Parcels of goodness.
Found in all corners of the world, in different forms, tastes, and textures: Latin America boasts empanadas, Eastern Europe takes pride in pierogis, China devotes itself to dumplings and Indonesia likens their lemper or sticky rice rolls.
I tasted my first lemper over one year ago and it would not be my last, at first bite I needed to get my hands on a recipe.
Lemper are popular Indonesian snacks that are great or the go or served as an appetizer. I’ve eaten them at room-temp and warm (warm is my preference) yet, I would not hesitate packing these for a road trip, plane ride, or hike!
The base of lemper is glutinous rice, commonly known as sticky rice or sweet rice, this does not mean the rice has gluten in it, it has a high starch content causing it to “stick” to itself, which is helpful when rolling out the lemper. The filling is typically chicken, but fish or pork are also used. Everything is finally rolled inside a banana leaf and steamed or wrapped in plastic wrap to hold its shape and serve.
The ingredients for lemper can be found at your local Asian market. It is important to note that in American-Asian markets, sticky rice is typically sold as sweet rice.
**For GRapidians my go-to market is Asian Delight Market
These parcels are so much FUN to prepare, and the recipe makes enough for you to freeze or share with friends.
Get to your local Asian market and start rolling.
Lemper: Indonesian Sticky Rice Rolls
Prep: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes
2.2 pounds sticky rice
1 cup coconut milk
2.2 pounds chicken (I use a whole one, but use what you like)
6 garlic cloves
1 hunk of ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 pieces galangal (each 1/2 inch) –I typically find galangal in the freezer section, if you can’t find it you may substitute fresh ginger
6 kaffir lime leaves–if not fresh these are also found in the freezer section
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
For the Filling:
**Tip: Rub the chicken with lemon or vinegar to clean, then wash with cold water.
In a large pot, boil the chicken until tender then remove. Reserve some of the liquid (about 1 cup) to use later on. I like to have a large bowl of cold water ready to submerge the cooked chicken in to cool.This will not only cool the chicken for preparation, but it guarantees a moist bird by stopping the cooking process.
I shred (with a fork) but you may chop the chicken very finely and set aside. Meanwhile, make a spice paste with the garlic, onion, ginger and coriander (I prefer using a mortar and pestle, beginning with the dry ingredients and adding the wetter ingredients in batches. If you prefer, a food processor or blender may also be used.
Once everything is ground down to a paste-like texture, heat oil in a pan and add the spice paste. Fry until fragrant, then add the chopped chicken, reserved bouillon water (about 1 cup or so–I also enjoy adding some coconut milk and adjust liquid accordingly) galangal, kaffir lime leaves (squeezed before you use them to release fragrance) salt, sugar and chicken bouillon powder. Stir the mixture occasionally and let cook until the water is completely evaporated. The filling is ready to use.
For the Sticky Rice:
Wash the rice a few times allowing the water to become clear. Drain and set aside.
If you have a rice cooker by all means, but if you are like me and do not have one you can do one of two things:
1. Follow this genius idea from She Simmers or
2. Grab a big pot. Fill the pot with about 7 1/2 cups of water — for each 1 cup of glutinous rice you need 1 1/2 cups water, (2.2 pounds of rice equates to around 5 cups of rice which means you need 7 1/2 cups of water) Bring the water to a boil and add the rice. Cover and steam about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the coconut milk, but don’t let it boil. When the rice is done cooking, add in the warmed coconut milk and stir until combined. The rice and coconut mixture may need to steam an additional 30-45 minutes, taste test for doneness, the texture will be sticky.
For the Rolling:
Okay, this may sound complicated, but it’s really NOT!
Have ready a sushi roller, plastic wrap or steamed banana leaves and a knife.
Take a sheet of plastic wrap or banana leaf and place it on the sushi roller.
Grab a handful of sticky rice and pat it into a square shape atop the sushi roller.
Add a few tablespoons of the chicken filling and roll. You did it!
Now cut it into sizeable pieces and keep on rolling.
**If using banana leaves be sure to place rolled lemper into a heated skillet to roast/blacken the banana leaf. Doing this releases a great flavor from the banana leaf. I’ve done lemper both ways (plastic wrap and banana leaf) taste-wise I enjoy no banana leaf, however aesthetically the banana leaf takes the cake!
Eat what you like and refrigerate or freeze the rest.