Bryant Terry and Jidan Koon's relationship evolved over cooking. So much so that when they got engaged, they created a special dish: Afro-Asian jung, based on the savory Cantonese treat Koon enjoyed as a child in San Francisco's Chinatown.
"Jung is a portable meal, wrapped in bamboo leaves," Koon says. "It's a triangular-shaped pocket, and when you peel back the leaves, you'll find a glistening pyramid of sweet rice," sometimes filled with bits of shiitake mushrooms and a hard-boiled quail or salty duck egg.
Vegan when they became engaged, the couple wanted their jung recipe to reflect their food philosophy and Terry's African-American heritage.
Peanuts, common in Asian and African cooking, stayed. Black glutinous rice and black "forbidden" rice joined the traditional white glutinous rice. They subbed black-eyed peas, eaten for good luck in the American South, for the mung beans. And to replace the taste of pork fat, the pair caramelized onions and kept the shiitake mushrooms.
To celebrate their union, the couple invited friends and family to help make their Afro-Asian jung at their engagement party.
The crowd wrapped enough jung to feed almost 100 people, says Terry, a chef and cookbook author. "It went over so well. People thought it was delicious."
Recipe: Afro-Asian Jung With Shoyu-Vinegar-Chili Sauce
Makes about 20 jung
For the jung
1 cup black "forbidden rice," soaked in water overnight
2 cups brown glutinous rice, soaked in water overnight
2 cups white glutinous rice, soaked in water overnight
Coarse sea salt
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
10 shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water overnight
40 dried bamboo leaves (plus extra for redos)
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 cups raw peanuts
One spool of natural cotton string (for wrapping)
For the dipping sauce
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shoyu
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons raw cane sugar
1/2 cup water
In a large pot over high heat, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. In batches of four or five, boil the bamboo leaves until they are soft, about 2 minutes. Rinse them well, transfer to a container and cover with water.
With kitchen scissors, cut the bamboo leaves, widthwise, about 1/4 inch below the stem (see diagram above). Discard the stems.
Drain the rice and combine all three varieties in a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of oil and set aside. Drain the black-eyed peas and set aside. Drain the shiitake mushrooms and cut each in half.
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, combine the diced onion with 2 tablespoons of oil and saute until it starts to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the peanuts and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until the peanuts start to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
Arrange all of the ingredients on a counter or table. Cut one spool of natural cotton string into 16 strands, each 27 inches long.
To assemble the jung, refer to diagram above for each step. Line up two bamboo leaves lengthwise, vein side down, placing the left edge of the right leaf flush against the vein of the left leaf.
Next, fold the pointed end up one-third of the length of the leaves. Then fold the leaves in half, lengthwise.
Create a pocket for the filling by opening up the fold of the last two leaves on the right.
Holding the pocket at its deepest corner, insert ingredients in this order: 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture, 1 tablespoon of the peanut mixture, 1 tablespoon of black-eyed peas, 1/2 of a shiitake mushroom, and 1 more tablespoon of the rice mixture.
Fold the leaves over the pocket and extend the ends of the leaves beyond the edge of the pocket by 1 to 3 inches. The jung should be tightly wrapped, resembling a three-sided pyramid.
Fold down the sides of the leaves to make the last corner of the pyramid. Take the section of folded leaf that overextends the jung and fold it over to one side. This is the last fold to close up the corner. It is important that enough of the leaf overextends the jung for you to make these last folds.
During this phase of the wrapping, parts of the leaves may crack open. If the crack is small (1 inch or less) you can use another leaf to cover the crack: After making the three-sided pyramid shape, layer the extra leaf on top of the crack and wrap the rest of the leaf around the pyramid.
Tightly wrap a strand of string around one completed pyramid, leaving 4 to 5 inches loose to make the last knot. Start wrapping to secure the last corner fold; this helps to ensure the whole jung stays together as you continue wrapping. Make a tight double knot.
Repeat until all the jung have been tied.
To cook the assembled jung, bring 4 quarts of fresh water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Transfer each jung to the boiling water, cover and cook for 2 hours.
Any leftover jung can be frozen and reboiled later.
To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl while the jung are boiling and set aside.
Recipe excerpted from The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry. Copyright 2012 by Bryant Terry. Excerpted by permission of Da Capo Lifelong Books.