Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Japanese-style Rice & Veggie Bowls

I am a notorious meal-planner, and I'm pretty strict about rotating the types of meals we eat each week. There are seven dinners every week and I don't like any of them to be similar. I strive to make sure each day features different grains and vegetables as well as a different overall theme/feel. So each week we'll have a "Mexican/southwestern" night, a "Pasta" night, an "Asian-inspired" night (etc) and week-to-week I rotate all the different recipes that I have that fall under these umbrella themes.

Make sense? Yeah...it doesn't really make sense to anyone else I know, either. Listen, I'm just trying to keep things interesting while maintaining some sort of organization (control). All these frighteningly rigid lists and rotations mean that we are able to ingest a wide variety of nutrients as well as experience a multitude of tastes each and every week. While my incessant meal brainstorming may seem a bit dramatic to some (most) sane people, all of this weekly planning has kept me a happy, healthy and enthusiastic vegan for well over three years now. If you don't want to be as extreme as me, that's cool. But I do think some degree of planning and meal rotation is integral to not just sustaning veganism, but also getting excited about it.

For today's Mofo post, I'm sharing the most recent addition to our Asian-themed recipe category - a very quick, very easy vegetable rice bowl from Fresh and Fast Vegan!

Along with a propensity to make too many lists, I am also known for compulsively buying different kinds of rice. Since patience is not my strong suit, I can assure you that I will never attempt to roll my own sushi at home. But this doesn't mean that I can't find myself a reason to buy/use sushi rice!

I'm not usually one for eating white rices (or any white grains, for that matter), but when it comes to a rice bowl like this or sushi itself, short-grain, white sushi rice is so important for texture and flavour. It has that uncanny ability to clump and stick together like none of the other rice varieties can. Treating yourself to it every once in awhile isn't going to kill you, but I'm sure a nice long-grain brown rice would also be okay for these bowls if you don't want to take the chance.

I was also very excited to locate dashi-konbu (also known as just "konbu" as well as "kombu") at Healthy Foods & More in Waterloo. I first heard about konbu a couple months ago in Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen, when I was preparing his baked black eyed peas. I learned that throwing a piece of konbu in with dried beans while they cook helps to increase their digestability (i.e. remove a little bit of what makes them the musical fruit). Somehow, the konbu helps soften the fiber and neutralize the sugars that are naturally found in beans, making them easier on our fussy bellies.

If you don't know what konbu is, here is a really bad picture that won't help at all:

It's basically a type of kelp/sea vegetable, not all that unlike the standard nori seaweed that wraps around your sushi, except that it's more dense, more chewy and not typically eaten raw.

In this dish, the dashi-konbu is used to gently flavour the rice. Once the rice is boiling you can go ahead and discard it.

When the rice is done you're meant to mix in a little bit of sugar and a little bit of rice wine vinegar. Except I didn't have any rice wine vingear.

But I did have rice vinegar. And I did have rice cooking wine.

Rice cooking wine is also known as mirin. Put simply, mirin is Sake's tamer brother, having a similar sweet taste with a much lower alcohol content.

Instead of the 4 tbsp of rice wine vinegar required I put in two tablespoons of mirin (rice wine) and 2 tbsp of rice vinegar. Sounds logical, yes? Either way, it tasted good and that's all that matters. Culinary experts might disagree with my methods but thankfully I don't know any better.

The majority of this dish's flavour comes from the portobello and shiitake mushrooms. Unfortunately, fresh shiitake can often be quite expensive. Feel free to cut corners and save yourself a couple bucks by buying them dried - I did! You can find them in any well-stocked supermarket's produce aisle and they are very easy to rehydrate - you just soak them in warm water for a half hour or so before using.

More great veggies are added to the mix, including snow or snap peas and bean sprouts. I also added broccoli, because I add broccoli to everything. And the final nod to deliciousness -a bit of wasabi!

Wasabi typically comes in powder and paste at most supermarkets. I like to buy it in powder form and mix it with water before using. It's cheaper and you get more of it (and the way that we go through all that is spicy, we'll take a financial break wherever we can get it). When you use the powder, you can dilute its potency with water (therefore getting more out of it). You definitely lose a little bit of the intensity when you use powder instead of paste, so factor that into the kind you select. I'm a simple girl, though, and I'm cool with playing around with authenticity sometimes.

For this dish, I mixed the wasabi powder with enough water to add to add additional sauciness. If you want it to be thick, like the wasabi paste you get at sushi restaurants, just add less water and add it slowly, stirring until you reach a similar consistency.

You can find the full recipe here on Google Books. Enjoy!


Jackie Smith (the other one) said...

This looks totally delicious! Plus, cute dishes--I love it.

Babette said...

Great post!

I was checking out the recipe when I realized I actually have a copy of that book. Yay! I've so rarely used that book it is a shame... especially that what I've tried was good. Do you have any other recipe to recommend from that book?

And I find dried shiitake taste better, and more intense, than fresh ones.

Anonymous said...

Yum! Love this recipe AND your meal planning program. I'm pretty sure the paste wasabi (in the tube) has milk ingredients and/or lactose. The powdered is a better bet for no milk products. Keep up the great posts! Love reading your blog.

Mary said...

Jackie - thank you!

Babette - There are two editions to the book and I have the most recent one, not sure which you have. I got it very recently so I haven't tried much. I'll let you know what we do like when we come across it!

Anon - Weird! I haven't bought the tube since long before I went vegan so I haven't even thought about what's in it OTHER than wasabi. Great to know!

Rita said...

Interesting... I follow a crazy meal-planning scheme as well - not so much because I'm trying to balance out nutrients, but because once I try a recipe, I rarely feel the desire to make it again - even if it came out good. I just always want to try something new. So I make 7-day menus too, making sure that I don't have too many Mexican dishes or Asian or soups in the same week. The only dishes that I ever repeat from week-to-week are simple, one-vegetable side dishes, like roasted broccoli.

Jenn said...

You crack me up!!!

"organization (control)" ha ha ha!

Too cute! I am just getting into sea vegetables and want to learn more! I will check out the kombu uptown! I think sourcing them is the most difficult part, especially now that Upaya isn't carrying as much due to radiation in Japan... Would I like this dish!? Well, just to give you an idea of HOW MUCH, we named our dog Wasabi. LOL (We've also had pets named Maki, Nori, Soba and our housemates dog's name is Ginger). **grin**

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