Welcoming Spring with a Helping of Bamboo Rice!

Bamboo rice - Koufuku Graffiti 03 - 03After a long, cold winter, spring has finally sprung where I live, so I really wanted to make a spring-inspired dish to celebrate the change in the weather… but, I wasn’t exactly sure what to cook – that is until I saw episode 3 of Koufuku Graffiti that features a dish called takenoko gohan, or bamboo rice!

When the bamboo plants sends up tender young shoots in the spring, they are harvested, making this dish a springtime favorite… Lightly seasoned and deliciously fragrant, bamboo rice is a simple way to flavor your rice, elevating it from a plain side dish to practically a meal all unto itself. With thin strips of soft aburaage (unseasoned deep fried tofu pouches), tiny fragments of sweet carrot, and the slight crunch of the refreshing and earthy bamboo pieces, eating bamboo rice is a veritable treat.

About the recipe:

Bamboo rice - Koufuku Grafitti 03 - 08Bamboo rice is a simple dish that just takes a little cutting to make it all come together. There’s hardly any “real” cooking involved, as all you need to know is how to make rice. For some, that might mean using a rice cooker, while for others it will mean cooking it in a metal pot or clay nabe pot on the stove. For this reason, the amount of water listed in the recipe below is not a set amount, after all, the amount of liquid you cook your rice in will depend entirely on how you cook it.

If you’ve never cooked rice before, here are some general guidelines:

General:

  1. Wash rice until the water runs clear and is no longer cloudy. Be careful not to crush the rice grains.
  2. Water amounts and timing for the stovetop method may vary depending on the type of pot used, the variety of rice, and the strength of the stove.
  3. For stovetop cooking, if you smell burning rice, take it off heat immediately!

Rice cooker:

  1. Water ratio is generally 1 : 1.
  2. Add rice and water to rice cooker, close lid, start the machine, and let it do all the work… easy!

Stove top:

  1. It’s not very scientific, but the water level should be about one finger joint above the rice.
  2. For a regular metal pot (choose one with a thick bottom), cook with the lid off until the water comes to a boil, stirring once or twice to make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom. Depending on the size of your pot, you may want to boil off some of the water to prevent it from boiling over when lidded.
    For a single lid clay nabe pot (this is what bamboo rice is traditionally cooked in), cook with the lid on until steam escapes from the vent hole in the lid.
  3. With the lid on, turn down the heat to the lowest setting, and continue cooking for 20 minutes, undisturbed. (The heat setting and time may differ depending on the strength of your stovetop burner.)
  4. After 20 minutes, turn off heat and (ideally) let sit for an additional 10 minutes before serving.

As you can see, cooking rice on the stove isn’t an exact science! A lot of things can change the cooking time and the water amount, so you might have to do a little experimentation to get it just right for you! Even the pot you use can change things: if you use a clay nabe pot with a double lid, the cooking procedure and water amount will be different than if you use one with a single lid… Using a rice cooker makes it all ultra simple, but if you want to get koge (the lightly caramelized scorched rice at the bottom of the pot), you’ll have to use a traditional clay nabe pot.

About the ingredients:

Bamboo rice - Koufuku Graffiti 03 - 06Bamboo shoots can be found canned, dried, pre-cooked, or fresh. They are commonly used in many Asian cuisines, from soups and curries, to stir fried and noodle dishes. In this recipe, I recommend using pre-cooked bamboo shoots (for ease of use) or, fresh bamboo, if you know how to properly prepare it. Fresh bamboo apparently tastes even better than the pre-cooked stuff, though I’ve never seen it sold in stores where I live, so unfortunately I’ve never had the opportunity to try it out myself!

Pre-cooked bamboo usually comes vacuum-packed with a little water inside, and are very convenient to use. Just open up the package, drain the water, and cut it into your desired shapes/sizes. Just remember to remove any rice residue (a white, gritty substance) you may find inside the bamboo.

Aburaage, or unseasoned, deep fried tofu pouches, can be found in many Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated or frozen section of the store. In this dish, the aburaage adds a nice texture and taste to the rice, and tends to soak up the light flavorings of the bamboo and seasonings. Boil briefly in water to remove some of the residual oil from the frying process. Squeeze to remove the remaining water in the aburaage before cutting it up and adding it to the dish.

Bamboo rice

The recipe:

Bamboo rice

Makes about 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Japanese short grain rice (dry)
  • 1 carrot
  • 250g bamboo shoot (~1 small shoot)
  • 3 pieces aburaage
  • 4 tbsp sake
  • 3 tbsp mirin
  • 3 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dashi granules (for a vegetarian option, use kombu dashi)
  • water

Garnishes (optional):

  • Roasted sesame seeds
  • Sansho leaf or mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley)

Directions:

1. Wash rice and drain well in a fine meshed strainer for 15 – 20 minutes.

2. Peel and mince carrot finely.

3. Cut bamboo shoot in quarters lengthwise. Remove or rinse away any white residue that may be inside. Cut each quarter in half crosswise, and slice the bamboo into thin, bite sized pieces. Each piece should be about 1 – 1.5 inches long.

4. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the aburaage and boil for 30 – 60 seconds to remove the excess oil. Remove from water, drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, squeeze excess water from the aburaage. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin strips, about 1/8 inch thick.

5. Place rice into a rice cooker or a large pot (for the stovetop method of cooking rice). Combine sake, mirin, soy sauce, and dashi granules, stirring to dissolve the dashi. Add this mixture and the appropriate amount of water to the rice, making sure to factor in the liquid of the seasonings to your total water amount. The amount of water will depend on whether you cook the rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop.

Scatter carrot, bamboo, and aburaage on top. Cook rice as per your usual method.

6. Before serving, use a rice paddle to gently fluff the rice and distribute the carrot, bamboo, and aburaage evenly into the rice.

Serve as a side dish with your favorite Japanese meal, or on its own as a snack.

If desired, garnish with roasted sesame seeds and a sansho leaf lightly bruised between your palms, or coarsely chopped mitsuba leaves.

Leftovers can be formed into onigiri, if desired.

Source: Blue Variance

Bamboo rice - Koufuku Graffiti 03 - 09

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