Lugaw (congee; rice porridge) is ubiquitous in Asia and there are so many ways to enjoy it. Mostly, it’s the toppings and accompaniments that vary and give the plain lugaw a unique flavor and look each time. But what if it’s the lugaw itself that’s given a new twist?
When Sam asked me to cook “rice and beans”, I immediately thought of Mexican cooking. The rice and bean dish is something I always associated with Mexican food. But, apparently, it’s much bigger than that. Rice and beans are cooked together all over South America. The Cubans have their arroz moro, there’s gallo pinto in Costa Rica and arroz con gandules in Puerto Rico. In Europe, the Portuguese have their feijoada and they brought the dish with them to all the places they colonized including Brazil and Mozambique. In North America, there’s the Creole red beans and rice. In Asia, Korea has its kongbap while Macau, a former Portuguese colony, has its version of feijoada.
How can the rice and beans combination be so popular? It’s peasant fare. Rice and beans are filling and cheaper than meat and seafood. For us rice eaters, adding beans to our daily rice has an added nutritional value because beans are much richer in protein than rice. This rice and beans dish that I cooked for Sam is something that I’d like to think of as essentially Southeast Asian — subtly spiced with garlic and ginger, and cooked in coconut milk. … Continue reading »
It’s breakfast. It’s snack. If it’s a large serving, it can be lunch or dinner. Lugaw (congee) may be Chinese in origin but when served with a side dish of tokwa’t baboy (diced pork and fried tofu) doused with soy-vinegar sauce, it is definitely Filipino.
There are many ways to cook congee and different varieties of rice may be used. Sticky rice is popular in some areas; long grain rice is preferred in others (see related post). Just as there are many variations of how tokwa’t baboy is served. The most common way is to use boiled pork but I have eaten in a carinderia where lechon kawali was used and it was so, so delicious.
But traditionally? … Continue reading »
It’s isn’t yellow because of the lemon fruit although this rice dish has both lemon juice and lemon zest. It derives its color from the turmeric added to it. But the flavors are definitely not limited to the turmeric and the lemon. There are many versions and variations of lemon rice, and each has a different combination or ratio of spices. This dish has cardamon seeds, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and kaffir lime leaves. Can you now imagine the aroma and the taste?
Don’t be scared by the spices in the ingredients list. They are all sold in better groceries. Even kaffir lime leaves are available in dried form. So, there really is no reason not to try cooking lemon rice. It is such a lovely dish with its earthy aromas, bright color and refreshing flavors. … Continue reading »
Filipinos like to add pandan leaves to rice while cooking but with basmati, there is no need. Basmati is a long-grain rice with the natural aroma and flavor of pandan leaves. Has to do with something called 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline which basmati has twelve times more of than other rice varieties. Apart from the aroma and the flavor, basmati isn’t sticky and it fluffs wonderfully. Hence, it is preferred rice for cooking biryani and is popular in South Asia and the Middle East.
Basmati rice, is however, quite expensive if you buy it at the grocery and even more so if you buy at gourmet and health stores. It’s sold in health stores? Yes. Apparently, basmati has a “medium” glycemic index which makes it a good choice for diabetics and South Beach dieters. To get more value for your money, when buying basmati, go to Indian or Middle Eastern groceries. … Continue reading »
In Asia where rice is a staple, congee is a dish found in just about every cuisine. But how congee is cooked and served differ from culture to culture and region to region. Some people cook the rice in water until the mixture is almost a paste. Others prefer a thin soup. Even the kind of rice used, whether sticky or not, varies. In short, there is no singular way to cook congee.
In terms of how congee is served, however, there seems to be only two. The congee in a bowl with an assortment of meat, seafood and vegetables on the side or everything inside the bowl — congee with meat, seafood and vegetables on top. Personally, I have no real preference whether the everything is served on the side or inside the bowl. But I want the everything to be generous, of varying textures and quite meaty. … Continue reading »
In the Apicius Culinary School cook-off, one of the entries consisted of pan grilled chicken and rice wrapped in egg. I loved the presentation but I thought that the rice omelet didn’t really go well with the rest of the dish. When reader Nina commented that egg-wrapped rice is common in Brunei, I started searching for the culinary roots of rice omelet.
Found in both Japanese and Korean cuisines (probably brought by Japan to Korea during the occupation in the early 1900s), omurice, or omelet rice, is a great way of making good use of small amounts of meat and vegetables that, individually, might not be enough to complete a whole dish. And because it has everything in it, omurice is a complete meal.
Japanese omurice is traditionally made with chicken fillets but since omurice is a product of fusion cooking (ergo, it is drizzled with ketchup), any meat or vegetables can be used and what seasonings to flavor the rice with depends on what taste you are aiming for. If you want Japanese-tasting omurice, use traditional Japanese seasonings like soy sauce, sake, mirin, dashi and wasabi. If you prefer Korean flavors, you may add chopped kimchi or a dash of chili paste. My version is as fusion as fusion can get — Chinese style fried rice wrapped in egg.
The trick to the successful execution of the omurice is to use short-grain rice (generally stickier than long grain) and to keep the egg wrapper really, really thin. The sticky rice will help keep the filling together; the thin egg wrapper is easier to fold and roll than a thick wrapper. How many eggs you will need or can use depends on the width of your frying pan. I used an eight-inch pan which could only accommodate one egg per omelet. … Continue reading »
Although considered an everyday dish in many South Asian countries, cooking biryani can be a challenge especially because the list of ingredients is long and can be intimidating. But it is really worth the effort. Since biryani is a complete meal, just think of all the work as the equivalent amount of work you’d be doing if you were cooking the rice, vegetable dish and meat dish separately.
The secret to good biryani is to cook everything in as little liquid as possible so that the meat, rice and vegetables practically cook in their own juices. Traditionally, a long strip of dough is wound around the edges of the pan before the lid is put in place so that no steam escapes during cooking. It’s a little bit laborious — I just use a pan with the most snug fitting lid.
It is also important to choose a tender cut of meat and to cut them into small pieces to farther facilitate cooking. Tough cuts that take more than an hour to cook might still be tough by the time the rice is done and all the liquid in the pot has been absorbed. … Continue reading »