Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Food is Forbidden!

Chinese Forbidden Rice. Admit it. Any food that is called "forbidden" is something you just have to try. Also called Chinese black rice, it is considered a "superfood," being one of the highest foods in antioxidants (more than blueberries!)and it also improves blood circulation. Forbidden rice has the darkest bran layer, and therefore the most fiber, vitamins, and minerals than any other whole grain rice. And THIS is exactly why it became known as forbidden rice in ancient China. Because it was thought to ensure a long life, only the emperors were allowed to eat it. And as for the taste? It's pretty special- a little chewier than brown rice with a bit of a nutty flavor. I am a big fan! Unfortunately, I have only been able to find it so far at a health food store. Unless I have just missed it, I don't think it's available at Wegmans- yet.

You can cook forbidden rice exactly the way you do brown rice. Boil it in water and a little salt, if desired. Use about a cup of rice to about a cup and a quarter of water. As soon as it starts boiling, turn the stove to low, cover, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. You can make it in place of regular or brown rice in any recipe, or just serve it as is, either on the side or under a dish with a sauce.
I've also tried a few recipes I've found online. My favorite by far is Fried Forbidden Rice by Sang Yoon. Fried with roasted garlic, bacon, onion, and tamari sauce and topped with scallions, the nutty rice took on the Asian flavors nicely! I made this recipe exactly as written with one exception. The original recipe requires that you cook the rice and let it dry overnight before adding it in the recipe. I didn't really have the time for this, so I just cooked it and spread it out on a pan, draining it with paper towels to absorb the liquid. The dish was delicious so I'm not sure the cooking ahead is really necessary.

The next one I'm going to try is a forbidden rice salad from Whole Foods that is apparently their best selling salad. I'll post the results and recipe after I've tried it. Let me know if you dared to try forbidden rice! And please pass along any great recipes you find. I am planning on making this "superfood" a staple at our house!

Fried Forbidden Rice ACTIVE: 25 MIN TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 25 MIN plus overnight chilling SERVINGS: 6
1 head of garlic (about 12 cloves), cloves peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups black rice (13 ounces; see Note)
2 cups water
1/4 pound lean bacon, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°. Put the garlic cloves on a double sheet of foil and drizzle with vegetable oil. Seal the foil around the garlic and bake for about 1 hour, until the garlic is soft and caramelized. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cover the black rice with the water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Spread the rice on a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.
Pour off all of the fat in the skillet and add the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the bacon, black rice and roasted garlic and stir-fry over moderately high heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and season with salt and white pepper. Transfer to bowls, garnish with the scallions and serve right away.

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