Category Archives: Rice

Open Omurice with Hot Gochujang Sauce and Mushrooms

omurice_My favourite omelette is the French-style, rugby ball-shaped fluffy one, which apparently gives a very clear idea of a professional chef’s skills. I often order it for lunch in France, but I haven’t mastered it yet, so whenever I make an omelette, it has to be the easiest flat one. The famous Japanese omurice (fried rice with an omelette) has two main versions: rice wrapped into a round thin omelette or topped with the fluffy thick one. I was glad to discover that Japanese Soul Cooking, from which I sourced my very first omurice, features the former version. Yesterday I decided to “koreanise” it a bit and replaced the customary ketchup with hot gochujang sauce. It proved such a great idea, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Actually, I think I will never go back to the standard mild omurice!

For those who have never heard about this dish, omurice/omuraisu (オムライス) belongs to “youshoku” (洋食), Japanised Western dishes, the category which includes such dishes as korokke (croquettes).  The dish was apparently invented in Tokyo at the beginning of the XXth century and its name is a contraction of “omelette” and “rice”. As I have mentioned, it consists of two parts: “chikin rice” (cooked rice, fried with chicken, onion and carrot, then seasoned with ketchup) and the omelette, either wrapped around the rice or made into a fluffy shape and put on top. Whatever the version, the dish is served either with more ketchup on top or with a generous amount of demi-glace sauce.

The omurice where fluffy soft omelette served on top of the rice is often called “Tampopo omurice”, with reference to the legendary Japanese film “Tampopo” (if you like Japanese cuisine, you must see it, not only because of omurice!). See the beautiful Hiroyuki’s Tampopo omurice here.

I have never tasted omurice in Japan and while preparing my first homemade version I was afraid double presence of ketchup would spoil the rather promising result, but maybe because I’ve used my own homemade ketchup, I found it surprisingly good. On one hand, I was thrilled to discover another egg dish in my long collection, but at the same time this way of using leftover rice is a nice alternative for fried rice or rice-based salads I’ve been making for years.

Apart from the gochujang sauce, I have also changed the “chikin rice” ingredients, skipping the carrot and peas and replacing them with mushrooms. As you see above, I have also made too much “stuffing” to close the omelette properly (by “properly closed” I mean something like Nami’s perfect Omurice you can admire here), so I named it “open” 😉  If you want to follow the original recipe, I invite you to buy the wonderful Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat.

TIPS: If you are don’t like ginger, you can skip it and the gochujang sauce will be equally good (I liked it here though; it added a nice fresh kick).

Egg dishes get cold very quickly, so I strongly advise serving omurice on a warmed plate (heated in the oven, set at lowest temperature).

Whenever using leftover cooked rice I always warm it a bit in the microwave. Thus grains are easier to separate.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1/4 chicken breast

3 medium or big button mushrooms (called cremini, when dark)

1 small onion or shallot

3 heaped tablespoons steamed Japanese rice

3 tablespoons chicken stock

oil

Omelette:

2 eggs

3 tablespoons of milk or cream

salt, pepper

Gochujang sauce:

2 tablespoons gochujang

1 tablespoon sake

1 tablespoon honey or syrup

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or 1 teaspoon normal soy sauce

1 garlic clove, crushed or grated

(1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger)

toasted sesame seeds

Cut the chicken and the mushrooms into small pieces.

Slice the onion finely.

Put a bowl and a plate to warm in a cool oven (set at lowest temperature).

Fry the chicken bits, the onion and the mushrooms.

Add the rice, the gochujang sauce and the stock.

Simmer at low heat until everything is hot (make the liquids thicken if the sauce is not thick enough).

Place the rice mixture into the warm bowl and keep in the oven until needed.

Prepare the omelette mixture.

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the omelette, destroying the bubbles which will form.

When the top of the omelette is almost set, put the pan aside.

Place the omelette on the heated plate.

Place the rice stuffing at the half of the omelette. (You can also do it in the pan but I found the transferring process very difficult).

Cover it with the other half, spread some gochujang sauce on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

 

Takikomi Gohan しいたけと鶏の炊き込みご飯 (Rice steamed with shiitake and chicken)

takikomi_gSpring vegetables are nowhere to be seen yet, so the only comfort one may find in the kitchen is a new exciting dish with winter ingredients that start to become boring. The discovery of takikomi gohan has not only made me forget that mushrooms and carrots have been my staples of last months, but it has also unveiled a whole new world of potential experiments with what I see as a  lazier cousin of fried rice.

Takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯) is a Japanese rice-based dish where all the ingredients are steamed together in a rice cooker or in a pan (for those who have mastered rice steaming in a pan). Its variations are infinite, they can change according to the season, to the fridge content, one’s preferences and for me the only limit would be not using the ingredients that become too soft during the steaming process (for example, I would never use courgette or French beans here). In short, I’m enchanted by this one-pot dish that doesn’t require much attention or efforts.

I found this recipe whole looking for new ways to use up my big stock of fresh shiitake mushrooms. I stumbled upon a video on Cooking with Dog, the food channel many of you know probably very well and didn’t look anywhere else. As always, the procedure is well explained and yields delicious results. I have made several modifications, also adjusting the amounts to a dish for two, so check the original recipe here.

TIPS: Normally you will end up with a thicker or thinner sticky, slightly burnt layer at the bottom, formed by juices, marinade liquids and rice. I must say I was scared at first that maybe my European rice-cooker reacted badly to this new method, but according to my Japanese friend A. it’s normal and for many people it’s the best part of this dish, so don’t worry if it happens to you too and enjoy the crunchy bits!

Since all the marinade juices ended up in a sticky layer at the bottom, my rice was barely seasoned, so I have added some soy sauce before serving.

You can easily make this vegetarian, skipping the chicken and adding more mushrooms.

I don’t like mushy carrots, so I have cut them into thick pieces. It’s up to you how big the pieces will be of course.

If you don’t like fresh ginger (I know some people find it soapy…) you can very well skip it. It’s far from necessary here.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1 Japanese cup of rice (180ml)

200 g shiitake mushrooms

1 medium carrot

1 small chicken breast

1 piece of konbu (about 4-5 cm long)

1 teaspoon of ginger, very finely shredded

Marinade:

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or less if you use normal soy sauce)

1 tablespoon sake

1 tablespoon mirin

30 ml dashi (Japanese stock)

fresh herbs to put on top before serving (mitsuba would be perfect, but you can add also chives or green onions)

more soy sauce

Cut up the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces (slices or chunks).

Put into the marinade.

Wash the rice until the water in the bowl is clear (I usually rinse it three-four times and soak it for 30 minutes if I have time, but I admit skipping the soaking stage quite often), put into the rice-cooker, add water as required and the konbu sheet.

Cut the carrot into bigger or smaller pieces, depending on how soft you want it to be.

Slice bigger shiitake caps and remove tough stalks (small shiitake have soft stalks, so you don’t have to remove them).

Add the shiitake, the carrots and the ginger to the marinating chicken and coat well.

Place the vegetables and the chicken mixture on top of the rice in the rice cooker, close and cook as usually.

Before serving remove the konbu, then stir well the ingredients in the rice-cooker.
Add soy sauce and serve.

Korean Rice Rolls (Gimbap/Kimbap 김밥)

kor_makiGiven my growing interest and experience in Korean cooking, the gimbap – making adventure was inevitable. Especially since last year, when I saw beautiful colourful rice rolls in Tokyo’s Korean district. Unfortunately, I was no longer hungry (easy to understand after a BBQ dinner…) and didn’t have time to go back there before my return to Europe. Finally, after long months, I made my first attempt, which was much more satisfactory in terms of taste than in its aesthetic results. I hope you will believe me that clumsy-looking rice rolls can also make a fully enjoyable meal.

For those who have never had much more famous Japanese rice rolls (maki sushi), their basic ingredients are seaweed sheets (nori) and vinegared rice. The filling varies, but it usually includes one or more of such ingredients as fish, seafood, cucumber, pickled radish or avocado. For me the main difference between maki sushi and Korean gimbap/kimbap is the rice seasoning : here vinegar is also added to the rice (at least in my both cookery books), but a tiny amount only and the sesame oil’s presence dominates the final taste. The gimbap filling is usually richer and very colourful. It often contains beef, pickled radish, sliced omelette, cooked spinach and, for example, carrot.The sesame-scented rice is so delicious, you want to finish it on its own while mixing… so beware! (I kept on “tasting” it throughout the whole rolls preparation process.)

If I had to choose between Japanese and Korean rolls, I must say I prefer the vinegared maki sushi ,but mainly because I associate rice rolls with a very light, refreshing meal and vinegared rice gives more easily this impression. Gimbap is heartier and maybe less sophisticated… but there is something more casual, joyful and playful about Korean rolls… so I’m sure I will be making them from time to time. (And the taste of rice mixed with sesame oil was a revelation). Up to you to choose which ones you prefer!

I have combined here two slightly different recipes from The Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song and Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall, both fantastic, though completely different cookbooks, the former being rather for beginners and the latter one of the biggest jewels in my kitchen library. Apart from using two sources, I have modified the filling substantially, namely adding raw cucumber and leek and skipping some ingredients (I did leave however the “flagship” beef and omelette), so can only I hope I still have the right to call these rolls “gimbap” in spite of all the changes… As in the case of maki sushi, I have used here a lower rice vs filling ratio than in the original recipe (see the TIPS below).

TIPS: Since I am able to devour lots of rice rolls (maki sushi or gimbap), I reduce the rice amount in order to make them lighter and low-calorie. As you see on the photo above, the filling takes here more space than the rice. If you prefer a standard, not lightened version, increase the rice amount (500 g or about 17,5 oz instead of 300 g or about 10,5 oz).

When you buy seaweed (nori) sheets, pay attention to their transparency and colour. I was told in Japan that darker and less transparent nori means better quality (of course there are more sophisticated criteria to judge the quality once the nori is dark and opaque enough to be considered good quality, but I found the above tip a good way to discard low-quality products).

Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall, the author of Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen, advises serving gimbap with vinegared soy sauce (check her book for the recipe) and hot yellow mustard. I have served them with soy sauce mixed with sesame oil and vinegar only. 

Special equipment:

rice cooker (unless you know how to cook the rice in a “normal” pan)

maki rolling mat 

a brush

Preparation: 20 minutes (+ 1 hour for rice rinsing, cooking, seasoning and cooling)

Ingredients (serves 4 as the main course):

5 nori seaweed sheets

300g (about 10,5 oz) short grain (Japanese or Korean) rice (or 500g/about 17,5 oz if you prefer “standard”  rolls)

Rice mixture:

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 flat teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon rice wine (I have used sake)

1 long cucumber, cut into strips

(1 long thin leek)

2 eggs

1 big carrot, cut into strips (in the recipe it’s stir-fried, but I preferred to use it raw)

oil (for the omelette frying)

100 g ground beef ; the recipe calls either for finely chopped beef or for thin beef strips (at Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall’s), so you can chop it or cut into thin strips too

Beef marinade:

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 crushed or grated garlic cloves

(chilli flakes)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

sesame oil

a small bowl of water 

Steam the rice.

In the meantime mix the marinade with the beef and put aside for ten minutes.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, season with salt and fry a flat omelette.
Cut the omelette into thin strips and put them aside.

Put the hot rice into a bowl and add the rice mixture ingredients. Stir well and leave to cool down.

When the rice has cooled down to the room temperature (it can’t be completely cold, otherwise it won’t be sticky enough), put a nori sheet vertically on the rolling mat, shiny side down.

Fry the beef and let it cool down.

With fingers dipped in a bowl of water spread 1/5th of the rice evenly, leaving a 1 cm gap on the top, far edge.

Arrange the filling ingredients on the rice, in a horizontal line, close to the bottom edge.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and with sesame oil.

Roll the gimbap starting from the bottom edge, gently pressing after each turn.

Brush with water the upper edge before doing the last turn (it will help to seal the roll).

Press gently the roll and put it aside.

In order to obtain more or less similarly sized pieces, cut the roll first in two parts, then put them in a row and cut them in two parts, etc.

(It is easier to cut the rolls with a moist knife blade.)

Arrange them on a plate and serve.

 

 

Maki Sushi with Pickled “Matjes” Herring

herring_makipI rarely boast, but I must say I consider these maki sushi as one of the best fusion creations in my life (and at the same time maybe even the best maki sushi I have ever made…). I had this idea when, assembling ingredients for maki sushi, I noticed an almost expired package of my beloved “matjes” herrings in the fridge. At first, I experimented with only one roll, but after tasting the first batch with my husband, I ended up making a huge tray of herring maki. As much as this combination might seem crazy, I can assure you that this is an unexpected feast for all the herring and maki sushi lovers. (I hope I’m not the only one fond of both…).

Since some of you might have never tasted pickled herring, I owe you a small explanation, in case you are tempted to try this recipe (or by pickled herrings in general). The pickled herring I used here is usually called “matjes”/”maatjes”/”matjas”, sometimes translated as “soused” herring, and is popular for example in Sweden, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia… It is a brine-pickled fish, very delicately vinegared and then sold in oil “brine”. It’s definitely salty, but barely sour, so don’t mix it up with vinegar-pickled herring, much stronger and obviously sour. I have posted here two recipes with “matjes” herring:

Pickled Herring and Potato Salad

Pickled Herring and Potato Salad

Layered Herring Salad

Layered Herring Salad

Apart from the herring, these rolls contain white onion, chives (for the colour mainly) and salt brine-pickled cucumber. The cucumber is not necessary, but it pairs wonderfully with the herring and adds a refreshing, light note (though my husband preferred these rolls “pure”, without the cucumber). Again a small explanation: the cucumber was pickled in salted brine (not vinegar!). As far as I know, it is produced in many European countries (here I have seen it imported from Ukraine, Poland and Austria, but I regularly buy it in Germany and I know it’s produced in Hungary too). Sometimes it’s sold in jars and sometimes in plastic bags (the latter in the refrigerated section). Such a cucumber is sour, but much more delicate than vinegared pickles (and it’s much healthier too, since fermented; due to this fact it might also be sold in organic shops in certain countries). An easy way to recognise salt-brined cucumbers is to look at the brine: salt brine is “muddy” while vinegared brine is completely transparent.

For those who cannot find or are not interested in pickled herring, here are some other maki sushi ideas:

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Maki sushi with Canned Tuna and Cucumber

Maki sushi with Canned Tuna and Cucumber

Ground Spicy Beef Maki

Ground Spicy Beef Maki

Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

TIPS: Even though “matjes” herring might not be a traditional product in your country, you will be surprised at how many places sell it around the world (even though it’s not a Swiss specialty, it’s regularly sold in my local basic supermarket). I have recently seen matjes (and also vinegared) herring sold by an Australian company, so make sure you check your supermarkets and search well on internet. If you have a Polish/Russian/Ukrainian grocery shop nearby, the pickled herring in oil and salt-brined cucumber should be easy to get (German grocery shops will sell at least “matjes” herring). In some countries foreign grocery shops sell also by internet (for example in France).

As much as these maki sushi were excellent with wasabi, they were not suited for soy sauce in my opinion.

Raw onion improves greatly the flavours, but if you cannot digest it, just skip it. Herring is the crucial element here.

As you see on the photo above, contrary to the usually sold maki, mine have less rice than and more of the filling than usually. If you prefer a standard, not lightened maki version, increase the rice amount.

When you buy nori sheets, pay attention to their transparency and colour. I was told in Japan that darker and less transparent nori means better quality (of course there are more sophisticated criteria to judge the quality once the nori is dark and opaque enough to be considered good quality, but I found the above tip a good way to discard low-quality products).

I add cheap sake to the rice mixture (I think it adds a pleasant aroma), but this is not obligatory (most recipes don’t call for it), so skip it if you want.

Special equipment:

rice cooker (unless you know how to cook the rice in a “normal” pan)

maki rolling mat 

a brush

Preparation: 20 minutes (+ 1 hour for rice rinsing, cooking, seasoning and cooling)

Ingredients (serves 3):

5 nori seaweed sheets

300g (about 10,5 oz) uncooked sushi rice 

Rice mixture:

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

(1 tablespoon sake)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 package of “matjes” herring (250 g/almost 9 oz)

5 medium salt-brined (salt-pickled) cucumbers

mayonnaise

1 big white/yellow onion, finely chopped

freshly ground pepper

(chopped chives)

wasabi

a tiny bowl of rice vinegar (for brushing and finger dipping)

Cook the rice in the rice cooker (or in a pan if you know how to do it). Put the hot rice into a bowl and add the rice mixture ingredients. Stir well and leave to cool down.

In the meantime drain the herring and dry with paper towels, removing the oil.

Cut into half horizontally and then into half vertically.

Cut the cucumbers into 4-6 long strips each.

When the rice has cooled down to the room temperature (it can’t be completely cold, otherwise it won’t be sticky enough), put a nori sheet vertically on the rolling mat, shiny side down.

With fingers dipped in a bowl of rice vinegar spread 1/5th of the rice evenly, leaving a 1 cm gap on the top, far edge.

Arrange the filling ingredients (the cucumber sticks, the herring pieces, the mayonnaise, the chopped onion, the freshly ground pepper and chives, if using) on the rice, in a horizontal line, close to the bottom edge.

Roll the maki starting from the bottom edge, gently pressing after each turn.

Brush with rice vinegar the upper edge before doing the last turn (it will help to seal the roll).

Press gently the roll and put it aside.

In order to obtain more or less similarly sized pieces, cut the roll first in two parts, then put them in a row and cut them in two parts, etc..

(It is easier to cut the rolls with a moist knife blade.)

Arrange the cut maki pieces on a plate and serve with wasabi and marinated ginger.

Everyday Maki Sushi with Canned Tuna and Cucumber

makituna5pMaki sushi, even though quite frequent on my table, tend to disappear before I even think about taking a photograph. They are quick, versatile, easy to experiment with and, most of all, they are simply irresistible. I don’t make perfectly shaped ones with sashimi grade raw fish, but everyday, casual, irregularly shaped tidbits. I fill them with whatever might suit vinegared rice wrapped in nori sheets. On the other hand, unlike most European restaurants – not to mention takeaway shops -, I always use good quality rice and now also excellent nori sheets I brought from Japan. This is much more important than neat shape or equal portions and since for me even messy-looking rolls are cute, I have never really made much effort to improve their aesthetic side.

Canned tuna paste (with mayonnaise and usually chives) is one of my most frequent fillings not only because I like it, but also because I have all the ingredients practically constantly in stock. Whether it’s canned in oil or water, my favourite tuna is the more expensive white one (albacore), but of course the darker one suits these maki too. I always add some crunchy raw cucumber, which pairs well with the creamy tuna paste. Sometimes I replace a part of tuna paste with avocado.

If you look for some other maki sushi ideas, you might like these too:

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Ground Spicy Beef Maki

Ground Spicy Beef Maki

Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

TIPS: As you see on the photo above, contrary to the usually sold maki, mine have more tuna and cucumber than rice. If you prefer a standard, not lightened maki version, increase the rice amount (500 g or about 17,5 oz instead of 300 g or 10,5 oz).

If you want to buy sustainably caught fish, check for special labels (such as MSC) or mention, such as “line caught” (the brands I buy are usually labelled with both). In Europe there is a big choice of such labels in organic food shops, but some are also sold in “standard” supermarkets.

When you buy nori sheets, pay attention to their transparency and colour. I was told in Japan that darker and less transparent nori means better quality (of course there are more sophisticated criteria to judge the quality once the nori is dark and opaque enough to be considered good quality, but I found the above tip a good way to discard low-quality products).

I add cheap sake to the rice mixture (I think it adds a pleasant aroma), but this is not obligatory (most recipes don’t call for it), so skip it if you want.

Special equipment:

rice cooker (unless you know how to cook the rice in a “normal” pan)

maki rolling mat 

a brush

Preparation: 20 minutes (+ 1 hour for rice rinsing, cooking, seasoning and cooling)

Ingredients (serves 3):

5 nori seaweed sheets

300g (about 10,5 oz) uncooked sushi rice (or 500g/about 17,5 oz if you prefer “standard”  rolls)

Rice mixture:

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

(1 tablespoon sake)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 x 150-160 g (about 5-5.5 oz) can of tuna (preferably white and not shredded)

1 big cucumber

mayonnaise

1 bunch of chives, chopped

ground pepper

grilled white sesame seeds

soy sauce+wasabi, marinated ginger

a tiny bowl of rice vinegar (for brushing and finger dipping)

Cook the rice in the rice cooker (or in a pan if you know how to do it). Put the hot rice into a bowl and add the rice mixture ingredients. Stir well and leave to cool down.

In the meantime cut the cucumber into long pieces (I never peel the cucumber, but do it if you prefer).

Drain the tuna and shred it in a bowl combining with mayonnaise, chives and pepper.

When the rice has cooled down to the room temperature (it can’t be completely cold, otherwise it won’t be sticky enough), put a nori sheet vertically on the rolling mat, shiny side down.

With fingers dipped in a bowl of rice vinegar spread 1/5th of the rice evenly, leaving a 1 cm gap on the top, far edge.

Arrange the filling ingredients on the rice, in a horizontal line, close to the bottom edge.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if you use them.

Roll the maki starting from the bottom edge, gently pressing after each turn.

Brush with rice vinegar the upper edge before doing the last turn (it will help to seal the roll).

Press gently the roll and put it aside.

In order to obtain more or less similarly sized pieces, cut the roll first in two parts, then put them in a row and cut them in two parts, etc..

(It is easier to cut the rolls with a moist knife blade.)

Arrange the cut maki pieces on a plate and serve with wasabi, soy sauce and marinated ginger.