meat (more tasty!)
- Dried Chinese or shiitake mushrooms
- Chinese sausage
- Asian sauces, namely oyster sauce, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Chinese wine
- Ginger juice
- Five-spice powder
- Ground pepper and salt
- Chicken stock or water
Step-by-step: How to prepare loh mai kai
So we’re going to be in for a couple of hours making this from start to end. And I’m excited to get started with you!
Step 1: Marinate the chicken
Since we’ll need to let the chicken marinate for an hour, I start with this first as we’ll have ample time to get through the rest of the preparation.
When it comes to choice of cut, boneless chicken thigh meat (skin on) is my favourite. It’s more succulent and the oils from skin and fat also add flavour.
Go ahead and dice the meat into 1 1/2-cm (1/2-inch) cubes or chunks. Add the marinade ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover with cling wrap and set aside.
Step 2: Pre-steam (or pre-soak) the glutinous rice
Typically, when cooking with glutinous rice, its recommended that you soak the rice in some warm water for at least 2 hours. However, here we are going to use a quicker method of steaming the rice in under an hour instead of soaking.
I like to use a bamboo steamer for this because I can set it over my largest stock pot filled with enough water to last 45 minutes to an hour of steaming.
I’ve also lined the base with fine cheesecloth mesh (or baking paper). It just makes it a lot easier to scoop out the rice later.
Give the glutinous rice a couple of quick rinses, drain and then spread it evenly in the steamer. Steam at high heat for 45 minutes.
Whether you choose to soak or steam, the end goal is the same. We do this to ensure that the glutinous rice absorbs water more evenly during the simmering and steaming process later. This way, the rice grains remain as intact as possible while retaining its sticky texture.
With this quicker method, I find that the final texture of the sticky rice is just as good whether the rice is soaked or steamed. So do feel free to use whichever method you’re accustomed to or are more comfortable with.
Step 3: Fry and flavour the glutinous rice mixture
Once the rice has been steamed, it’s time to flavour and season the rice. This step is crucial for infusing the rice with the final flavour. If you want to adjust any seasonings, this is when you would do it.
- In a wok or skillet, heat up some oil until hot. Stir fry the mushrooms until softened and fragrant. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil.
- Next, lightly brown the shallots.
- Put in the steamed (or soaked) glutinous rice and seasonings, and fry for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Next, add chicken stock (or water) and stir to mix evenly throughout the rice mixture. Reduce the heat to low-medium to allow the mixture to simmer gently.
- Simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes or until all the water or stock has been soaked up. Halfway through, give the rice a good stir to ensure all the grains absorb the water evenly.
- Remove from heat and set aside, covered with a damp tea cloth to prevent the rice from drying out too quickly.
Step 4: Putting it together
By far, this is my favourite part of making loh mai kai! Building up the loh mai kai with all its delicious parts is fun! Rope in extra hands, this is the part to get your kids involved!
- Brush the insides of the steaming cups with some oil to grease.
- Put in some seasoned chicken chunks, fried mushroom slices and Chinese sausage slices at the bottom of each bowl.
- Fill with fried glutinous rice and press with the back of a spoon to fill 3/4 of the cup.
- Make sure your steamer is refilled with enough water and brought to a rapidly rolling boil. Steam for 45 minutes.
If you don’t have a multi-tiered steamer, you may have to steam in 2 batches for 45 minutes each batch, depending on the size of the steaming cups.
To release, run a small knife around the edges of the cup. Then turn over the steamed glutinous rice onto a small plate.
Garnish with cut chillies, chopped spring onions or coriander leaves. This is best enjoyed steaming hot and served with chilli sauce on the side.
Can I make ahead and freeze?
Absolutely! Loh mai kai is an easy option for making ahead and storing in the freezer. After steaming, wrap each loh mai kai in 1 to 2 layers of cling wrap and a final layer of aluminium foil.
Chill for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month. When you want to have it, remove all the wrapping and steam from frozen for 30 minutes. No need to thaw!
If steaming chilled loh mai kai, steam for 15 minutes.
Finally, useful takeaway tips for delicious loh mai kai
- Choose chicken thigh meat for the best flavour and succulent texture
- Marinate the chicken for at least an hour to allow the seasonings time to flavour the meat
- Soak the rice for at least 4 to 6 hours, if time permits, for a softer and stickier rice texture
- Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water until very soft, or else it won’t be tender enough. Remove the stems and slice thinly.
- Stir-fry the Chinese sausage slices together with the mushrooms to infuse the oils with the sausage oils.
- Use chicken stock instead of water for added flavour in the steamed glutinous rice (detailed in my recipe below)
- Spoon in some marinade sauce, if any, with the seasoned chicken when you start filling the steaming cups. This will intensify the flavour as well!
I hope you’ll give this a try! No doubt, you’ll be spending a couple of hours in the kitchen.
But all that effort will surely be rewarded with the most delicious, homemade loh mai kai which will be enjoyed and appreciated!
Here are more Chinese snacks and treats to inspire you:
- Ma Lai Gao (Chinese Steamed Sponge Cake) – Even Softer, Fluffier and Tastier!
- Soft & Moist Bakery-Style Butter Coconut Buns
- Black Sesame Filled Glutinous Rice Balls (Yang Yuan) with Sweet Osmanthus
- Chinese Spring Onion Pancakes
- Pork Congee with Braised Peanuts and Dried Scallops