Made Sticky Rice

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"If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn't have given us grandmothers."
Linda Henley

Every Thanksgiving, my grandma makes one of my very favorite foods in the whole world,
sticky rice (in Cantonese, we pronounce it "naw mai fawn"). Everyone on my mom's side of the family enjoys it too, but she knows how much I love it and always makes a ton extra to pack a bunch for me to take home. It doesn't last long, as I usually polish it off in a day or two.

I had always wanted to learn how to make this from her, and a couple years ago, I asked her to show me. I showed up early that Thanksgiving, and when I got to her house, she had already done all the work.

J set it up and persuaded her to show me how to make her famous dish today, and we told her that she would have to let me do everything so I would know how to do it. Of course, when we dropped my mom off at my grandma's house last night, she had already started soaking mushrooms, shrimp and rice! They did need to be started the night before, so I'm glad we were there to see that step.
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These are the ingredients needed for this:
2 1/2 lbs sweet rice
1/2 cup dried shrimp (handful)
8 dried mushrooms
5 or 6 lap cheung (Chinese style sausages)
Salt (about a table service teaspoon)

The most time consuming part about this is the cutting. We started by draining the shrimp, for which I had to say "let me do that!", and then Grandma showed me how to cut a few shrimp first. I then cut up the rest.
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I put the cut up shrimp in the dish the rice was going to go in.
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Next, I cut the mushrooms in a very similar manner, trying to keep the size about the same as my shrimp pieces.
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My grandma then showed me how to cut the lap cheung, and I cut up the rest.
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Next, we put the soaked rice into the dish.
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This is when I added a table service teaspoon of salt to the dish.
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After she showed me how, I mixed it up with a pair of chopsticks and tried to evenly distribute the ingredients. She made it look easy, but I found it difficult to manipulate uncooked rice with chopsticks.
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We adjusted the amount of water that is needed (a little more than halfway up the dish) and checked it by tilting the dish a bit.
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Once we got that, it was ready to be put in the steamer.
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It takes about 45 minutes to steam, and we checked it halfway and stirred it up.
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After the 45 minutes, it was done, and it looked delicious.
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We ate it for dinner later, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can definitely make this again, and I will. I can't wait.

My grandmother is an amazing woman. In fact, I think she's a genius. She came to this country in the 1940's and taught herself how to do so many things that I take for granted. Her family was back in China, and she had come to be with my grandpa, whom she had met during the war. She didn't speak English, she didn't know about sports (she learned all the rules of baseball by listening to it on the radio), she learned everything she needed to know to become a naturalized American citizen, and when she came, she also didn't know how to cook. She didn't have a teacher or any instruction. She didn't even have the internet.

A lot of the foods she makes today were the result of many iterations of experimentations. In fact, she told me there were a lot of different things she tried when she was developing her sticky rice recipe before she decided this was the best way to make it. This is just one of several examples she's told me about. On top of that, she makes all of this incredible food in such a small kitchen with hardly any counter space.
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I'd like to think I get my desire to try new things and to learn more from my grandma, and I think it's great that I can pool from her knowledge. While I'm doing these things for fun, she did them out of necessity. With little to no help, she started with nothing and made wonderful food, communicated in a foreign language, raised seven kids, and continued learning things she had no idea about, and this is one of the many reasons why I love and respect her for the brilliant woman she is.
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