Stuffed Chinese Leaf Rolls


8 large Chinese leaves
2 large leaves nori (black Japanese seaweed sheets)
4 oz (120 g) boneless chicken breast, skinned
4 oz (120 g) cooked ham
pinch monosodium glutamate (optional)
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
salt and white pepper
For the sauce:
9 fl oz (250 ml) chicken stock
1 tbsp cornflour or potato flour
pinch ground ginger
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
salt and white pepper


1. Chop the chicken and ham finely and transfer to a bowl. Season with a pinch of salt, a small pinch of monosodium glutamate if wished, a pinch of pepper and 1 tbsp rice wine or sherry; stir well.

2. Blanch the Chinese leaves one at a time for 30 seconds in a large pan of boiling salted water, spreading out each one flat to dry on kitchen paper as you take it out of the water. Cut a V-shaped section out of bottom of the stalk of each leaf with a small, sharp knife, removing enough to make rolling the leaves easy when it comes to wrapping the stuffing.

3. Pile 4 leaves one on top of the other 'head to tail' (this will prevent the filling oozing out); do the same with the remaining 4 leaves in a separate pile. Sprinkle a thin layer of cornflour or potato flour over the exposed surface of the 2 topmost leaves, spread out a piece of nori seaweed on top of both (this can be bought at most Oriental grocers) and then cover each with half the filling spread out in a thick layer. Carefully roll up the leaves and filling into 2 long sausage shapes; they will not be very neat, but this does not matter. Transfer these to a lightly oiled heatproof plate and steam over fast boiling water for 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Mix the cornflour or potato flour with 1 1/2 tbsp cold water and stir into a saucepan containing the chicken stock. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper, the ginger, rice wine or dry sherry.

5. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk or wooden spoon. Simmer for 1-2 minutes until the sauce has thickened.

6. When the rolls have steamed for 20 minutes, cut them into slices 3/4 in (2 cm) thick. Hand round the sauce separately.

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