I know you’re thinkin’ long grain white rice with the subtle chicken flavor. Nope! Actually, I
don’t think most Japanese Americans would consider those boil-in-the-bag or flavored varieties
of box-a-roni rice. In fact, they don’t even resemble the creamy risottos of North Beach or the
house special fried rice dishes found in Chinatown or P.J.’s Cajun jambalaya. So how did it
become the San Francisco treat?
The rice I’m talkin’ ‘bout is medium grain like Koshihikari, Yamada-Nishiki or Akita Komachi
for that perfect gohan. Or maybe a plump Arborio or Cannaroli for that creamy risotto. Or even
the long grained variety, not too starchy and perfect for your favorite fried rice.
What? You were told that you shouldn’t eat white rice or at least portion control your servings
due to diabetes or pre-diabetes. Or maybe you’re just listening to the folks at the USDA who
recently revised the food pyramid and recommended half of your grain intake be whole grain.
Well, I have a partial solution; just eat brown rice in place of white rice.
For starters, brown rice has all of its bran and aleurone cell layers still intact. This means that
along with a healthy dose of dietary fiber (3gm for each ½ cup serving), you also retain more of
the vitamins and minerals in the original grain since they aren’t “polished” off during the usual
processing of white rice. While polishing rice grains is desirable when making fine sake, it’s not
the best thing when processing our daily gohan.
Depending on whether you boil or steam rice (the usual cooking method in a rice pot employs
both), the glycemic index or glycemic load of rice is lower with brown rice. In other words, the
same volume of brown rice won’t spike your blood sugar to the same extent as white rice – a
good thing for patients with diabetes or those at risk for diabetes and generally a good thing for
everyone regardless of co-existing medical conditions. And brown rice does have 3gm of dietary
fiber per ½ cup serving. While this may not seem like a lot, the recommended daily fiber intake
is 25 to 30gm per day. Unless you plan on fortifying your diet with daily Benefiber or
Metamucil, substituting brown rice for white rice is a simple way to get another 3 to 9gm of
dietary fiber in your daily diet.
Cooking Brown Rice
Brown rice does take a wee bit more preparation than its anemic brethren. Namely, it requires
overnight soaking for that perfect consistency unless you own one of those fuzzy logic all-
purpose cooker/steamers. I do want to qualify this statement that white rice also benefits from
pre-soaking, especially if you want that perfect glossy sheen when making sushi (along with
prodigious fanning while incorporating your su mixture into the hot rice).
If you also use the “index finger” method to determine how much water to add to your pot
when cooking rice, I usually add another 1/8 to ¼ inch depending on how long I’ve soaked the
brown rice. Brown rice does take a little longer to cook than white rice (it does takes a little
longer to penetrate the outer bran coating) though the additional time is no more than another
5 to 7 minutes.
Brown Rice Recipes for the Skeptical
If you think that brown rice can’t make spectacular fried rice, think again. The ability (or lack
of) to clump doesn’t require drying out the rice before preparation.
Fried Mushroom Brown Rice
1 lb crimini mushroom
1 lb fresh shiitake mushroom
1 lb fresh oyster mushroom
1 lb fresh hon shimeji, eryngii or straw mushroom
½ cup green onion sliced on the diagonal (1/4 inch)
1 package (about 1 tbsp) hon dashi
2 tbsp lower sodium shoyu
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp canola oil
3 cups cooked brown rice
Chop mushrooms to about dime sized pieces then sauté with non-stick spray until most of the
liquid released by the mushrooms has evaporated. Add the canola oil then the cooked brown rice
and toss to distribute the mushrooms evenly. Add the hon dashi, shoyu and black pepper
continually tossing all the ingredients (to prevent sticking). Add the green onion, toss another
30 seconds then serve.
This is another simple recipe for diners who think that brown rice is for the birds…
Brown Rice Meshi
5 cups cooked brown rice
1 bottle nametake (roughly 1 cup)
½ bottle furikake (roughly 1/3 cup)
1 lb shelled edamame
Soak rice overnight then cook using conventional rice pot or electric cooker. During the last 10
minutes of the steaming of the rice, layer edamame over rice then cover. When rice is done
cooking, pour into a large mixing bowl and toss to evenly distribute the edamame. Add
nametake and furikake and toss again to evenly distribute.
Nametake are bottled small, long mushrooms seasoned with shoyu and other flavorings. They
are labeled as Ajitsuke, ochazuke, Aji, etc but usually also include nametake on the label. Use
can use any flavor of furikake but I find that varieties that contain bonito flakes provide the
most flavor. There are also furikake brands with no added salt or MSG for those with dietary
restrictions. You can steam then shell your own fresh edamame though it’s readily available pre-
shelled and frozen, chilled or vacuum sealed for convenience.
The San Francisco Treat