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mama smelly’s kohlrabi rice

This kohlrabi rice by my mom, “mama smelly”, is famous among my family members because of how unassuming but delicious it is. This dish is called 菜果饭 “choi goh fan”, and it’s packed with savory Chinese cured meats, aromatics, and delightful bites of kohlrabi. This mixed rice is such a homey comfort dish that I haven’t had anywhere else!

My brother and I would often request this growing up, especially when we were tired of eating plain white rice every dinner. In our family, we referred it as “yao mei fan” in Cantonese, which translates to “rice that has flavor” (in comparison to plain white rice)!

If you haven’t had kohlrabi before, it tastes kind of like the stem of a broccoli, but slightly more sweet. This makes sense as they’re both cruciferous vegetables, just like cabbage and and cauliflower!

The seasonings required to make this delicious kohlrabi rice are always in my pantry. Check out my 7 Chinese Pantry Essentials for more details!

4 tips from mama smelly to make this kohlrabi rice delicious:

Tip #1: Use jasmine rice

jasmine rice

I’ve tested this recipe with both short/medium grain rice (what I usually cook with at home, because I love the chewy texture) and long grain jasmine rice. The short/medium grain version came out tasty, but for this dish, I preferred jasmine rice for its extra softness and fluffiness. It’s also what my mom uses in hers!

An extra tip from mama smelly is to use a bit less water than you normally would to cook the rice. Remember that all the other ingredients will add a bit of additional moisture to the rice later!

Tip #2: Peel the kohlrabi deep enough past the tough fibers

Peel the kohlrabi deep enough past the fibrous and tough skin (similar to how you’d peel fibrous ends of asparagus or broccoli). Otherwise, you’ll have hard, unchewable bits in your rice. 

Tip #3: Stir-fry the ingredients for extra flavor

I know that it can be tempting to just dice up all the ingredients and immediately throw it into the rice cooker with the rice. It definitely would make this more simple, but I promise that the extra 5-7 minutes you spend stir-frying the ingredients before adding them to the rice will make a HUGE difference in the end result!

All the aromatics and cured meats gradually release their flavors and oil, and this is key to making the best kohlrabi rice.

Tip #4: Don’t overcook the kohlrabi

My mom’s tip that she kept repeating to me when I was testing this recipe was to not overcook the kohlrabi.

Raw kohlrabi (which is edible, by the way!) is opaque and crunchy, almost like a radish or apple. As it cooks, it becomes more translucent, and it softens. When stir-frying the kohlrabi, make sure to add it last, and to only cook it no more than several minutes.

The texture should be slightly firm, but not crunchy. Remember that it will continue steaming with the rice later!

How to make mama smelly’s kohlrabi rice in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Prepare the aromatics, veggies, and cured meats

This step includes rehydrating the dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp, and cooking the rice.

While the rice cooks, prepare all the ingredients by dicing them into small pieces, and mincing the aromatics.

To prepare the kohlrabi, slice off the top and bottom ends, and then peel the thick skin. Make sure to peel deep enough to remove any fibrous or tough parts.

Step 2: Stir-fry the aromatics, veggies, and cured meats to release their flavor

This is a key step to ensure all the delicious fragrance and fat from the ingredients develop and impart flavor into the rice. Don’t skip this!

To maximize each ingredient’s flavor development, we add them in an order:

The dried shrimp goes first into the oil because it can withstand the most stir-frying, and also because it gives the oil in the pan a nice fragrance.

Next add the cured meats and aromatics. The cured meats and aromatics need a minute or two to release their fats and flavors, but we also don’t want them to brown or get crispy.

Lastly, add the shiitake mushrooms and kohlrabi. Rehydrated shiitake mushrooms don’t need much stir-frying, and we add kohlrabi last to make sure we don’t overcook it!

Step 3: Mix the ingredients into the cooked jasmine rice

Once the ingredients are stir-fried and the rice is cooked, all you have to do is mix everything into the rice! Mix it well, garnish with cilantro and/or scallions, season it with sesame oil and anything more to your taste (I like to add a little extra soy sauce here), and lastly, let it steam for another 5-10 minutes before enjoying.

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Mama Smelly’s Kohlrabi Rice

This unassuming dish is one of my family's absolute favorite dishes that my mom makes. Packed with savory Chinese cured meats, aromatics, and delightful bites of kohlrabi. A must try!
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 6


for the rice

aromatics & veggies

  • 1 kohlrabi ~8oz peeled
  • 1 Chinese sausage
  • 1-2 oz Chinese cured pork belly
  • 3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 oz dried shrimp
  • 1 small shallot
  • 3-4 cloves garlic


other ingredients

  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • neutral oil for cooking
  • cilantro (optional)
  • scallions


Prepare the ingredients and cook the rice

  • Rinse the dried shrimp and dried shiitake mushrooms. In a bowl, rehydrate them together in hot water. Cover with a lid.
    1/2 oz dried shrimp, 3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Wash the jasmine rice until the water runs mostly clear, then add the drained rice into the rice cooker with 2.5 cups of water or chicken broth. Season with chicken bouillon powder (skip if using chicken broth) and mix. Cook on the white rice setting.
    2 1/2 cups dry jasmine rice, 2 1/2 cups water, 1.5 tsp chicken bouillon powder
  • Meanwhile, prepare all the aromatics, cured meats, and veggies. Peel the kohlrabi, making sure to peel deep enough to remove any fibrous or tough parts. Dice the kohlrabi into ~1 cm pieces, and dice the Chinese sausage and Chinese cured pork belly into smaller pieces. Mince the shallot and garlic.
    1 kohlrabi, 1 Chinese sausage, 1-2 oz Chinese cured pork belly, 1 small shallot, 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Once the dried shrimp and shiitake mushrooms are rehydrated, dice them into small pieces.

Stir fry all the ingredients

  • Heat up a pan on medium heat, then add neutral oil. Once hot, add the dried shrimp and stir-fry for 1 minute or until lightly fragrant. Add the aromatics and Chinese cured meats. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes or until the fat from the cured pork belly renders a bit.
    neutral oil for cooking
  • Lastly, add the kohlrabi, shiitake mushrooms, and all the seasonings. The seasonings will lean on the slightly saltier side, as they need to be to flavor the rice. Stir fry for another 1-2 minutes.
    1.5 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp sugar, few dashes of white pepper
  • The kohlrabi will start as opaque, and as it cooks, it’ll turn more translucent. We only want to cook it up to ~50%, since it will continue steaming in the rice cooker. You can also test the doneness by tasting them as it cooks. It should still be firm, but not crunchy. Once it gets to this point, remove the pan from the heat.

Add all the ingredients to the rice

  • Once the rice is done, add all the cooked ingredients to the rice. Add sesame oil, cilantro, and scallions. Mix well, then cover the lid and let steam for another 5-10 minutes. If you want it more savory or salty, add some more soy sauce (my preference, but not necessary) and give it another mix. It’s ready to eat on its own or paired with side dishes!
    2 tsp sesame oil, cilantro, scallions
Keyword chinese homecooking, kohlrabi rice, mixed rice
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