When I visited my Mom last month in Honolulu, I planned to shoot a cooking video that I had wanted to do for years. I asked my Mom to show me how to make joong.
Joong is one of those Chinese delicacies that is often made at home, and rarely bought from the stores (although if you do find them at stores, they often don’t compare to home-made ones because most skimp on ingredients). It’s a sticky rice packet wrapped in bamboo leaves and filled with pork and beans in the center. I often think of it like a Mexican tamale in concept.
But one of the challenges of filming this time around was the heat. Honolulu was unusually humid for October and I could barely cope with it (my blood is so conditioned to the Bay Area’s temperate weather), so I have to say it was hard for me to focus on filming instructions. In fact, I hardly did any retakes because I just wanted to get the video done.
Hopefully, what I was able to capture will give you an idea of how to make joong. Like most childhood favorite dishes, this is the kind of dish that takes a lot of preparation and cooking time, but so worth it when you get to eat the comforting sticky rice. Growing up, I always felt my Mom made the best joong. She made sure to put in a lot of ingredients and seasoning, so there were always a lot of flavor.
Note: My Mom would always marinate her own salted duck eggs (submerging fresh eggs in rock salt and tea leaves) — a popular ingredient in the center of the joong. But she doesn’t have the time for that these days, so we just use store-bought salted duck eggs. You’ll find them in the refrigerated section of a Chinese grocery store, typically sold as six-packs.
Whenever my Mom makes joong, she makes a big pot full so she can pass them out to my other siblings and friends. But the recipe I have below will make a nice dozen, which is still plenty because I get full easily just eating one. Joong can be stored in the freezer and eaten again defrosted and pan fried for a crispy edge. Enjoy!
Joong (Sticky Rice Packets with Pork Belly and Salted Duck Egg) Recipe
Makes a dozen
2.5 lb. sweet rice (soaked for at least two hours)
1.5 lb. pork belly (fat removed), cut into bite-size chunks
5 cups peeled mung beans (soaked overnight)
12 salted duck eggs (yolk only)
2 T five-spice powder
1 T chicken bouillon powder
2 T sesame oil
Vegetable or Canola oil
Salt for seasoning
Packet of dried bamboo leaves
Twine for wrapping
Soak enough bamboo leaves you think you need to make your joong. Each joong requires about four leaves (so for a dozen, you’d need at least 48). Bring a big pot of water to boil, then submerge the leaves in the hot water. Take pot off heat and let the leaves sit in the water overnight. The next morning, pour out the water, rinse the leaves, and then pat off excess water. Then they’re ready to use for your wrap.
Soak the peeled mung bean (the longer they soak, the softer they get).
For your pork belly, sprinkle coarse sea salt or kosher salt to cover the pork belly. (About 1 to 2 tablespoons.) Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, lightly rinse the pork belly and drain before use. When ready to assemble your joong, mix five spice, chicken bouillon and sesame oil along with a tablespoon of salt to season the pork belly. Set aside.
Drain your sweet rice that has been soaking and season with salt. Drizzle some vegetable or Canola oil to coat the rice. This will help the rice from sticking to the leaves. Drain the mung bean and do the same with the salt and oil.
Here are the steps to create the wrap with the bamboo leaves:
- Get two leaves and place in the form of a cross
- Fold the bottom tip up to the top, then fold the left tip to the right.
- Holding your folded leaves in the bottom center like an origami, open one of the fold to create a cone-shaped pocket. Snip off the end stems from all four ends.
- Add a spoonful of rice at the bottom.
- Add a layer of mung bean (as much as you like, this is my favorite ingredient)
- At this point you want to create a bigger packet by adding a leaf to each side. Think like your raising the edge of your packet with the additional leaf.
- Place about three or four pork belly pieces in the center
- Top with one salted egg yolk
- Cover with another scoop of sweet rice
- Close your packet by carefully folding the two sides together, keeping everything tight. Think of it like closing the two front doors of a church.
- Fold over the top end of the joong (snipping the stem ends), then fold over the bottom end, bringing both ends toward the center.
- Pack down your packet to make sure it’s not loose, then wrap twine around the two ends, criss-crossing and making sure you make a tight grip so the joong doesn’t burst open. Tie a knot and then you’re done.
When you’re all done wrapping your joong, place your joong tightly in a big pot and submerge them with water. Bring to a boil on stove top and then reduce to a simmer (bubbling top) and cook for 2 to 2.5 hours. (The time depends on the size of your wrapped joong. If you’re worried about overcooking your joong, unwrap one joong after 2 hours to see if the rice is cooked.) Be sure to season the water with some salt to ensure again that your joong has flavor (maybe a tablespoon).
Remove joong from pot and let it drain and cool for about an hour. Then you can unwrap the joong and slice and eat. Anything you don’t eat can go in the freezer.
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