Umami Rice with Brown Ale

Cooking with Beer by | Jan 2017 | Issue #120
Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Umami Rice
With many different sizes, starch contents, colors, and flavors, rice is one of the world’s most popular grains. This recipe uses pearl or short-grain sushi rice instead of the more classic medium-grain or jasmine rice. This grain holds its shape and texture with this cooking method, and offers an extra bite. Fermented black beans (salted black soybeans) lend a sweet, salty punch to the broth, especially with the umami-rich miso. Dried Chinese-style sausages made with pork called lap cheong (or try a mix of pork, turkey, and duck liver called lap xuong thuong hang) are packed full of Asian flavor and, along with some shiitake mushrooms, add more umami and a wonderful texture to the finished rice. Everything combines with the melanoidin character in Brown Ale to contribute depth.

This Umami Rice can be eaten as-is, or garnished with a few extras to be a side or a main dish. It can also be cooled and refrigerated for 24 hours to create a crazy good Fried Rice (recipe follows).

Serves: 6 guests

8 oz boiling water
1 tbsp fermented black beans or salted black soybeans*
1 tbsp white miso*
1 tbsp ginger, fresh, peeled and grated fine
1 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced, dried
2 tbsp oil, vegetable or peanut
8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
4 sausage, Chinese-style lap cheong* or lap xuong thuong hang*
2 cup rice, pearl or short grain (used for sushi)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp dried baby shrimp* (optional)
12 oz Brown Ale, such as Big Sky Brewing Co. Moose Drool
14 oz water or chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos, or shoyu

2 green onions, sliced on the bias
1/2 tsp white pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp Shichimi Togarashi* (Japanese seven-spice blend)
1 bottle Sriracha hot sauce (adjust according to taste)
1 tbsp sesame seeds, black and white
* Available at many Asian markets, in ethnic grocery aisles, or online.

Add the boiling water to a liquid measuring cup. Mix in the fermented black beans, miso, ginger, and dried shiitake mushrooms. Let this mixture sit for 15 minutes. The fermented black beans need to be soaked, re-hydrating them to create an umami-rich, tea-like broth.

In a cold, medium-sized saucepan over low heat, add the oil and sliced garlic. Stir the garlic and when it just starts to sizzle around the edges, turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Lightly poach the garlic, but don’t brown it, infusing the oil with its flavor. Let it sit for 15 minutes while the fermented black bean broth brews. Prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Add the sliced Chinese-style sausage to the garlic confit and place the pan over medium heat. Render out some of the sausage fat while lightly browning the garlic. Add in the rice, stirring to coat each grain in the oil and fat. Toast the rice until the grains turn from a glassy white color to a solid white, stirring continually, so as not to burn the rice, garlic, or sausage. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the salt, the optional dried baby shrimp, Brown Ale, water (or stock), and soy sauce. Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn the heat to low and cook the rice until tender, about 30–35 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes, covered, so the grains fully absorb the beer stock. Remove the lid and add in the green onions and white pepper. Fluff the rice with a fork and mix to combine all the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
The rice can be served as-is, or modified. For example, sprinkle the black and white sesame seeds, along with some Shichimi Togarashi and a few drops of Sriracha or your favorite Asian-style hot sauce over each serving of rice.

Shichimi Togarashi is a seven-spice mix found in Japanese cuisine. The ingredients vary between producers, yet usually include red chili flakes, sanshō (a Japanese pepper), roasted orange peel, white and/or black sesame seeds (un-husked), shelled hemp seeds, shredded nori (seaweed), and ginger. This spice mix adds heat, citrus, salty undertones, crunch, and visual appeal.

Fried Rice
Sometimes you just need fried rice and going out to eat isn’t an option. With a little forward thinking, (and some leftover Umami Rice) it’s easy to make. Plus, adding mushrooms, yellow peppers, and meat or tofu along with a sliced up duck egg omelet, turns this dish into a meal unto itself.

Serves: 4 guests

1/2 recipe Umami Rice, cooled and refrigerated overnight

Sautéed Vegetables
2 tbsp oil, vegetable or peanut
1 cup mushrooms, shiitake or other
1 yellow bell pepper, stem removed, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced

2 eggs, duck or chicken (extra large)
1/2 tsp soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos, or shoyu
1 pinch kosher salt
3 drop toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp oil, olive or vegetable

2 tbsp sesame seeds, black and white, toasted
1 tbsp Shichimi Togarashi (optional)
1 bottle Sriracha hot sauce
1 bottle soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos, or shoyu

Make Umami Rice. Spread half of this rice in a single layer onto a rimmed sheet tray to evaporate some of its moisture and dry its edges. This is the best way to cool the rice and dry it out. You can use a fan to speed up this process. Let the rice sit for an hour, or 30 minutes with the fan. Transfer it to a container and refrigerate overnight.

Place a wok or cast iron skillet (which I prefer) over high heat for 4 minutes until it just starts to smoke. Add the oil, tilting to evenly coat the surface, and then the mushrooms, sautéing until lightly browned, about 6–7 minutes. These mushrooms will bring texture and some umami to the dish. Add in the bell pepper, providing a nice splash of color and still more flavor. Sauté the peppers and mushrooms for about 4 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring for a minute, just slightly cooking them. Transfer everything to a bowl and set aside.

In a cup, whisk the two eggs with a fork, lightly seasoning with soy sauce, a pinch of salt, and few drops of sesame oil. Add the oil to a hot pan, tilting to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet, and then add the egg mixture. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom with the egg mixture and cook it like an omelet or a crêpe. Once cooked through, flip out onto a cutting board and cool it slightly. Fold the egg disk onto itself and slice the omelet into noddle-width pieces. Add them to the bowl of cooked ingredients.

Place the skillet or wok back over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining oil, tilting to coat the bottom evenly. Then, add the cooked, cooled, and lightly rubbed rice (making sure all the grains have separated and no lumps remain) into the pan. Press the rice into the pan, evening it out and allowing it to sit for 2 minutes to brown. Stir the rice, press it down again, and leave another 2 minutes. Repeat this step one more time, to brown all the rice evenly.

Next, add the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil to the cooked ingredients and toss to coat. Finally, add the cooked ingredients from the bowl into the skillet and toss to incorporate them together. The rice is ready to garnish and serve.

Beer Pairing
With the umami-rich flavors of these rice recipes, try a Porter, Stout, smoked Stout or Brown Ale to amplify the marriage of roast, toast, and earthiness.