Friday, November 28, 2008

The ultimate chew: Stir-fried Chinese rice cakes

It's something about the texture, I guess. The chewiness of items made from rice flour is different from that of typical bread or pasta; it's stretchier, smoother, bouncier; firmer than pasta but also something like gnocci…sort of. Whatever is it, there's a certain resilience to rice-flour products that I love, and with rice cakes (or "ovalettes"), this chewiness is taken to a very satisfying level.
I was excited to see the bag of rice cakes in one of the Asian groceries around here. Cooking with them is simple, but does take a little bit of foresight, as they need to be soaked in cold water for two hours beforehand. That's all it is, though: throw them in a bowl of water, leave them alone. When you're ready to cook with them, drain the water and simply add them to the pan along with your other cooked ingredients.

My usual recipe for rice cakes is to stir-fry them with fish cakes, shitake mushrooms, and napa cabbage, but here I decided to make them with Chinese sausage, onion, and red and green peppers, because that's what I had on hand. First I pan-fried the sliced sausages, then scooped them out and sauteed the onions and peppers in the traces of grease left in the pan. When they were nearly cooked through, I added the soaked rice cakes and a sauce of about three parts soy sauce, two parts oyster sauce, and one part sesame oil. It didn't take too long for the rice cakes to soften and for the sauce to coat the ingredients.
I liked how this dish came out, but I still like the flavors of my other recipe better, I think. The sausages were too sweet along with the peppers and onions; something like beef or chicken would have worked out better. Or maybe I just need to adjust proportions?


  1. If you use the lap cheong, it's going to be a sweeter dish. Try cooking this with some pork (maybe pork belly) and some pickled turnips, if you want a more savory dish.

    I <3 rice cakes to the nth degree. They are super yummy!

  2. I've been wondering about how to make rice cakes... I see them in the store and have wanted to pick them up to stick in my freezer. Do they keep in the freezer well? This could open up a whole new world for me..
    (I like them in restaurants with slices of beef, Napa cabbage, Shiitake mushrooms... yum drool... sigh)

  3. Gastro888, pork belly would no doubt make the dish super awesome. I really need to start learning how to deal with raw meat.

    Yvo, I always thought they were difficult to cook with, but they're not (knowing they only have to be soaked and not pre-boiled, as I thought, helped). I kept mine in the freezer, and they were fine. I didn't defrost before soaking, either. So give it a try!

  4. this is also great in soups; soak as discussed and throw it into any clearish soup about 5-10 min before serving; a simple one of beaten egg and shredded dried seaweed in broth gets real nice with a bowlful of rice cakes; sorta like the korean duk-mandoo-guk, the duk being the rice cakes and screw it, add some frozen wontons and you're golden. but ya, love it in soups. also you can easily imagine "hotpot" soup: fishballs, cabbage, enokis, seafood or fish broth, and, throw a bag of rice cakes in. YUM!

  5. I actually rarely make soup. That last idea for "hotpot" soup sounds amazing though.

  6. I absolutely adore rice cake! It's definitely the texture that does it for me.

    I usually do mine with chicken or pork and napa cabbage. I do agree that the sausage, peppers and onions would probably be too sweet. It looks great though!

  7. gaga, looks like pork/chicken and napa cabbage is the way to go!

  8. This is my favorite Chinese "comfort" food! I love them with beef!

  9. James P, these and chow fun are my two noodle-like faves, hands down.