There’s this dumpling house near my mom’s old apartment in Bellevue called Din Tai Fung. It’s a chain, but it’s ok because the dumplings are awesome. We always entrusted our ordering to my little sister, who is the guru of Asian cuisine, and she always ordered the best dishes. If you go, I highly recommend the juicy pork dumplings that are filled with pork and a hot broth, the shrimp and pork shao mai, and some variation of the Shanghai rice cake. These rice cakes are small, oval cakes that I assume are made out of ground rice. They’re delicate and chewy at the same time, and they take on the flavor of whatever sauce they’re cooked in.
Recently I went to Fubonn Supermarket, an Asian market in southeast Portland. I love roaming the aisles of international markets, being astounded by some of the things you can find, and excited when you happen upon an ingredient that you love but have never been able to find before.
You can imagine my delight when I happened upon a bag of dried rice cakes, and they were roughly $2 for a pound. So… that’s a thing. I immediately grabbed a bag, and it sat on our shelf for a few days while I tried to figure out what to do with them. (Then they sat on the shelf a couple days longer when I forgot to start soaking them the night before we wanted to make them, so we had to whip up something else for dinner instead.)
I believe you can also get frozen and fresh rice cakes, but with my dried ones, I soaked them overnight before I made them. But they were easy to use, and delicious, and I recommend getting your hands on some as soon as you can to start experimenting! I stir fried mine with some bok choy and shiitakes, and it was delicious.
Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice Cakes
3 Tbl canola oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
8 oz rice cakes, soaked overnight if dried, thawed if frozen
2 heads baby bok choy, rinsed
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced into 1/3-inch strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
1-3 tsp Sriracha
1-3 tsp brown sugar
More optional additions: bean sprouts, napa cabbage, other mushrooms, fish sauce, pork, beef, shrimp.
In a large wok or nonstick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic, and sauté until fragrant and starting to brown, about one minute. Add the rice cakes, bok choy, and mushrooms and cook until the bok choy is wilted. If your rice cakes aren’t quite soft enough (remember though, you want them to be a little chewy), add about 1/4 cup water to the pan and cover for a few minutes to steam a bit. Once the mushrooms are cooked through and the bok choy is wilted, add the soy sauce, sriracha, and brown sugar to taste. Start with less sriracha and brown sugar, and taste a lot! I found that I wanted a larger amount of brown sugar because of the saltiness of the soy sauce, and Jonah wanted more Sriracha (obviously). Cook, stirring, until all the rice cakes and vegetables are thoroughly coated and the liquid of the soy sauce has cooked off. Enjoy with teriyaki salmon or Korean short ribs (like we did).