Welcome to Food We Love, our Sun-Times video series featuring stories about Chicagoans family food traditions, secret recipes, special ingredients and unusual favorite dishes. Each week we’ll hear a new story about food and family and learn some amazing recipes that you can try at home. Our host is Chicago journalist Linda Yu, who loves cooking at home, as well as exploring new restaurants throughout the city.
In today’s episode: host Linda Yu shares a recipe from her Chinese ancestors: Forbidden Rice Stuffing (also known as Chinese Rice Stuffing).
My family story
I’m sharing a recipe that first became a part of my family tradition at Thanksgiving. For many Americans, Thanksgiving means turkey and bread stuffing. When 4-year-old me came to the United States, bread, as we know it, had never been part of my life. Since I had never eaten it or let alone seen it, the idea of stuffing did not sit well.
Chinese bread is eaten by Northern Chinese; it’s steamed and looks like a round dumpling called a bao. But rice is the staple through most of China. Bread stuffing was weird to me, and my mother and grandmother knew our family wouldn’t appreciate it. So, like a lot of Asian families, we developed our own version of rice stuffing.
- Linda Yu and her family immigrated to the U.S. when Linda was four years old. Linda’s passport photo. | Linda Yu Family Photos
- Three-year-old Linda with her family in Hong Kong in 1949 after they escaped from China. | Linda Yu Family Photos
- The Yu family in 1960 in Los Angeles. That’s Linda in the back row on the right. | Linda Yu Family Photos
- This is Linda and her older sister, Lela, in Philadelphia in 1951 where the Yu family first settled in America. | Linda Yu Family Photos
As I grew up, my palate heartily embraced all kinds of American food, as well as many foods from all over the world. But Chinese rice stuffing is still a Thanksgiving staple for me.
I’ve modified my family’s recipe to honor my grandmother, my “Lao Lao.” She grew up in the Forbidden City, home of China’s royal family, because she was in line to become the Empress! (No, I’ll never become the empress of China). Instead of white rice, I use “forbidden rice,” named because it once was cooked only for the emperor in the Forbidden City. It’s high antioxidant content was believed to enhance longevity. Chinese citizens were forbidden to eat it.
This American citizen hopes you enjoy my family’s Chinese rice stuffing!
- Chinese black rice, also known as “Forbidden Rice,” is the centerpiece for Linda Yu’s Chinese rice stuffing. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Chinese sausage is a key ingredient in Linda Yu’s recipe for Chinese rice stuffing. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Chopped celery brightens up Chinese rice stuffing. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Water chestnuts add some crunch to Linda Yu’s recipe for Chinese rice stuffing. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Chopped scallions are sprinkled on the Chinese rice stuffing for a finishing touch. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
- Linda Yu’s Chinese Rice Stuffing. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Linda Yu's Chinese Rice Stuffing
- 1 cup Chinese black rice (also known as Forbidden Rice)
- 4 Chinese sausages, sliced
- 3 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 5-ounce can of bamboo shoots, drained & sliced
- 1 5-ounce can of water chestnuts
- 2 stalks of celery, sliced
- 4 scallions, sliced thin
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 ¾ cup chicken broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ pound ground sirloin, browned
- 3 T oyster sauce
- Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
Chinese Forbidden Rice
- Place rice in a medium size pan, rinse then drain.
- Add chicken broth.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, until broth absorbs into rice.
- Cover and place on low heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside.
Meat and Vegetable Mixture
- Slice shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, celery and scallions. Mince garlic, saute with onions, then set aside.
- Slice Chinese sausage in diagonal pieces, saute in small pan. Set aside.
- In a large, deep skillet, brown ground sirloin, cooking thoroughly. Season with Kosher salt and pepper.
- Mix garlic and yellow onion into ground sirloin, add Chinese sausage, mushrooms, celery, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Saute, mixing to evenly distribute ingredients. Add oyster sauce, then add rice. Mix well.
- Bake at 350-degrees in oven-safe dish for one hour. Transfer from baking dish to ornate serving vessel, sprinkle scallions over the top.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Food We Love with Linda Yu.” Check the links below to watch Linda’s other #foodwelove videos. Each one has a great story plus recipes for you to try at home. You can also follow Linda on social media to get the latest on her CST series.