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Simple and Easy Lobster Thermidor, in a Ramekin


(serves 5)
My Lobster Thermidor recipe avoids the main pitfall of the traditional in-the-shell method; You can have your lobster meat nice and tender since you don’t have to cook it an extra time to first remove the meat from the shell. It is also simple and easy, you don’t have to worry about procuring whole fresh lobsters, halving them without breaking the shell, removing meat from the claw, serving an odd number of servings etc. In addition, you avoid the hassle of making a béchamel sauce. And it still tastes rich and creamy.

IngredientsLobster Thermidor

  1. Lobster Tails (2=300g)
  2. Mushrooms (100g)
  3. Onion (0.5)
  4. Mascarpone (200g)
  5. Emmental (100g)
  6. Parmesan (70g)
  7. White Wine (0.75 cups)
  8. Cooked Rice (2 cups)
  9. Garlic (3t)
  10. Butter
  11. Tarragon

Preparation 

  1. Boil 3/4 cups of long grain rice, this will become 2 cups when it is cooked.
  2. Fully defrost your raw lobster tails if they come frozen. Separate the meat from the shell. Cut the meat into bite sized morsels.
  3. In a bowl mix 30g of warm butter, 3t of crushed garlic, 0.5t of salt and 0.5t of white pepper. Add the lobster and mix well. Leave it to marinate while you do the next steps.
  4. If your cheese did not come grated, grate it now.
  5. Julienne half an onion into small bits and slice the mushrooms into thin slices. Pan fry the onions on low heat with a large knob of butter, adding the mushrooms once the onion begins to brown.
  6. When the mushrooms become limp turn up the heat and add 3/4 cup of white wine. I tend to use chardonnay for its woody flavour. Let the mixture boil for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the Mascarpone to the pan and stir till it has melted. Next, gradually sprinkle on all the grated emmental and two thirds of the parmesan while stirring. Turn off the fire as soon as the cheese has melted into stringy clumps. Season with 0.5t salt, 0.5t sugar, 1t black pepper and 1T of tarragon.
  8. Preheat your oven to 200oC (390oF).
  9. Divide your cooked rice into 5 ramekins. Press the rice down lightly till it is flat, but do not compact it. Arrange the lobster meat on top of the rice.
  10. Spoon the cheese sauce evenly into the ramekins and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top of each ramekin.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown spots begin to appear on the surface.

NotesThermidor in Ramekin

  • You can use semi cooked orzo pasta if you are not used to cooking rice, but rice goes better with this dish. For more information on rice, refer to my White Rice Page.
  • The easiest way to separate the meat from the shell is to cut the shell in two lengthwise with a pair of scissors along the ‘spine’.
  • For alternative cheeses, refer to my Cheese Page.
  • Butter is essential to the taste of lobster thermidor, do not substitute with olive oil.
 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in French, Main Courses, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Oven Cooked Creole Jambalaya


(serves 12)
Jambalaya is an all-in-one rice dish specific to the American South-east. If I’m not mistaken Jamabalay means Ham-Rice.  While some consider Jambalaya a spicy version of its cousin the Spanish Paella, I tend to think of it as a heavier meatier version, as is the way with all things American, and that’s the way I make mine, with lots of smoked or cured meat. I use a special extra ingredient, minced pork sausage filling, this flavours the rice really nicely. I also grill the chicken and seafood separately first, this flavours the fresh meats really nicely.      
 

Ingredients Jambalaya

  1. Clams in Shell (600g)
  2. Prawns (16 large)
  3. Scallops (6 Jumbo)
  4. Chicken Legs with Thigh (3)
  5. Smoked Pork Belly (400g)
  6. Breakfast Pork Sausages (400g)
  7. Chorizo Sausages (250g)
  8. Onion (2)
  9. Capsicum (2)
  10. Celery (2 cups, chopped)
  11. Chopped Tomatoes (1 can, 400g)
  12. Raw Jasmine Rice (4 cups)
  13. Chicken Stock Cube (1)
  14. Whisky
  15. Cayenne Pepper
  16. Paprika
  17. Cumin
  18. Oregano
  19. Thyme

Preparation

  1. Boil 7 cups of water in a pot with one chicken stock cube. Cut the heads of your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Thrown the heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  2. Shell and then devein the prawn bodies and cut into finger tip size pieces. Cut the scallops into similar sized pieces. Marinate together in a bowl using 0.5T paprika, 0.5T cumin, a pinch of salt and a dash of oil.
  3. In a second larger bowl rub 3 chicken legs with 1T paprika and 1T cumin and 1t of salt.
  4. Grill the chicken for 10 minutes and then the prawn and scallop for 5 minutes. Since the seafood cooks faster, you should not grill them together. Dissolve any left over marinade in hot stock and then pour the liquid back into the stock pot.
  5. Dice 2 cups of celery, 2 onions and 2 capsicum (i.e. bell pepper).
  6. Soak and agitate the clams in a bucket of cold water. Strain and then throw the clams into the stock pot with 1/4 cup of whisky. Boil for a minute on high heat with the cover on before turning the fire off.
  7. Debone the cooled grilled chicken and cut it into bite-sized chunks. You can mix it with the seafood bits at this stage. The bones can go into the stock pot.4 Bowls of Pork
  8. Dice the smoked pork belly. Cut the lard portions into smaller pieces (10 o’clock) and the meat portions into larger cubes (8 o’clock). Slice the Chorizo into slices (4 o’clock). Remove the skin of the pork sausages (2 o’clock) and mix the filling with 1/2 cup of water to loosen it.
  9. Spoon 4T of vegetable oil into a large frying pan. Add the pork belly and Chorizo and fry on medium heat till the lard renders. Next, add the sausage filling as well and stir fry until the minced pork browns.
  10. Remove the meat. Reserve 4T of the flavoured oil leaving the rest in the pan. Stir fry the celery and onion in the same pan until they are limp. Then add 4 cups of jasmine rice (or another type of long grain) and stir fry for a further minute.
  11. Pour the contents of the pan into a large iron pot (i.e. Dutch oven) or large casserole dish. Add the prawn heads and clams (discard those that did not open). Add all the cooked meat and diced capsicum. Mix well.
  12. Preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  13. Reheat the stock and add 5 cups of boiling stock to the pot. Follow this with the can of diced tomatoes, 1T cayenne pepper, 1T oregano, 1T thyme, 1t salt, 1t sugar. Reheat the pot on the stove until is just begins to boil.
  14. Place the pot in the oven with cover on. After 45 minutes, check if the rice is cooked. If the jambalaya is already dry but the rice is still hard, sprinkle on 0.5 cups of boiling water and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. Check the rice deep under the surface. When the rice is perfect, allow it to rest inside the oven with the cover off.
  15. In the meanwhile, mix the reserved pork oil with the remaining stock in the same pan and boil down till it begins to thicken. Spoon this over your jambalaya and serve.

NotesJambalaya in pot

  • This is a recipe for a very large amount of food. You can halve the portions if you don’t have that many people. There shouldn’t be any scaling issues.
  • Between two pots of the same volume, use the one that is flatter. The Jambalaya will cook more evenly.
  • Why didn’t I just cook the jambalaya on the stove?
    Because there is a tendency for the bottom of the pot to burn. You can try that after you have perfected the oven method.
  • Why do we have to grill the chicken and seafood first?
    This is a great way to sear some flavour into them so they don’t taste like boiled meat. The high heat will also remove freezer taste and ensure the prawn does not get mushy, which tends to happen if it is cooked too slowly.
  • Why do we need to make the sauce at the end?
    The varieties of rice which can absorb the taste of the stock will go mushy if they are cooked with too much water. Adding the sauce after the rice is cooked is the best way to ensure the rice is fluffy and yet moist. 
  • Many recipes I have come across use equal parts of water and rice. Not sure what kind of rice they are using (instant?) but I find more water is required than rice.
  • Add more cayenne pepper if you like your jambalaya spicy.
  • I have made some substitutions. I used Chorizo as Andouille it is not easily found in many parts of the world. I also swapped scallops in for calamari as squid gets very hard when it is over cooked. If you can’t find smoked pork belly, use a brined ham hock or cubed pancetta (but not sliced bacon). 
  • I usually use capsicums of 2 different colours for a better visual impact.
 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Risotto Carbonara


(serves 3)
Here we have an unusual flavour for risotto, the trademark combination of pancetta, parmigiano and raw egg yolk known as Carbonara.
 Arborio rice is a good deal more starchy than pasta so its not as simple as making a carbonara sauce and pouring it over cooked rice. We also desire some bits of other crunchy morsels in the rice to give our risotto a bit more textural variety. Therefore I’ve had to improvise with some other additional ingredients…
 
Ingredients Risotto Carbonara
  1. Cubed Pancetta (300g)
  2. Luncheon Meat (200g)
  3. Bacon (3 slices)
  4. Arborio Rice (1 cup)
  5. Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 cup)
  6. Onion (1)
  7. Spring Onion (8 stalks)
  8. Mushrooms (100g)
  9. Butter (40g)
  10. Eggs (2)
  11. Cream (1/2 cup)
  12. Basil
  13. Brandy
  14. Turmeric

Preparation

  1. Start with the stock first. Cut the luncheon meat into 1cm cubes and boil them in 4 cups of water. When the water is boiling, add 3 slices of bacon, 4 stalks of spring onion and 1 flat t of turmeric. Simmer for 1 hour.
  2. While the simmering is going on, fry 300g of cubed pancetta on low heat in a pan. While the pancetta is being fried (you only need to move it occasionally), dice 1 onion finely.
  3. When the lard has been melted off the pancetta, remove the bits of meat, leaving the oil in the pan. Stir fry the onion bit over a low flame in this oil till they begin to caramelize.
  4. Next, add 1 cup of Arborio rice to the pan and continue to stir fry for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  5. Cut the remaining spring onion into small bits, keeping the bits from the bottom half separate from the bits from the top half. Also, slice your mushrooms, and grate 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix the cheese with 30g of diced butter.
  6. By this time, the 1 hour on the stock to be up. Keep the fire going under the stock. Reheat the pan on low heat and then ladle some of the boiling stock (liquid only, not the solids) into the rice. Keep the pan on a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Add more stock whenever the rice begins to dry. Add more water to the stock pot when that begins to dry up.
  7. After 20 minutes, add 1/4 cup cream, 3T of brandy and 1t of sugar. Then mix in the mushroom slices, 1T of chopped basil and the white portion of the chopped spring onions.
  8. Soon thereafter the rice will get to the al dente stage. At that time turn off the heat and add another 1/4 cup of cream, 2 egg yolks, the pancetta bits and the cheese-butter mixture. Give everything a thorough mixing and keep covered for 10 minutes while the rice fluffs up.
  9. You shouldn’t need to add any salt but taste for saltiness anyway, just in case. Plate and serve immediately after the 10 minutes is up. Sprinkle on some black pepper and use the remaining green part of the chopped spring onions as garnishing.

Notes

  • If you are making risotto for the first time, refer to this earlier recipe for more details on risotto making.
  • If you like Carbonara, you might be interested in my Lagsana Carbonara or Fettucine Carbonara recipes.
  • I normally don’t add cream to my risotto, but this is a Cabonara after all.
  • For this recipe both the smoked or sweetened pancetta varieties are suitable.  
 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in A Kobi Original, Italian, Main Courses, Recipe

 

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Coq au Vin with Chicken Breasts


(serves 3)
Coq au Vin is a wholesome simmered dish which hails from France. Traditional Coq au Vin recipes typically get you to boil your chicken to death as the flavour of the red wine matures and seeps into the meat. This method doesn’t work too well with chicken breasts which become dry and hard. To keep your chicken breasts tender, you’ll see from the recipe that I’ve taken a different approach. Since the aim is to cook a (more) healthy dish with white meat here, I’ve also factored in a way to bypass the need for chicken skin or lardons to react with the tannin in the wine
 
Ingredients Chicken Breast - Coq au Vin
  1. Chicken Breasts (600g)
  2. Luncheon Meat (200g)
  3. Onion (1)
  4. Shallots (8)
  5. Mushrooms (100g)
  6. Carrot (1)
  7. Garlic (1 bulb = 12 cloves)
  8. Red Wine (1 cup)
  9. Port (1/4 cup)
  10. Brandy (1/4 cup)
  11. White Rice (1T)
  12. Butter
  13. Chicken stock cube (1/2)
  14. Sage
  15. Thyme
  16. Oregano
  17. Paprika

Preparation

  1. Before proceeding with the rest of the recipe, brine your chicken breasts overnight or for at least 8 hours according to the recipe in this earlier post.
  2. Dry the brined chicken breasts with kitchen towels and rub on a dusting of paprika.
  3. Peel the garlic, shallots and onion. Cut the onion into 8 ‘quarters’ and slice the carrot into 1/3 inch pieces.
  4. Slice the luncheon meat (a.k.a. spam) block into 5 slices. Place this into a pot with half a mashed chicken stock cube, 1 cup of red wine, 1/4 cup port and 3 cups of water. Turn on the heat and bring to a low simmer.
  5. Add the garlic cloves, onion, shallots and carrot pieces. Sprinkle in 1 heaped T of raw rice  that has been rinsed (2T if cooked, without the rinse).
  6. Add 1t each of chopped sage, thyme and oregano. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour, uncovered. Top up with a bit of water as and when needed.
  7. OK, its one hour later. Melt 20g of butter in a second pot which is just big enough to fit the chicken breasts flat and without overlapping. When the butter begins to darken, sear the chicken breasts briefly in the butter to seal them and then quickly add the wine stew minus the luncheon meat.
  8. Top off with 1/4 cup brandy and the mushrooms (cut into halves). Make sure all the chicken is completely submerged.
  9. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, or until you notice that the meat is just beginning to shrink. Turn off the fire and leave covered for half an hour while the chicken continues to slow cook. You can serve your Coq au Vin anytime thereafter, but its best to leave the pot to sit for a few hours as more wine flavour will be infused into the chicken.
  10. Briefly bring to a second boil before serving. If you need to thicken the stew further, boil it down but with the chicken breasts temporarily taken out – return the chicken to the pot for a final quick reheat. Taste and add salt if needed at the very end.

Notes

  • As you’ve noticed, we do the cooking in two stages. Making the wine vegetable stew first without the chicken is the ticket to getting the wine to mature without overcooking the chicken breast. This is followed up by a short cooking time and long soaking time for the chicken to get tender flavourful chicken, a technique they use in making Hainanese Chicken Rice.
  • Normally chunks of salted pork fat called lardons and chicken skin are needed to neutralize the tannin of red wine. This is where the luncheon meat comes in. In fact since luncheon meat contains ground up connective tissue, it works even better to mature the red wine. The other good thing about using luncheon meat is that it can be removed easily.
  • The rice is a convenient way to thicken the stew without the trouble of making a roux with flour.
  • Burgundy, which is light, is normally the wine of choice for Coq au Vin while a heavier wine like Bordeaux is used for braising collagen rich beef cheek and oxtail. With all the collagen in luncheon meat, you can afford to use a heavier wine for a more robust stew.  
 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in French, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Claypot Chicken Rice – Rice Cooker version


(serves 3)
Claypot Chicken Rice is Cantonese comfort food classic where rice is flavoured with chicken and sweet soya sauce. Traditionally, Claypot Chicken Rice is cooked in a claypot as the name implies but in modern times it is very often cooked in a rice cooker at home so it is done perfectly every time. The recipe is somewhat special in that the rice and chicken are cooked separately, and then again together. Additional items used to flavour the rice are fragrant Chinese sausages and Shiitake mushrooms. The chicken is tenderized with bicarbonate of soda, making it super tender and juicy. 
 
Ingredients Claypot-style Chicken Rice
  1. Chicken Thigh & Leg (1)
  2. Red Chinese Sausage (2)
  3. Brown Chinese Sausage (2)
  4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (4)
  5. Raw Jasmine Rice (1.5 cups)
  6. Minced Ginger (2t)
  7. Dark Soya Sauce
  8. Chinese Wine
  9. Vinegar
  10. Sesame Oil
  11. Coriander Seed Powder
  12. Corn Starch
  13. Bicarbonate of Soda

Preparation Part I

  1. Debone the chicken leg and cut it into bite sized chunks, You can leave the skin on. Marinate in 3T of water, 2T soya sauce, 1T sesame oil, 1T Chinese wine, 2t corn starch, 1t sugar, and 0.5t bicarbonate.
  2. Soak 4 shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of cool water plus 2T soya sauce and 1T sugar. Midway through the soaking, snip off the stems and discard them.
  3. Cut off the tip of the sausages with the string attached and slice them into 1/3 inch pieces.
  4. Rinse the raw rice a few times it in the detachable rice cooker pot. Add 90% of the amount of water you would normally use. Mix in the sausage pieces and set to cook as per normal. Use Jasmine Rice or any other type of long grained rice.
  5. After an hour has passed since step 1, and the rice cooker has gone to ‘keep warm’ mode, add 1T of vinegar to the chicken and mix well.
  6. Cut the mushrooms in the quarters and coarsely mince 2t of ginger while the vinegar neutralizes the sodium bicarbonate.
  7. Fry the ginger in 3T of vegetable oil in a pan. After the oil has been splattering for 30 seconds turn up the heat and add the chicken plus marinade. Stir fry the chicken, the idea is to get the chicken pieces glazed.
  8. Next, add the mushrooms, including the soaking liquid. Simmer on medium until the liquid is reduced by half. Sprinkle in 1t white pepper and 1t coriander seed powder.
  9. Arrange the contents of the pan on top of the rice inside the rice cooker (see picture below). Sprinkle all the remaining liquid from the pan over the chicken in the rice cooker evenly.
  10. Set the rice cooker to cook a second time. When it returns to ‘keep warm’ mode again, your chicken rice will be done. You can make your claypot chicken rice well ahead of time and reheat with the ‘keep warm’ function of your rice cooker.

Notes CP Chicken Cook

  • Chinese sausages should be easy to find in any Chinatown. If you really hate liver, use 4 red sausages instead. If you can’t find any, use Chorizo as a substitute for the red sausages and use braunschweiger (i.e. liverwurst) for the brown ones. They will be different in size to the Chinese sausages, so adjust the quantity accordingly. For reference, a Chinese sausage is 6 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.
  • If you have one of those rice cookers with fuzzy logic and all kinds of settings, just use the simplest one- usually labelled as ‘quick cook’ or something similar.
  • If you don’t have a rice cooker, it will be very difficult to cook this in a metal pot so I suggest you don’t try. The rice gets burnt very easily.
  • If you like this recipe, have a look at my Oyakodon recipe, which is the Japanese version of chicken rice. 
 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Oyakodon – Japanese Chicken and Egg Rice


(serves 3)
Oyakodon a.k.a. Oyako Donburi a.ka.a Oyako Rice Bowl is a scrumptious mixture of tender simmered chicken pieces with scrambled eggs served on piping hot rice. The chicken is marinated in a semi-sweet sauce which when combined with the flavour from shiitake mushrooms and dashi broth results in the perfect sauce to go with rice. It’s no wonder Oyakodon is one of the most popular rice dishes in Japan. As it is an all-in-one complete meal, Oyakodon is quite a convenient dish to serve, it can be made in under an hour.  
 
Ingredients Oyakodon
  1. Chicken Thigh & Leg (2, boneless)
  2. Onion (1)
  3. Eggs (4)
  4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (4)
  5. Cooked Japanese White Rice (3 bowls)
  6. Scallion (3 shoots)
  7. Ginger (1t)
  8. Dark Soya Sauce
  9. Mirin
  10. Hon Dashi
  11. Sesame Oil
  12. Dried Seaweed (optional)

Preparation Part I

  1. Julienne the scallion into small 1/8 inch slices, keeping the white bits seperate from the green bits.
  2. If you didn’t buy your chicken legs deboned, you’ll need to debone them yourself. Seperate the skin from the meat as well. Trim off any large bits of fat from the meat and then cut the meat into bite sized chunks.
  3. In a bowl mix 4T soya sauce, 2T mirin, 1T sesame oil, 1t sugar, 1t pureed ginger and the white part of the scallion. Marinate the chicken pieces in this.
  4. Fry the skin in 1T of vegetable oil in a pan on low heat until the skin gets crispy. There is no need to move the skin save to flip it once.
  5. In the meanwhile dissolve 1t hon dashi pellets and 1t sugar into 1 cup of room temperature water. Soak your shiitake mushrooms in this.
  6. Peel and slice the onion into half rings.
  7. Rinse your rice and set it to cook in a rice cooker.
  8. At this stage the mushrooms would have softened a bit. Snip the stems and discard them. Slice the mushrooms into 1/4 inch strips and continue to soak them in the same liquid.
  9. Remove the skin from the pan, leaving the oil in the pan.
  10. Let the chicken marinate while the rice gets cooked, for about thirty minutes.

You may do everything in part I ahead of time

Preparation Part II

  1. Beat 4 eggs in a bowl with 1T mirin. Leave them in the open to warm up.
  2. Pan fry the onion pieces in the pan with the chicken oil until they begin to soften.
  3. Turn up the heat. When the pan is hot, drain any remaining chicken marinade into the bowl with the mushroom.
  4. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and stir fry the chicken, ensuring all surfaces are browned. Turn the heat down when the meat begins to shrink. Next, add the mushroom slices, including all the liquid. Sprinkle liberally with pepper and continue cooking until the liquid has been reduced by half in volume.
  5. Push the chicken pieces to the side of the pan and pour the egg mix into the middle (which will still contain sauce). Turn off the heat after 30 seconds or until just half of the egg mixture begins to solidify. Mix everything in the pan one last time without smashing up the soft egg too much.
  6. Scoop your cooked rice straight from the rice cooker into 3 large bowls, filling them 3/4 of the way up. Top off each bowl with the contents of the pan, including all the sauce. The egg should continue to cook til it is slightly runny.
  7. Sprinkle on the green bits of the scallion immediately while everything is still steaming hot. You may also add some thin strips of dried seaweed (Nori) if you like.

Notes

  • Oyako means Parent and Child, a reference to main ingredients being Chicken and Egg .  
  • If you are going out to buy mirin for the first time, check out my What is Mirin? page first. If you really cannot get your hands on some mirin, you can also find out how to make a substitute there.
  • What if I can’t find any shiitake mushrooms? The flavour from the shiitake (She-tar-kay) mushrooms is important too. If you really need to, try substituting with dried Porcini or Morel. Don’t use fresh mushrooms as they will impart an unwanted bitter gamey taste.
  • What if I don’t know how to cook rice? Refer to my White Rice Page. It goes without sayinh, it’s best to use Japanese rice for this dish.
  • If you like, you can cut the chicken skin that has been fried crispy into little pieces and sprinkle it on with the scallion at the end. You should not however leave the skin on the chicken. Together, there is no way to cook the skin properly and yet leave the chicken meat tender. 
  • Please note – the egg in the photo is a bit over cooked, it should be a bit runnier. My bad. If you want your egg to have a nicer colour and texture, use 4 yolks with 3 egg whites instead.
 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Thickening Soup with Congee


Congee is a porridge made from simmering rice till it falls apart. Unlike the gruel which Oliver Twist was subject to, Congee is actually considered to be a quality dish in the Far East and in Western parlance is more like a meat or seafood stew. In some versions, like Japanese Okayu and Teochew  Moi, congee is made with the inividual rice kernals left intact. In most cases though, and the Cantonese are probably most famous for this, Congee is considered well made only if the rice is simmered till it disintegrates completely, leaving a silky smooth thick rice gruel. This type of congee is great for thickening soups and stews.

Wheat flour is troublesome to use as a thickener for soups as flour needs to be cooked at above the tempeature of boiling water before it looses that raw flour taste. It can’t be added to a soup directly, you have to fry it in butter to make a roux first. Corn starch creates an undesirable gooey texture. It also has a tendency to seperate and loose its viscouscity with time and after boiling so it can only be added at the last moment and all the soup must be consumed immediately. Is there something else we can use to make our soups thicker and richer?

Cantonese style congee on the other hand has none of these issues and it is quite a healthy alternative. It also has a very subtle plain taste which will only enrich and not alter your soups primary flavour. Although you can use congee to thicken any soup, it is best used to with chowder or puree type soups. For pure cream soups like cream of chicken or oysters florentine soup, you’d be better of making a roux from butter and flour for that distinct buttery taste.

Both bowls contain 1 tablespoon of the same rice boiled for exactly fifteen minutes. The rice in the bowl on the left was pre-frozen and is halfway turned to mush. The rice in the bowl on the right however was left unfrozen and the individual grains are still clearly intact.

There is however a well known shortcoming with congee, which is perhaps the reason it is not often suggested as a soup thickener. It takes a long time for rice to disintegrate completely, perhaps upwards of 2 hours of slow simmering. Some people use an immersion blender to shorten the cooking time but that means cooking the congee seperately and besides you only need a very small amount thickening purposes.

Let me give you a better way. Soak the rice for five minutes and then freeze it in a zip lock bag. Water inside the grain will freeze and expand, and as it does it will weaken the integrity of the rice kernals, making them fall apart more easily. It doesn’t matter how long it is frozen, for an hour or overnight.

Finally some details about the actual process. There is no need to boil some congee seperately, just add raw rice when you are boiling the stock. The rice should pretty much disintegrate in about half an hour if it was has been frozen before. If it’s a stew or chowder, just add the rice directly at the beginning. It’s as simple as that. How much should you add? Rice expands to many times its original size when hydrated and I would say up to (i.e. sometimes less than) 1 tablespoon per cup of liquid. 

Notes

  • Use only oriental type rice, preferably the short grained type. Japanese rice is one such type. These will breakdown faster. Tough varieties, like those you use for making risotto, and defintely wild rice, are unsuitable. Check out my rice page for details on types of rice grains.
 
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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Ingredients, Oriental, Soups

 

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