Rice

Gimbap 김밥 (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls)

Gimbap 김밥 (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls)Food is so often about memory and for me gimbap will forever remind me of one thing: icebergs.

It may seem like an unlikely association to have with this Korean staple, but it’s hardly surprising given that first time I had gimbap I was sailing across an impossibly blue glacial lake in the heart of Patagonia. I watched with awe as an iceberg the size of a double-decker bus floated by like a feather on water, all the while merrily munching on my gimbap packlunch. It was certainly a surreal experience and one I’ll never forget, both visually and culinarily speaking.

Admittedly Argentina might seem like the least likely place to find gimbap (or kimbap), but our hotel in El Calafate was run by a delightfully un-Argentinian Korean family and they happened to offer gimbap as a packed lunch option. Of course I couldn’t resist ordering it for our planned boat tour on Lago Argentino! At this stage of our trip I was understandably sick of empanadas so I jumped at the chance to try something different. More than that, however, I was intrigued that these Korean expats had deemed gimbap worthy of re-creating in this one-horse town in the depths of Patagonia. It couldn’t be an easy (or cheap) undertaking, so to my mind it most definitely had to be worth ordering!

So yes, Koreans sure do love their gimbap.

With its origins found in the Japanese occupation of Korea, gimbap literally translates to seaweed (gim) rice (bap) and is Korea’s answer to sushi (specifically norimaki), but with a few key differences.

The first major departure is the rice. Whilst short-grained rice is used in both, the difference lies in the dressing. Instead of the rice vinegar dressing that is used in Japanese sushi, gimbap rice is seasoned with sesame oil and salt.

Secondly, the gimbap fillings are all pre-cooked which means that gimbap keeps for far longer than sushi does – making it a popular option for picnics and takeaway lunches. Although typically eaten alone, mini-gimbaps are also served as a side dish to the pre-eminent and spicy manifestation of Korean street food  that is ttoekbokki (떡볶이).

Another key difference is the texture of the seaweed wrapping. Although similar seaweed sheets are used in both gimbap and norimaki, the seaweed used for gimbap becomes much chewier as it is typically eaten long after it has been rolled and as such, absorbs the moisture from the rice.

There are really no limits to the variations of gimbap fillings, but generally speaking the most commonly found are sogogi (beef) gimbap (소고기 김밥) and chamchi (tuna) gimbap  (참치김밥). I have included the ingredient lists for both beef and tuna gimbap below. Once the ingredients have been prepared the process for making the rice and assembling the gimbap remains the same regardless of the fillings.

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Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南雞飯

As macabre as it may sound, the sight of cooked chickens and ducks dangling from gruesome hooks typifies the South East Asian food experience for many of us; often eliciting sympathy and hunger in equal measure. For me though, it gives me pangs of nostalgia for what is, perhaps, one of my favourite Malaysian dishes – Hainanese Chicken Rice. Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my love for this dish either, as it appeared at number 45 on CNN’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods. Hainanese Chicken Rice’s enduring popularity is testament to the appeal of its uncomplicated nuances and its surprising depth of flavour.

IMG_6853 (600x800)Typically there are two types of chicken on offer at any given Chicken Rice stall in South East Asia; poached (white) or roasted (brown). Growing up, I always preferred the latter, as I was a bit put off by the opaque appearance of the poached variety – if only I’d been a more adventurous child! Whilst the roasted version is undoubtedly very tasty, the poached version is in fact superior in both flavour and texture. Not only does the poaching process have a transformative effect on the meat and skin of the chicken (making it impossibly silky), it also imparts a subtle depth of flavour that enhances the chicken, rather than overpowering it. In addition to being tastier than its roasted counterpart, the white version is also much easier to make!

With a name like Chicken Rice, it should come as no surprise that the rice plays an equally important role in the dish! The good news is that the chicken’s poaching broth doubles-up as the stock used in making the rice. So getting the rice just right isn’t much of a chore – simply use the stock instead of water when making your rice. The stock can also be frozen and reused indefinitely, creating a depth of flavour that only gets better with each chicken poached.

A third, and equally important, element to Chicken Rice is its unique chilli sauce. This light, zesty sauce is both fragrant and hot – the prefect accompaniment to the “clean-tasting” chicken; it is an absolute must!

For more delicious Malaysian recipes, please click here

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White Risotto (Risotto Bianco)

This is risotto’s ground-zero; risotto stripped right back to it’s bare bones of rice, stock and cheese – the basics. Risotto Bianco is, in essence, the root-recipe for all risotto but don’t be fooled, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it isn’t incredibly tasty! In this risotto, the cheese is the true star of the show; without any other strong flavours compete with, the parmesan takes centre-stage and boy, does it shine!

A cheese lover’s dream come true, Risotto Bianco is blissfully velvety, coddlingly rich and packs a knock-out parmesan punch that leaves you wanting more. This is home cooked comfort food at it cheesy best.

IMG_5419 (480x640)With a dish this plain, it is always tempting to add additional flavour elements to the risotto itself. If it were my risotto I wouldn’t, as this would detract from the essence of the dish but of course I’m not the person making your risotto; it’s your kitchen and ultimately you are in charge! However, if you do decide to add ingredients to the recipe just don’t go overboard. Personally, if I wanted to bring some additional elements to the dish, I would rather serve the risotto as an accompaniment to a main meal. Perhaps pairing it with something like grilled chicken breasts (simply marinated in garlic, thyme and lemon), some rocket and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes.

Should you like to read more on my thoughts on risotto, please follow the link http://wp.me/P4JqRl-5z

RECIPE NOTE: The rice quantities for these recipes vary depending on the number of people you are feeding and whether you intend making the risotto as a main meal or an accompaniment. As a general rule of thumb, I use approx. 70-80ml of rice per person for a main meal and 50-60ml as an side dish. Generally, risotto recipes on my blog are based on 2 people eating a full portion.

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Red Wine Risotto (Risotto Rosso)

Now I adore red wine, really I do but it has taken me a long time to get my head around the mere idea of risotto rosso. It’s not that I was adverse to using wine in cooking; like most of us, I regularly add red wine to braises and stews but to add it to a risotto? It just seemed wrong. And its not just me, generally people do seem a bit put off by the notion of a red wine risotto, which is a shame as it really does make for a delicious meal. I know this because I eventually tried it for myself and discovered that I was wrong, oh so wrong. One evening, whilst making a risotto, I was momentarily gripped by a flash of culinary adventurism and reached for the red and not the white! In a splash there was no going back, I was having ruby colored risotto for dinner! It wasn’t without trepidation that I took my first bite, followed by my second, then third – all too soon I was licking the plate (sorry, over-share)! It was incredibly tasty and satisfying, everything you’d want from a risotto.

Risotto rosso works especially well as an accompaniment to most meat dishes, although I wouldn’t serve it with anything cooked in red wine as this would just be overkill. It is however, particularly good when served with a juicy steak and a rocket salad!

A word of advice though, the wine will be the prominent flavor in the risotto so you really should try to use a decent red when making it!

Should you like to read more on my thoughts on risotto, please follow the link http://wp.me/P4JqRl-5z

RECIPE NOTE: The rice quantities for these recipes vary depending on the number of people you are feeding and whether you intend making the risotto as a main meal or an accompaniment. As a general rule of thumb, I use approx. 70-80ml of rice per person for a main meal and 50-60ml as an side dish. Generally, risotto recipes on my blog are based on 2 people eating a full portion.

Click here for the recipe