Sushi rice in under 5 minutes?

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To follow-up on my post yesterday about home-made sushi rice, this one is about an interesting product I was recently introduced to by the kind folks at Bento & Co. Although many of our posts are generally focused on dishes that are made from scratch with ingredients that are as fresh as possible, I felt compelled to share this: Wooke’s instant microwave sushi rice. (Note, this is not a product endorsement on behalf of Bento & Co or Wooke, I just really liked this product.)

The ingredients themselves are the same things that you would normally cook sushi rice with, only it’s pre-cooked, pre-mixed, then dehydrated:

  • Koshihikari rice, dehydrated
  • Vinegar, dehydrated
  • Dextrin (in the vinegar) – which is a simple carbohydrate and a gluten
  • Sugar
  • Salt

Preparation of the rice is a simple two step process:

1. Take the rice packet from the package, peel open the marked corner to the line (they have it marked), and place it in the microwave for about two minutes.

2. Once your rice is ready, open the sweetened dehydrated vinegar package and sprinkle the powder evenly over the rice. Mix the powder in similar to how you would mix in the vinegar for your homemade sushi rice with a rice paddle or spatula.

And that’s it. All done.

What’s more is the rice is surprisingly good. All in under five minutes. Maybe this is not something to eat everyday, as ultimately, I do believe that whole, homemade foods are always better for us, but this instant rice is a good option once in a while if you’re on the run.

My father’s daughter: A heart for sushi rice

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I acquired an early love and appreciation for sushi from my father when I was growing up. At the heart of sushi making, the most important aspect of it is the rice. Luckily, if you know how to make steamed rice, sushi rice is very simple and easy to make. The trick is to use a little less water, so it’s less moist, and to mix the sweetened vinegar mixture into the rice as soon as the rice is cooked and is still hot. (More on this below.) The recipe I use is the same one that my father used whenever he would make sushi for us. Do note that the yield is quite a lot, so if you’re preparing sushi for fewer people, you can use the second ingredients list.

Ingredients: (makes 6 cups of rice, good for 4-6 people)

  • 3 cups Japanese sushi rice
  • 3-1/4 cups of water (note, you may need to adjust the water levels depending on your rice cooker)
  • 1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons of sake

Smaller serving to make 2 cups of cooked sushi rice (good for 1-2 people): 

  • 1 cup of Japanese sushi rice
  • 1-1/4 cups of water (note, you may need to adjust the water levels depending on your rice cooker)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon of salt
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons of sake

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Spinach and mushroom risotto

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Making a nice, creamy risotto had evaded me for years. My downfall in the past was my split attention span (I like to call it multi-tasking) and the assumption that making risotto is similar to making rice or congee: add water and boil. The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth and to think all it took as a little investigation into “how to make risotto”. So, to save you from the same sad fate as my past attempted risotto creations, this is how you really make risotto and it’s surprisingly easy. As an aside, risotto is not something to make if you need to be multi-tasking, as timing is of the essence. It’s not hard, you just need to be able to pay attention to it and have a little patience. The whole process takes less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of risotto or arborio rice
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 4 to 5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 5 small brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese, grated

Ingredients if vegan: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of risotto or arborio rice
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 5 small brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach, chopped

Preparation:

  1. In a medium to large saucepan, heat up the butter, 1/4 cup of the cream, and olive oil (just olive oil if vegan) on medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped onion (and garlic, if you’re using garlic). Simmer until the onions are translucent and nearly breaking down.
  2. In a large pot, pour your stock and wine. Simmer on low heat without a lid. It should not come to a boil.
  3. Back to your onion saucepan – add the rice and stir, still on medium heat. The edges of the rice should also turn translucent, while the centre will remain opaque. Stir the rice to keep it from burning. Lightly toasted is what we want but not burned.
  4. When the rice is translucent, ladle in a cup of broth and stir it into the rice. Keep slowly stirring. The rice will absorb the broth at which time you can ladle in another cup of broth. You will be ladling in a cup of broth at a time – only a cup at a time. This is where that patience and attention comes in. It’s important that you only do a cup at a time and wait until nearly all of the liquid is soaked into the rice before you add another. No need to rush. Too much liquid and your risotto could get really soupy rather than creamy and overcook.
  5. When your risotto is nearing completion – you’ll be able to tell as the kernels are nearly al dente and the consistency will be creamy (you’ll also only have about a cup or two left of your broth) – add the chopped mushrooms and spinach. Continue stirring.
  6. Finish adding enough broth to get your risotto to the perfect consistency and the rice just cooked. I encourage taste testing to make sure. Note that you may not need all the broth – or if you run out, use a little water or more stock. Add the grated parmesan cheese and the last 1/4 cup cream to the risotto, stir to have it melt in (ignore this last step if you’re vegan).

You’re ready to serve! Risotto is best served right away – buon appetito!

Feeling sick? Plain congee to the rescue

This post is dedicated to my friend, Lola.

Photo credit: Vivian Chan

When I get sick, nothing helps me feel better than the warm comfort of Chinese congee. I used to think it was the nostalgia of my childhood when my parents would nurse me back to health with bowlfuls of it, but more recently, I’ve found out there’s science behind the old tradition. Congee is not only high in fluid content, which your body needs plenty of when you’re sick, but is also high in electrolytes from the rice. (Italians have a similar concoction, only it’s boiled pasta and the starchy water is drunk afterwards. Same principle.)

I will make congee regularly around the year, but never at a higher frequency than when I’m sick. This week was no exception. Having picked up an ugly virus, I gathered up the pot, rice, and chicken broth for my congee. That is the beauty of congee. That’s all you need. My basic recipe will make a large pot of plain congee that will last one person about two or even three days, which is great when you’re sick and don’t want to be cooking multiple meals.

Main ingredients:

  • 2.5 to 3 litres of chicken stock (may also be substituted with vegetable stock or water)
  • 1.5 cups of white jasmine rice
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

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