A Mother’s Day Care Package

My Mom's tasty care package.

Tied with ribbons, double-taped or adorned with a wad of stamps, care packages come in all shapes, sizes and forms.

But inside, they really all contain the exact same precious thing — the warm, comforting reminder of: “I’m thinking of you.”

My late Mom always conveyed that message with a rather unusual care package — a dish of Chinese-style chicken and rice.

A simple recipe that she made up years ago, the dish is a supremely savory, one-bowl meal of Jasmine rice cooked with Chinese black mushrooms and chunks of dark meat chicken marinated in soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil. The rice takes on the flavors of the marinade, mushrooms and chicken until they all become fused as one.

It’s a dish my Mom would make regularly for our weeknight family dinners, stir-frying the chicken in a big wok before folding in the rice that had cooked separately in a rice cooker. As a kid, that was my task after school — to wash and measure out the water for the rice, before pushing the button on the rice cooker so the fluffy grains would be ready and waiting for my Mom when she arrived home from work to finish making the dish.

The recipe makes a fair amount, so she’d often bundle up the leftovers in plastic containers to stash in the freezer for another time.

When I started living on my own, it wasn’t uncommon for my Mom to foist a few containers of her frozen chicken and rice on me whenever I came by to visit. I’d come bounding up the stairs to my parents’ house to be greeted with, “There’s chicken rice in the freezer for you.” Lest I forget, she’d always remind me just before I left to drive home, “Don’t forget the chicken rice! It’s in the freezer!”

I’m sure if she could have, she would have even mailed it to me when I lived clear across the country in Florida.

After all, mixed into that tasty bowl of chicken and rice was the universal every-mom sentiment: “You might be all grown up now. But I still worry about you and still always want to take care of you.”

And I was always grateful for that. Not only because that bounty of chicken rice in the freezer saved me so many times when I worked late, as it could be thawed and heated easily in the microwave. But because on those nights when I came home stressed and exhausted, digging into that bowl of chicken rice was like getting a virtual hug from my Mom that made everything in the world all right again.

Now that she’s gone, I make my own trove of chicken rice. Even years later, it still does exactly what she intended all along: It takes very good care of me.

Fluffy rice, tender chicken chunks and earthy mushrooms combine for a comforting one-dish meal.

My Mom’s Chicken Rice

(Serves 4 to 6)

8 chicken drumsticks or thighs

2 tablespoons cornstarch

6 tablespoons oyster sauce, divided use

2 teaspoons dark soy sauce, divided use

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, divided use

3 cups Jasmine rice, washed and drained

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

About 12 medium-sized dried shiitake mushrooms, softened in hot water for about 25 minutes

2 tablespoons canola, peanut or vegetable oil for cooking

Remove skin and bones from chicken, discarding or saving for another use. Cut chicken meat into 1/4-inch or bite-size cubes. Marinate chicken in cornstarch, 3 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon sesame seed oil. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

In the bowl of a 5-cup rice cooker, place rice, chicken broth, water, 3 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil. Refrigerate for 1 hour before cooking.

When ready to cook, place the bowl of seasoned rice in the rice cooker and cook according to manufacturer’s directions. When done, keep warm.

Rinse mushrooms, remove tough stems and discard; cut mushroom caps into 1/4-inch cubes.

In a preheated work or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Add the chicken and black mushrooms, stirring frequently until chicken is cooked through. Turn off the heat. Gently stir in the cooked rice until everything is combined well.

Serve as a one-dish meal with steamed bok choy or sauteed asparagus, if you like.

– From my late Mom, May Jung


More Family Recipes: My Mom’s Tomato Beef Chow Mein

And: My Mom’s Prawns with Pork and Black Bean Sauce

And: Recreating My Mom’s Steamed Pork Cake with Salted Preserved Fish

And: World’s Easiest Noodle Soup

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Date: Wednesday, 9. May 2012 5:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Asian Recipes, General, Recipes (Savory)

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15 comments

  1. 1

    A wonderful ode to your mother and a scrumptious dish! Right up my alley.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. 2

    Ah…. Another nice story about your mom…. and another one of her recipes I’m going to try.

  3. 3

    I miss this dish. My grandmother used to make it for us all the time for dinner. Thanks for the memory!

  4. 4

    A great mama’s dish: tasty & easy to make too: full of real flavours!! Yummm!

    A lovely ode to one of your mother’s dishes!

  5. 5

    What a touching story behind your recipe. I really enjoy reading your post…although it left me in tears. But I can feel the love and warmth of a mother’s love in the recipe, and every word in your post. Thanks for sharing.

  6. 6

    Carolyn, I think you should freeze package of this rice and sell it online, sending them FedEx to those who want comfort food on the go. You can call it “Mom’s Chicken Rice Care Package” ;-) P.s. Don’t forget my 10%. LOL

  7. 7

    Carolyn, what a wonderful Mother’s Day tribute. Chicken , mushroom and rice is my favorite. Can’t wait to try your recipe.

  8. 8

    sweet post, carolyn! i’m so glad you have memories like this to share, and not just because the result is something edible. :)

  9. 9

    This sounds like the ultimate Umami/Ooooh,Mommy sensory combination — full of both flavor and love!

    (I’ll settle for less than 10% if you decide to name your mail-order enterprise “Ooooh Mommy” ;-)

  10. 10

    Very beautiful post, Carolyn. Thank you. :)

  11. 11

    Thank you, Carolyn, for sharing this Mother’s Day tribute of your Mother! She sounds like a very special Mother. My Mom’s specialty was fresh baked caramel pecan rolls for Sunday morning breakfast. I’ve made them using Mom’s recipe and mine never turn out as great as hers. Must be the personal touch and love that is missing. Have a great weekend.

  12. 12

    Tami: Wow, your grandmother made this dish, too? I had no idea it was such a Chinese staple. And Ben, I love your idea. I’m sure my Mom would have thought it genius, too. ;)

  13. 13

    Love this comfort dish. My mom used to make something like this in the rice cooker using sticky rice. I’ve done it with regular rice in the rice cooker for an easy dinner. Love all the family recipes you shared – what a treasure.

  14. 14

    A beautiful tribute to your mother! Love it… I have fallen behind on my blog visits and I am so happy to come back to such a beautiful post.. the rice sounds delicious and I would love to try it sometime…Thank you for sharing… Hugs!

  15. 15

    […] greeting cards, I chose an assortment of food images I’d taken over the years — from my late Mom’s chicken and rice dish to the simple beauty of fresh, ripe figs. The images reproduced beautifully on the cards, which […]

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