Rice Dumplings with Highbush Cranberry Elk Filling

Some wild plants are easy to love.  It's not hard to appreciate the virtues of roses, raspberries, and currants.

Other plants are ugly ducklings.  Or in the case of highbush cranberries, stinky ducklings.

You see, highbush cranberries have a very particular scent.  You know the smell of a teenage boy's socks, having been shut in a closet on a warm summer day?  Yeah, kinda like that, which is why I call them stinky sock berries.

So, I know what you are thinking.  Why on earth would I want to eat something that has earned the nickname stinky sock berry?  Well, here's the scoop.  Even though they aren't actually related to true cranberries, highbush cranberries have a similar tart flavor which can take on tones of citrus after a few good frosts.

Highbush cranberries are a complex fruit, which makes them very interesting to work with in the kitchen.  I enjoy their unique taste and the challenge of manipulating that flavor in the kitchen.  I know some like to try to use them in sweet dishes (stinky sock ice cream, anyone?), but I prefer to offset the funk of highbush cranberries by pairing them with offal and game.  My all-time favorite thing to make with highbush cranberries is a glaze for pan-fried liver.

After picking highbush cranberries this year, I decided that I'd like to use them to make something similar to the steamed barbeque pork buns served at dim sum restaurants.  The only hitch - I can't eat wheat flour.  Rather than embark on my usual journey of haphazard kitchen experiments, I did a little internet research to see if it was possible to make gluten-free steamed buns.  It seems many have tried, and most have failed.  One blogger described her resulting buns as serviceable.  As long as I've got a choice, I'm not settling for food which is merely serviceable.  A site dedicated to all manner dumplings wisely concluded that if there was a way to make this type of bun out of rice flour, the Chinese would have figured it out long ago.

Fair enough.  Enter Plan B.  Even though I couldn't manage to envelop my highbush cranberry filling in a tender pillow of fluffy dough, I could still riff on the idea.  I decided to instead wrap the filling with sticky coconut rice.  The resulting dumplings evoke all of the taste-memories of steamed pork buns, but have their own unique texture.  Rice dumplings with highbush cranberry filling are the perfect blend of sweet/tart/savory, and make for a deeply satisfying meal on cold winter days.

I've used elk meat in this recipe, but you could just as easily substitute beef, pork, or even dark meat chicken.

Rice Dumplings with Highbush Cranberry Elk Filling

3/4 c. cooked elk meat, cut into very small pieces
4 Tbsp. highbush cranberry jam
1 Tbsp. (gluten-free) soy sauce
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. grated ginger

dock leaves (collard leaves, banana leaves, and corn husks would also work)

1 c. sticky rice (also known as glutinous rice)
1 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. finely shredded coconut
1 tsp. coconut sugar

1.  Place rice and water into your rice cooker (alternately, you could cook the rice on a stove top).  Let stand for one hour.

2.  Add coconut and sugar to the rice.  Stir to combine.  Turn on the rice cooker.  When the machine switches off, let the rice steam for an additional 15 minutes.

3.  In a small pan, combine the elk meat, highbush cranberry jam, soy sauce, green onion, garlic, and ginger over low heat.  Let the mixture bubble for two minutes, then remove it from the heat and let it cool back to room temperature.

4.  Dumpling size will vary depending upon what type of leaf you use to roll them.  Place a small flat layer of coconut sticky rice near the end of your leaf.  Center a spoonful of meat atop it, then top it with more rice.  Use your hands to gently mold the rice around the filling.  Then, tightly roll the rice dumpling up inside the leaf, burrito-style

5.  Cook the dumplings in a steamer basket over boiling water for 15 minutes.  If you've used edible leaves such as dock or collards, you can choose to serve the rice dumplings with or without their wrapper.

I'm sharing this recipe with Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Real Food Wednesday, Pennywise Platter Thursda,. and Fight Back Friday.


  1. I just about had a heart attack when I saw that you'd put the quantities in...

    Also, I love those buns too. I think it's the only thing Chinese food has to offer that I enjoy. Oh, that and aromatic crispy duck. But that also comes with wheaty pancakes and without the pancakes it's useless.

    And I can see how it'd be really good with the stinky sock berries- those were crazy delicious. Wonder what I could substitute... any ideas?

  2. Wow. Looks terrific! Maybe I'll whip up something similar, only with different flavors. Is dock blandish? Would this be good wrapped up in a plain green leaf, like romaine lettuce, or not really?

  3. Beks - I'm trying to think what fruit you have out there would work. It would need to be super tart, but more like a berry than something citrus. Maybe a mix of hawthorn and citrus? Plus a dirty sock, of course.

    Penny - Yeah, any old mild leaf would do. It's more about getting the packet wrapped up to steam than it is flavor, in this case. I suspect banana leaf would be very tasty and appropriate, however. I *could* buy those there, but they just come from so far away, and I don't think any of my markets sells them in small quantities.


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