Sharon’s special sticky rice recipe is an allergy aware version of her mom’s Chinese Style Sticky Rice or “No May Fan,” which is pure comfort food with memories of holiday celebrations with family. Each bite has tender morsels of glutinous sweet rice and savory nibbles of salty Chinese sausage “lop cheung”, mushroom, shrimp, and green onions clinging to the glistening rice, a very colorful side dish to the eyes and mouthwatering for the taste buds. This Cantonese dish is often served at holiday dinners and many think of it as a Chinese alternative to a traditional American stuffing.
Sticky rice is my favorite dish to make for a holiday potluck or for a special occasion. But it became a dish that I had to adapt due to food allergies. My older son loves to eat rice and meat but I was quite puzzled about why he wouldn’t eat sticky rice. We eventually learned that he has a strong aversion to mushrooms but it wasn’t until he told me that he felt mild symptoms associated with eating mushrooms that we finally had our allergist help us with a skin test which turned out to be a borderline allergen. Now that I omit mushrooms, everyone in our family can enjoy sticky rice again. At our most recent appointment with our allergist, it seems that my younger son has finally and definitively outgrown his shrimp allergy. He wants to eat shrimp ha gow and now can scarf them without any adverse effect, lucky boy! After years of omitting dried shrimp, we can have dried shrimp in our sticky rice (whoo-hoo)!
Allergy Aware Sticky Rice
The most basic and traditional recipes for sticky rice will contain Chinese sausages (lop cheong), dried shrimp, dried shitake mushrooms, and green onions. But what if one can’t find Chinese sausages or avoids nitrates or is allergic to shrimp or mushrooms? Sticky rice with green onions might be too plain, but you can use other kinds of ingredients combining a few savory meats and seafood, some flavorful dried and salted vegetables, and some fresh produce. I will share a basic recipe for simplicity, but just to give you an idea on how to accommodate various food allergies and dietary preferences, one can choose 1-2 items from each category below and use small amounts of each in order not to overwhelm the overall flavors and textures.
Savory meats and seafood: Chinese sausages (lop cheong, 2-3 sausages, diced), Chinese bacon (lap yuk, 1/2 to 1 piece, diced), Chinese BBQ pork (char siu, 1 cup diced), ground or diced pork (1/2 to 1 pound), bacon (3-5 pieces chopped), dried shrimp (1/4 cup, soaked and diced), dried scallops (2-3 scallops, soaked and separated)
Dried vegetables: dried shitake mushrooms (soak and dice, save soaking water to cook the rice in the rice cooker or to stir fry at the end), dried radishes (rinse and dice), dried lily buds (rinse and tie one knot in the middle)
Fresh produce: onions (diced), shallots (diced), green onions (chopped, separate greens and whites), carrots (diced), celery (diced), cilantro (chop), jicama or water chestnuts (peeled and diced)
It’s a meaty dish but can be prepared vegetarian as well by using the dried and fresh vegetable options and seasoning with a mock oyster sauce made from mushrooms. Nut allergy warning: if someone else makes a vegetarian sticky rice for you, be aware that some vegetarian Chinese sauces contain peanuts and some vegetarian sticky rice recipes include the addition of peanuts. Be sure to check ingredients of any vegetarian dishes before serving to someone with a nut allergy.
Rice: Koda Farms is my favorite brand of glutinous sweet rice and according to a statement on their website, their products are top 8 allergen and gluten free. It’s also easy to find at any Asian supermarket ($7-8 for 5 pound bag, $15 for 10 pounds). If you can’t find it in your local stores, then you can order by mail (instructions are on the Koda Farm website) or online (affiliate link). I also buy brown glutinous rice from Nijiya, which is our local Japanese supermarket. It’s not as soft and requires cooking with more water but definitely worth the extra effort because of the positive health benefits of more fiber, nutrition, and satiety.
Soy or seafood allergy: Most sticky rice recipes will season the rice with a combination of dark soy sauce, soy sauce and/or oyster sauce. If you are allergic to soy, you can cook raw rice by using chicken or vegetable broth instead of water in a pot or a rice cooker or season steamed rice with salt for flavor and use moderate amounts of soy sauce alternatives for color. Seafood allergy: Some recipes will use dried shrimp or dried scallops, it’s easy to simply omit it. If you want to add color, use diced carrots. If someone is allergic to seafood but not allergic to soy, one can use a vegetarian oyster sauce made from mushrooms (which we cannot use).
Basic steps to making sticky rice
Soak the rice (4 hours, up to overnight) and then steam it for 20 minutes or use a rice cooker according to its instructions. My rice cooker has a non-stick liner and a sticky rice mode which makes it super easy (I have the 10 cup version of this Zojirushi rice cooker, affiliate link).
Make the savory mix-in in a wok or a large non-stick stock pot:
Depending on which ingredients you choose to use, there is a certain order in which to add ingredients: render fat from sausage, bacon, add dried seafood, add onions and/or carrots, add all other diced and chopped ingredients (except cilantro and green onions), add seasonings.
If using ground pork: marinate 3/4 pound with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. After step 14, take the sausage mixture out of the pan and brown the ground pork and onions together. When fully cooked, discard any excess fat or liquid, return the sausage mixture to the pan, and resume cooking at step 17.
Combine the rice and sausage mixture in by either
a) adding the sausage mixture into the rice cooker OR
b) adding the cooked rice to a wok or large non-stick stock pot and stir frying the rice and sausage mixture together
Season to taste and add cilantro and/or green onions
This recipe as written is free of peanuts, tree nuts, egg, dairy, and fish. Please check all ingredient labels before using. For more information about ingredient labels, read my post about reading ingredient labels.
- 3 cups glutinous rice (or 4 "muks" using a typical rice scoop)
- 2 tablespoons dried shrimp (optional, can substitute with ¼ cup diced carrots)
- 2 Chinese sausage (lop cheung)
- 3 slices bacon
- ½ sweet onion (medium)
- 3 scallions
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (soy allergy substitution: use a rice cooker w/broth for color and flavor)
- 1 tablespoon rice wine or mirin
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce (or ½ teaspoon of salt)
- Rinse and soak glutinous rice for at least 4 hours, drain when ready to use.
- Rinse and soak dried shrimp for 30 minutes (reserve the soaking water for cooking or stir-frying the rice).
- Cut a sausage in quarters lengthwise and then dice, set aside.
- Rough chop the dried shrimp, reserve soaking water, set aside.
- Trim off any large sections of bacon fat, rough chop bacon, set aside.
- Peel and dice ½ onion, set aside.
- Chop scallion, separate green and white parts, set aside.
- Dice celery, set aside.
- Ready to cook some sticky rice?
- Cook the rice in a rice cooker according to instructions (add 3 cups of water or 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth if there is a soy and/or seafood allergy allergy) OR if steaming the rice, spray a 2 quart or larger bowl with non-stick cooking spray, add rice (no water) and steam for 15 minutes, stir, and then steam for 15 more minutes (making sure that there's enough water at the bottom of your pot).
- -->If you are using a rice cooker, then stir fry in a frying pan (medium heat).
- -->If you are steaming the rice then, you will need to heat up a wok or a large non-stick stock pot (medium heat).
- Add Chinese sausages (oil is not needed) and bacon and stir fry until some fat is rendered.
- Add dried shrimp and stir fry for 1 minute.
- Add chopped onions and white parts of the scallions, stir fry for 2 minutes until soft.
- Discard any excess liquid or fat.
- Add celery, add soy sauce, rice wine (or mirin) and sugar, and remove from heat.
- IF RICE IS COOKED IN A RICE COOKER: when the water is absorbed and the rice is almost ready, add the sausage mixture on top of the rice but do not stir, just cover and let the rice finish cooking.
- After about 10 minutes or when the rice is ready, use a spatula and gently fold rice, sausage mixture, and remaining green onions together, season to taste with 2 teaspoons of oyster sauce (or ½ teaspoon salt) and keep warm in the rice cooker for 5 more minutes.
- IF THE RICE IS STEAMED: transfer the rice to the wok or large non-stick stock pot, add 2 teaspoons of oyster sauce (or ½ teaspoon salt), add ½ cup of hot water, remaining green onions, and stir fry until everything is evenly mixed.