Dim Sum Recipe #16: Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice

Last month when I visited the Big Island, I had the chance to chat with Kimberly & Taka Ino, the visionaries behind Mauna Kea Tea Farm. Walking along the slopes of their heavenly tea estate, I learned more about some of their partners within Hawaii, including local chefs and markets.Recently, Mauna Kea Tea participated in hosting a farm-to-table feast on their farm. The menu included a bounty of tea-infused dishes, from Sweet Roast Green Tea Winter Melon Soup to Marbled Tea Eggs to Spiced Coconut Tea Cream. Oh, what I would have done for an invitation!

One of the evening’s menu items that immediately stood out to me was Lotus Leaf Steamed Rice– those savory Chinese tamales stuffed with meat, sweet rice, and lup cheong. There’s one special ingredient that you rarely see Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice made with, and that ingredient is tea!Mauna Kea Tea’s Island Green Tea works so perfectly in this recipe. This pan-fired tea is full-flavored, robust on vegetal notes (like the green leaves of bok choy), and amazingly sweet. Don’t be intimidated by lotus leaves. They look huge and rather Jurassic, but you should just think of them as vegetal parchment paper-like pieces for steaming. The flavor they add is a bit on the herbal side, similar to the taste you get from banana leaves when you eat Thai coconut rice or corn husks when you eat Mexican tamales.To prep them, simply cut each lotus leaf “fan” into 2 smaller “fans.” Soak these in warm water in a large container until they become soft and pliable.You’ll only find lotus leaves sold at Chinese markets. The good news is that if you can’t find them, you can just use large pieces of parchment paper to create these rice parcels. The rice won’t have quite as much aroma and taste, but I’m sure you’ll still love them.Amazingly, I can get 4-5 steepings from this tea. To make full use of these leaves and to add even more tea essence, I use the second and successive brews of this tea for steaming the parcels. Tap water works fine for this purpose.Serve Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice with Mauna Kea’s Island Green to fully appreciate the versatility of green tea. Savory, sticky, salty, and sweet–these rice parcels are a true taste of Hawaiian-Chinese flavors. 

The Organic Island Green Tea used in this recipe is courtesy of Mauna Kea Tea

Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice 

Makes 10 parcels. 


{Seasoned Meat}

1 large chicken thigh, diced into pea sized pieces

2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 large garlic clove, grated

1 1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, tough stalks removed, soaked in warm water for 1 hour, drained, then sliced thin

2 Tbsp small dried shrimps, soaked in warm water for 2 hours, then drained (optional)

4 Chinese sausages, sliced into 1″ pieces

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp oyster sauce

1 Tbsp sugar

white pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp rice wine

1 tsp sesame oil


1 3/4 cups long grain sweet rice, rinsed & drained well

2 1/2 cups strongly steeped green tea (I used 2 rounded Tbsp of Mauna Kea Tea’s Island Green)

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp oyster sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine

1 tsp sesame oil

{Lotus Leaf Wrapper}

5 large lotus leaves, cut in half to form 2 “fans,” soaked in a large tub of warm water for 2 hours, then drained and rinsed


cilantro, chopped

soy sauce, sweeted with some sugar


large bowl

large skillet


work surface

1/2 cup measure

large bamboo steamer that fits on top of wok

large wok for steaming, filled with 3-4 inches of water (or the 2nd and successive steepings of the tea)


1. Start by soaking the rice in the prepared green tea in a large bowl. Place this in the fridge for 6-8 hours to allow the taste of the tea to permeate the rice.

2. When ready to construct the parcels, heat 1 Tbsp of oil over medium-hight heat until it shimmers. Add the ground chicken and stir-fry it for 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, mushrooms, and shrimps. Continue to stir fry for 1-2 minutes, then add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and white pepper. When the chicken is cooked through and everything is lightly browned, add the rice wine and let it cook out. Drizzle with the sesame oil to finish, then set this aside.

3.  When the seasoned meat has slightly cooled, add in the pieces of Chinese sausage and rice. Add the rest of the rice seasoning ingredients, then mix everything together.

4. On a work surface, place a prepped lotus leaf down with the stiffer tippy part facing you. If you’ve cut the leaf in half to form 2 “fans,” you should have a “V” shaped piece that’s double layered. Place 1/2 cup of the meaty rice filling into the bottom third of the leaf. Fold the bottom tip up to cover the filling, then the right and left sides in snugly. Roll the parcel up tightly and away from you until you get a rice parcel. Place this seam side down.

5. Place the parcels in the bamboo steamer about 1″ apart from one another. In a wok filled with water (or tea) on a full rolling boil, steam the parcels for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check the water/tea level often and regularly to make sure that there is always water/tea remaining in the wok.

6. Serve the parcels piping hot, being careful to not burn your fingers when opening them. Scatter with chopped cilantro or a drizzle of sweetened soy sauce to finish.

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Bonnie Eng

Haha, thanks Nick! That’s really nice of you. My photography is always a work in progress–I’m always struggling with the light at my house. The best I can humbly suggest is to use natural, evenly cast lighting by a window and to also use light reflectors (like white, foam boards) to bounce light. Other than that, I just keep my fingers crossed. Hope this helps! 🙂

Nick Beaumont

Thanks for replying Bonnie. May I ask what type of lens/camera you use, and perhaps link me to the type of foam board you use? I too have a dark house, that coupled with the gloomy English weather does not help my photography one bit.

Thanks so much for the wonderful posts!


Bonnie Eng

Hey Nick! Yes, I have 2 cameras, both Cannon. One is a 6D and the other a Mark II 7D. I recently started using the Mark II, but even though it is more expensive I actually like the 6D more. For low lighting situations, I prefer the 6D over the Mark II. I alternate between 3 lenses–a wide angle, a zoom, and a macro. I can give you the exact names if you’d like. I wait for the time of day when the light is most bright and even in my house and take photos by the window with a white foam board to bounce the light. I also use Lightroom or post editing.


I’m sure any craft store in the UK will have this. Buying two is a good idea just in case you need to maximize the light in your space. They only cost a few dollars.

All this being said, my photography is fine, but always a work in progress. I actually think you have wonderful photos, Nick. And I think it’s so wonderful how you’ve dedicated your site to “Feeding Fen!” Keep up the great work and you have a new follower in me!

P.S. Please check out the book by Helen Dujardin called “Plate to Pixel.” The concepts are easy to understand and she is a master of food photography. I’ve actually taken a class from her before.

Nick Beaumont

Sorry Bonnie I only just saw your reply. Thanks so much for all your advice! I’ve recently purchased a new lens with a wider aperture, and moved into a new house which allows in much more light, which has meant a big improvement. My next step will be to loom into the foam boards and possibly an additional lens (also to get read that boo you recommended!)

Also so honoured you read our humble little blog! 🙂


Your recipes are fantastic! What normally seems daunting actually sounds manageable. This is the second recipe of yours I tried and it was delicious. I used regular Jasmine rice because I ran out of glutinous rice. It didn’t exactly stick together and was more al dente after nearly two hours of steaming. Stick with what the recipe calls for. Live and learn.

Bonnie Eng

It is surprisingly easy, Xiao! Hope you can try it sometime soon! 😉


OMG i cant believe you have this recipe i have been looking for this.
I remember stuffing my face with this for breakfast in Hong Kong when i was a little kid.
You are awesome.