Step-By-Step: Lup Cheong & Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

If you’ve been meaning to grow a tummy but can’t seem to grow fat, the Tummy Trolls tell you that risotto is the way to go. Carb-full, creamy, rich and typically married with ingredients like bacon and Parmesan cheese… Thinking of this killer combination is already sending me into cloud nine. Oh, the divine status of risotto. Just beautiful. Worth growing a tummy for. Well, if you’re a glutton like me that is!

Anyway, you’re looking at a risotto that’s a league above the rest (in terms of creativity, we think) because it’s a fusion Chinese-Italian dish that actually tastes quite supreme. The whole lupcheong as a replacement for bacon thing started out as an experiment when #chubkaichun and I had a pseudo East-West cooking contest where he cooked a vat of the normal bacon & mushroom risotto and I cooked mine exactly the same way except with lup cheong, or Chinese seasoned sausages. Both were good… but the allure of lup cheong was too strong. It was a smorgasbord of sweet, savoury, umami, and most importantly, the taste of home. That alone gave birth to Lup Cheong & Dried Mushroom Risotto reaching celebrity status in our tummies and hearts.

Anyway, for the uninitiated or our lovely Brit/Non-Chinese friends:

Lup Cheong is a Chinese seasoned pork sausage, the pride and joy of Chinese cuisine. It has a lovely distinct taste to it due to the tedious amount of work done to produce it. First marinated, then smoked, then sweetened, then preserved! It is a process that takes up to months for the perfect tasting lup cheong. Usually found in fried rice, claypot rice or stir-fry dishes, we take the humble lup cheong and give it a fine-dining twist! With excellent results, we’re glad to announce.

Thinly sliced and all ready to be tossed and flipped around like perfect pushovers. 

Dried Mushrooms… You might think they’re mushrooms that are just dry and clammy but nah not as simple as you’d think. The Chinese, oh, how we love to preserve our food. Even mushrooms. So we take Shiitake Mushrooms, cute little things with distinctive patterns on the caps, dry them in the sun for eternity, and encapsulate all the mushroomy flavour within the mushrooms. The result? A clear winner in its own right with mushrooms that are intensely concentrated in flavour and scent. Yum.

Dried mushrooms, soaked and diced. And onions who’re trying to steal the limelight. Yup.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with Asian ingredients when you’re cooking a seemingly Western dish. Fusion is not that tough, it’s all about the creativity! Cook this when you have a bout of homesickness – It’s bound to cure you sooner than you want it to.

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Ingredients for Lup Cheong & Dried Mushroom Risotto: Serves 2-3

Lup Cheong & Dried Mushroom Risotto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced (or used minced garlic if you prefer it finer)
2 lup cheong, thinly sliced into rounds
6-8 dried mushrooms, soaked and diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup single cream
200g rice (if you have good high-starch varieties like Carnaroli, use that! If you’re poor and uninformed like us, use Sainsbury’s Basics rice. Still works! Just no Basmati.)

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Step-By-Step: Lup Cheong & Dried Mushroom Risotto

Step 1: Fry the sliced onions with olive oil at medium heat

Fry them till they look a little brown, but not burnt! It’s like how we like a good suntan but not a bad sunburn – Onions feel the same too. Feel free to use butter if you want a richer taste, but I chose to use olive oil for this recipe to let the flavour of the Lup Cheong shine.

Step 2: Add the mushrooms and Lup Cheong, and continue to stir-fry!

Fry them for a good 5 minutes or so.

Now, this takes a bit of patience. Switch the heat settings to medium-high and patiently stir-fry the goods till the lup cheong is a little charred at the ends.

Yes! That’s it.

Scoop them all out and let them rest on a plate at the side. Resist the temptation to pinch the food, although I couldn’t resist it and pinched some anyway.

Step 3: The rice, the rice, the rice!

The pan should still contain the grease from frying earlier. Keep that grease, and throw your dry rice in, and stir-fry over medium-low heat. The rice will absorb the flavour of the Lup Cheong.

It is important for the rice to be dry – Too wet and it’ll be soggy too soon, ruining the perfect shape and texture of your rice grain!

Fry for a good 10-15 minutes, until your rice grains start to “jump” on the pan. At this stage, your rice is half-fried: Ready to release all the creamy starch.

Step 4: Combine earlier ingredients with half-fried rice

Bet you thought this was fried rice. Now, stir!

Add water, enough to simmer, but not too much to flood your rice! Stir, gently and patiently, until the water is absorbed by the rice grains and dries up.

Then add a little tablespoon of white wine, warmed. The wine cannot be cold – It’ll shock the rice grains and force them not to release the starch! *Gasp*

Same thing, stir until the water is absorbed by the rice grains and dries up. Sing a song in the meanwhile.

Repeat the process for the next 15 minutes. Not kidding, it does take a long time because you want the rice grains to release their starch bit by bit. Stop when it’s finally starting to look like risotto instead of fried rice in soup.

Ideally, the rice grains should still be whole and al dente – Soft on the outside but still has nice bite to it!

Step 5: Add cream and cheese!

Now, open the floodgates and pour that sinful cream in. Worry about the calories later.

Too late to regret. At least it looks good! Stir, stir, stir.

At this point, ask yourself: Should I grow a bigger tummy? If your answer is yes, throw in the grated cheese. Feel free to use Parmesan or Mozzarella instead of Cheddar.

If you don’t like your risotto too creamy and rich, you can always omit the cheese. But why would you do that and torture your soul? No way.

Some intense stirring going on in here.

And you are done when the cheese has melted into a gooey lumpy stringy existence.

Step 6: Into your stomach, naturally

Enjoy the fruits of your labour. Risotto, takes so much time but is so rewarding. What more with lup cheong and dried shiitake mushrooms! It’s worth it.

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Note: Some authentic Italian restaurants don’t use butter or cream – All they need is good rice to achieve the same creamy, thick texture. Alas, you can do the same too if you have good risotto rice. We don’t, sadly… Admittedly we used Sainsbury’s Basics rice (don’t judge) which worked just as well. Just remember not to use Basmati or Thai Jasmine rice – They don’t release as much starch and are better off steamed!

Posted by #phangchewfat

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