Japanese Comfort Food: Harumi’s Three Topping Rice

Have you seen the book “Everyday Harumi“? I’m kind of obsessed with it right now. In a nutshell: simple, comforting Japanese recipes that are great for a beginner like me who’s still figuring out one miso from the next. Her book has a nice primer on Japanese pantry basics (how to make dashi and ponzu for instance) and the recipes are pretty simple once you’ve stocked your pantry. With Harumi’s guiding hand, we’ve started exploring new aisles at the Asian supermarket and I’ve found willing eaters to experiment on because my husband and the boys love any meal that has the possibility of soy sauce and/or rice.

My whole family gives two enthusiastic thumbs up for her Three Topping Rice recipe. It’s a bowl full of comfort food yum and a great place to start a Japanese home cooking adventure. The recipe has the bonus of being fab dinner-lunch “one two punch”. Our leftover rice and toppings turned into a fun school lunch (and Stacie lunch) of rice balls which was a welcome departure from the usual fixins. The baby enjoyed his Three Topping Rice (minus the eggs) mashed up with a little chicken broth.

Do check out the book when you have the chance. I’m eager to cook my way through it this summer so f you’ve given any of her recipes a try, let us know which ones are your favorites.

Harumi’s Three Topping Rice

(adapted from Everyday Harumi)

Ingredients:

  • Pantry items: Dashi (or your favorite stock), Mirin, Sake, Soy Sauce, Sugar, Sushi Rice, Sesame Seeds (for your leftover rice balls)
  • Fresh ingredients: Minced Chicken Thigh (1/2 pound will do), Eggs (one per person is a good place to start), Green Beans (as many as you like)
  1. Bring the following ingredients to a simmer 1 1/2 cups of dashi stock (you could use chicken or vegetable stock. I used a miso-dashi paste mixed with water), 2 TBL soy sauce, 1 TBL sake, and 1 TBL mirin. I forgot to buy sake and mirin, so I used 2 TBL of rice wine vinegar. Add 1/2 pound of minced chicken thigh and let it poach for several minutes. Strain off the chicken, keeping the poaching liquid to cook the rice. You can do this step ahead.
  2. Blanch green beans until tender crisp and then plunge them into cold water to stop their cooking. When cool, drain them well, slice on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces and set aside. You can do this step ahead. The cooked beans store well in the refrigerator in a plastic container lined with a damp paper towel.
  3. Top off the poaching liquid with dashi (stock or water) until you have 1 2/3 cup. Add this to a rice cooker and add 11 oz of washed and drained sushi rice. If you don’t have a rice cooker boil the rice for 10 minutes in a covered pot, then take it off the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes to finish cooking.
  4. To a saucepan add 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 TBL mirin (again I used rice wine vinegar), 2 TBL of sugar and 1 TBL sake (I omitted it). Simmer the poached chicken in the sauce, stirring often until the liquid is gone, approximately 5-10 minutes.
  5. In a separate pan scramble several eggs. Harumi suggests adding a pinch of salt and sugar and a dash of sake. I used salt and sesame oil.
  6. Arrange the rice on the platter and top with each of the three ingredients. It makes a prettier presentation to keep the toppings separate rather than mixing them. This also works better for kids like my son who don’t like mixed up food.
To make rice balls from your leftovers, pick out the green beans and chop them up finely and add them back in with everything else. Mix well. Find a tiny bowl or a small cookie cutter to use as a mold. Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the top of the mold. Spoon the rice into the mold and  give it a good press, compacting it. Use the plastic wrap to ease the rice out of the mold. Flip it over so the better looking side is face up and sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top.

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Cooking with Mom: Kulfi – Indian Ice Milk Pops

This is the last of my cooking with mom recipes for a while.  My Mummy has gone back to her house :(.  I was whining to Ria about missing my mom and she said to me with a big smile on her face, “Mummy, you can still have fun with me”.  Wise, endearing, mildly annoying and selfish, all at the same time.  “How would you like it if your Mummy left?” I wanted to say but instead I just said in a super whiny voice, “But, but I want my Mummy!”  Nice little role reversal.  She kept grinning.  Sarcasm wasted.

We have made a ton of ice-cream this summer (strawberry/mango buttermilk, condensed milk ice-cream and several others), so I loaned my ice-cream maker to my cousin just to get it out of the house.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), kulfi can be made without one.  If you don’t have popsicle molds, you can just freeze this in little cups or ramekins.  I am also going to try to make these in my fancy Zoku Quick Pop Maker.  This recipe has great sentimental value and comes from my grandmother and will be made over over again.  It is one of those recipes that Dadi (grandma) will always make better.

For a more adult version (since it has tea in it), I am intrigued by and will be trying out real soon: Aarti Party’s Creamy Pistachio Pops.  Sigh…I don’t know why I bothered to get the ice-cream maker out of the house.

Kulfi – Indian Ice Milk Pops

Regarded as an Indian ice-cream but more like frozen milk.  Unlike ice-cream, kulfi is not churned (hence no ice-cream maker required).  Kulfi is dense and icy rather than aerated and light.

Makes 4+ popsicles

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk

½ cup sugar (try it with less)

¼ cup slivered almonds or chopped pistachios (optional)

10-12 cardamom pods shelled and ground into a powder

Method

  1. Simmer the milk for about 40-50 minutes, stirring from time to time
  2. Add the sugar and simmer for another 5 minutes
  3. Remove from heat and add the cardamom powder and nuts, if using
  4. Cool and pour into popsicle mold or little cups
  5. Freeze overnight

Cooking with Mom: Chicken Biryani

My mother is visiting and I am taking full advantage of her being here by having her teach me some new dishes.  I have never made Biryani (layers of rice and a meat or vegetable curry – an Asian lasagna of sorts) before and have always thought of it as a complicated dish.  My mother learnt this recipe from her aunt in Singapore while we lived there and I am thrilled to add it to my repertoire especially since Ria scarfed it down like a champ.  Serve with some simple greens.  Scale recipe for a dinner party and impress your guests!

Chicken Biryani

This is a bit of a fusion dish – Indian and Chinese, which is typical of Singaporean food.  A little more time consuming than most of the dishes we post on this blog but sometimes a little bit of trouble goes a long way.  Works great for a Sunday one-pot family dinner.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast cut into 1-inch cubes

2 cups rice

1 cinnamon stick and 2 bay leaves (optional)

For marinade:

1 tbsp soy sauce

½ tbsp dark soy sauce

½ tbsp red chilly powder (optional or use less)

salt & pepper to taste

For gravy/sauce:

1 lb onions or shallots, finely chopped

3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp ginger, minced

3 medium tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp cumin powder

Method

  1. Marinate chicken in soy sauces, chilly powder (if using) and salt and pepper for 2 hours or as long as a day.
  2. When ready to cook make rice in saucepan or rice-cooker.   You can flavor the rice with a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick if you like.  Set it aside when ready.
  3. Heat oil and add diced onions/shallots and caramelize for 10-15 minutes.  If the onion or shallot sticks add some water to “unstick” the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add ginger and cumin powder and fry for another 5 minutes.
  4. Continue to fry for 10 minutes after adding the tomatoes and then add the chicken.
  5. The chicken should take 15-20 minutes to cook through and will require some watching over and stirring so it doesn’t stick.
  6. Layer rice and chicken gravy in a serving dish or casserole like a lasagne – one layer rice, one layer chicken gravy ending with the chicken.