Sunday, June 10, 2007

a thing or two about Rice

When I heard about Atkins diet, I was surprised and felt a little bit insulted. Many Asians have had rice as staple for a long time. Rice is something beyond a grain. It symbolizes the life, the blessing from the land. It was even said that if one waists a grain of rice, that person will be condemned to go hell for it. A farmer will pour his sweat and blood for a year to produce a grain of rice. Waisting even a single grain of rice is considred as sin. Rice filed is the life line for entire country.

The basic Korean meal consists with Bab(steamed rice), Ghuk (soup), Kimchi, a small bowl of soy sauce and three types of side dish. It called as Samchup Bhansang, meaning tree-plate. Koreans only count the number of side dish. Three, five, seven, or nine plated table is served in ordinary household. King and his family will enjoy twelve plated table, called Surasang. You might have seen it in the famous Korean TV series, DeaJangKum.

Having entire Bab just made with white rice was only for the rich. The commoners had to mix rice with other grains such as barley, beans, grains or other vegetables. Nowdays, peole often mix other whole grains for health and tastes. In the summer, sweet tender peas mixed with rice is my favorite. It goes very well with Doenjangghuk. Bean sprouts, white radish, or mushroom rice is also tasty. I make these rice dishes when I have no time to cook side dish. Ginkgo berries (EunHeang) and other nuts cooked with rice made excellent treat for cool crisp Autumn day. The pot made out of clay or even stone holds the heat and the rice is still sizzling when it served. During the winter, oysters are used to flavor the rice. It is salty and sweet. It tastes like fresh sea breeze.

So, what kind of rice you will use in Korean style meal?
It is commonly known as Sushi rice in U.S; medium grain rice with ideal texture and stickiness

Most of Asian grocery stores and mega marts carry rice.
The picture shows brown rice, sweet brown rice, rice, and Jasmine rice from left to right.
Compare the size and shape of Sushi rice to Jasmine rice.
The sweet rice which called Chap ssal in Korean is stockier and less transparent than rice (Ssal) in uncooked stage. But when it cooked, it is more transparent than ordinary rice. Sweet rice is widely used in dissert and special rice dish in Korea.
Can you tell which one is sweet rice in the picture? Yes, it is one on the left.

In order to cook ideal Bab(steamed rice) with brown rice, soaking in the water for 30 minutes before cooking is recommended. Well cooked rice must have the texture little bit softer than al dente. You can tell by looking into the rice grain turning semi-transparent. Rice cooker works fine, but if you really want to enjoy good rice, try to cook it on stove top.
Remember. It is called steamed not boiled for a reason. First put rice and water on high heat till most of water evaporates. Then put the rid on and go way down to low heat. The rice is steamed with the vapors in the pot. Leave it to be steamed at least 10 minutes.

If you are preparing Korean style meal, DO NOT mix salt when you cook your rice. The beauty of rice is in its blandness. Side dish in Korea is often salty. To balance it, rice should be prepared without salt. But it does not mean it is tastless. The smell of well cooked rice is an invitation of heaven; a good sign of heavenly meal!

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