Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recipe: Miso Soup with Sizzling Rice

Last night I needed something quick and tasty and if possible, never-seen-before on my table (just for fun). I had tofu so miso soup was a natural choice: I always have the basic ingredients in various cupboards, and I try to keep the miso itself in the fridge.

What I didn't have was something new or extra in mind to add to it or go with it. I don't usually put rice in miso soup. It did sound easy, but also a little boring. That's when sizzling rice came to mind.

I've never made sizzling rice but I've enjoyed it in Chinese restaurants. So I looked up a recipe online. And so this meal was born. (I didn't know it yet, but that recipe wasn't a good one - more on that later.)

Here's the recipe. At the end I'll tell you what didn't work, and then what happened and then how to fix it:

1 strip of kombu, rinsed quickly
1/2 cup or so dried shiitake mushrooms. I bought sliced ones, but whole ones will work.
1 quart cold water
3-4 T miso, whichever flavor you favor - for a gluten-free recipe avoid miso with barley
1 pkg soft tofu, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (more or less)
2T mirin (or to taste)
2T tamari soy sauce - for a gluten-free recipe use wheat-free tamari
3-4 choy sum (small bok choy type plants) or 2 baby bok choy or other green. Spinach would do.
1/2 cup medium grain white rice - I use a brand of CalRose rice, used in sushi. Other kinds might work.

Put the water in a 2-qt pot and add the kombu and mushrooms. Bring it up to a simmer (little bubbles at the edges) but don't let it boil. Take it off the heat and let it sit while you do something else. It can sit till nearly cool, or for hours.

Remove the kombu and put it in the compost bucket
Slice the mushrooms if they aren't already sliced, and put the tough stalks in the compost bucket. Return the sliced mushrooms to the pot.

Turn on the heat. As it starts to get hot, stir in the miso by placing it in a strainer, lowering the strainer into the kombu broth, and stirring the miso around in the strainer. The idea is to get rid of lumps and anything else that stays in the strainer.

Don't let the broth boil.

Add the greens. I prepare the choy sum by cutting off the stems at the base of the leaves (one cut). Then I separate the leaves from each other and rinse them off, then add them to the broth.

Put the tofu in a flat dish and heat in the microwave for about 2 minutes. You don't want it to chill the broth.

Add the hot tofu to the pot, add the mirin and tamari, stir gently, and taste. Adjust the seasoning. Keep the broth hot just below the boiling point.

So far so good. Now to the sizzling rice.

Heat 3/4 cup oil in a wok or frying pan. Toss in a piece of rice and if it sizzles, add all the rest. Stir it around till the rice begins to brown. This takes a good 5 minutes, but watch it closely - burning does not improve it.

Ladle the soup into wide bowls, then add a portion of rice. This recipe will make 2-4 servings.

Now to the difficulty and the solution:

When I did this last night, the rice never did cook enough. And it didn't stick together at all, as it does in restaurants. So after the first serving I took all the rice we had been avoiding in our bowls, heated up the oil again, and added them. While they browned (better than before) they began to stick together. They looked and smelled like sizzling rice! I served them on our second bowls of soup and they were a welcome addition, crispy, tasty, complementary.

So from now on I'm doing it this way:

Before adding the tofu to the broth, measure out the rice and add enough broth to cover. Once the soup is heated, heat up the oil, strain the rice mixture back into the pot, and add the rice to the hot oil. It will splatter a bit. Cook until the rice turns opaque, then brown. Finish the soup as before. Serve a portion with each bowl of soup.

This was absolutely delicious, and surprisingly filling. The choy sum was lovely. The rice floated in crunchy little islands and was a great touch!

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