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Hunan Honey-glazed Ham

sandwiches. Lotus seeds, a little sugar, and a dried ingredient called kuei-hua combine their flavors during the steaming process to create a wonderful syrup.

Makes: 6 servings    Cooking time: 45 minutes

1/2 cup lotus seeds
3/4 pund boneless fresh Smithfield (Virginia) ham
12 slices white bread
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried kuei-hua (cassia blossom)

Soak lotus seeds in warm water for 1 hour; then steam over boiling water for about 30 minutes or until soft. Set aside.
If outer skin remains on ham, steam ham over boiling water in steamer for about 30 minutes to soften. Then trim off and discard skin and fat to make pieces of ham measuring 1 1/2 by 2 by 4 inches. Carefully slice pieces 1/8 inch thick.
Slightly freeze bread for easier handling.  Trim off crust and cut in half. Split each half almost all the way through lengthwise, forming a pocket. Cover bread with towel to prevent drying and set aside.
To assemble, line the inside of a 6-inch bowl with rows of overlapping pieces of ham. Add remaining ham slices and any meat trimmings.
To steam, place 1/2 cup water in bowl with ham. Put bowl on rack in steamer, cover, and steam over boiling water for 30 minutes. Remove and carefully pour off water. Sprinkle lotus seeds, 2 tablespoons sugar, and kuei-hua over ham.
To steam again, place bowl on rack in steamer and steam for 15 to 20 minutes longer. Remove (keeping steamer available for bread), and carefully tip bowl, pouring off juices into a saucepan. Soften bread in steamer for about 1 minute; keep warm.
To serve, quickly bring juices to a boil, add 3 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons sugar, and cook until syrupy. Invert ham mixture onto serving plate; then spoon syrup over ham. Offer bread slices on side.

1. Smoked ham may be substituted but there is a definite flavor difference.
2. To prepare ahead, cook ham as directed; then reheat at serving time by steaming for 20 to 30 minutes.
3. You can serve Butterfly Steamed Bread instead of white bread.


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