Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Of Rice and Radishes

I've never understood why people would get so tense about about cooking rice.  To me, it always seemed fairly straightforward: boil water, add rice, cook until done. This is the pasta method of cooking rice, and results in a fluffy rice that does not stick together. This is wonderful to make pilaf with, or to add to soup. 

But if you want sticky rice, rice that can be molded into balls and picked up with chopsticks, this method is useless.  So I have to learn a whole new way to cook rice. A lot of cooks swear by rice cookers (and the cookbook does recommend some) but I have an aversion to kitchen gadgets, so I followed the recipe for stove top rice. 

The first thing you have to do is to pick your rice. Rice come in three basic varieties: long grain, medium grain, and short grain. Long grain is what we in the West usually eat.  The Japanese prefer a medium grain rice, so that is what I bought.

Wash the rice. The goal here is to wash off the extra starch and to get the rice absorbing a little water before you start cooking it. Don't throw away the water you use to wash the rice! Save it to water the garden, or for cooking. It contains valuable starch.

washed rice
Side note: In Katherine Hepburn's book on filming The African Queen, she tells of how they were having a horrible time keeping her hat brim from falling over her face in the humidity of (what was then) the Belgian Congo.  The wardrobe department came up with a brilliant idea, rice water. They boiled rice and used the starchy water to stiffen her hat brim.  Thus are Oscar winning movies made.

Back to the rice. After you've washed it 4-5 times put the rice and a carefully measured amount of water into a pot with a tight fitting lid, and from there it's mostly a matter of having a reliable clock and not lifting the lid, no matter how tempted you are. I followed the times the author specified (and didn't lift the lid) and it came out beautifully: snowy white, sticky but not glutinous. The perfect opportunity to use my impulse buy from the Japanese grocery store - rice seasoning.

I think I may have overdone it, but it tasted good.
Then, since I had saved the water I washed the rice in, I made Steamed Radishes in Citrusy Miso.  The recipe has you cook the radishes most of the way in the starchy water, and then finish them up in a seasoned broth made of dashi, soy and mirin.  Then you serve the radish chunks with a citrus miso sauce. 

Worth a try, but not a taste sensation
This was like the steak dish from a few weeks ago. I like all the components, I just don't like them together. And I'd rather have the daikon raw. Raw, daikon has a palate-cleansing crispness to it, but cooked, it was like eating plain steamed turnips. The miso sauce didn't really help. The cookbook recommends using the miso as a dip, and I can see where it would be really good for that.

Three more recipes completed! I'm thinking mushrooms next.

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