Rice with Cherry Blossom pickles

Pickled cherry blossoms are originally used to make sakura tea, which is used on special occasions such as weddings. They have used seasonal ingredients for dessert or drinks. However, when cooked together with rice, it creates a beautiful colorful contrast and rice also absorbs the flowery aromas of the cherry blossoms.

Five grains on the full moon day

Koreans celebrate the full moon two weeks after the New Year begins.  This custom has its ancient roots as the time when farmers sorted and carefully selected  their seeds that were harvested from the previous year. A special dish made with the five important grains of rice, barley, millet , sorghum and red beans is prepared and served with side dishes of nine to ten special herbs. It is eaten with hopes for a happy and healthy new year.

Eat the color with brown rice

Salads are popular in western culture and health-conscious people are turning to brown rice in their diet.  Because brown rice is coated with fibrous bran it has a high nutritional value. Combined with fruits and vegetables, the chewy, hardy textures of the rice makes for a popular salad.

Eating a variety of colorful foods insures that  a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourish your body. These organic sources have healthy benefits that cannot be replicated in a vitamin. These varieties provide a powerful mix that that benefit all parts of the body. Here is a power recipe full of colorful fruits and vegetables. Try it and enjoy!

Preparation Time: 1hr
Yield 4 Servings

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked peas
1 cup chopped green bell peppers & cucumbers
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped purple onion
2 cups cooked corn
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
1 cup kidney beans
½ cup chopped Cilantro

Dressing:
1 tablespoon Salt, ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ½ cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons Honey, juice of 2 limes

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl to blend. Add salt to taste. 
Combine all ingredients in very large bowl and mix. Add dressing and toss to coat.

Everyone is a rice sommelier

I was raised in a rice culture where my Mom cooked rice just the way my Dad liked it, and she cooked rice for the rest of the family just the way we liked it.  She wanted to make everyone happy. This is common for families who enjoy rice. Every family cooks rice differently to suit their special textures and flavors. My grandmother also adapts her rice preparation to harvest time. Depending on the year, she will change the amount of time she soaks and cooks the rice and the amount of water used to make perfect rice.
 

At this time of year, it is exciting to try the new harvest rice and other grains. In Nalata Nalata, NYC, I purchased a brown rice called ‘Koshihikari’ from outside of Kanazawa, Japan. It is produced by SKURO, a small, organic, family-run farm. Exclusively imported, each bag contains 600g of rice grain or 5 cups.

As we know brown rice retains the outer layer called bran. Bran is usually milled away to become white rice. However, the bran contains many nutrients, high amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals that bring chewy texture and earthy aroma.

I cooked the new “Koshihikari” rice on top of the stove instead of in the rice cooker.  I had this delicious rice with my homemade pickles. Just the way I like it!

Did you know

Amazake

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Amazake, or “sweet sake,” is a traditional, nonalcoholic, sweet Japanese drink. It is very similar to the Chinese jiuniang, Korean sikhye, and Vietnamese cơm rượu.

There are several recipes for amazake that have been used for hundreds of years. In the most popular recipe, Koji is added to cool down cooked whole grain rice. This causes enzymes to break down the carbohydrates into simple sugars, making the naturally sweet flavour of amazake. 

Amazake can be diluted further with hot water, sieved and sipped for comfort. The ”sweet sake” is served on New Year’s Day to toast and celebrate for new year of health and prosperity. Amazake undiluted, is also used as a dessert, smoothie, or baby food.

Amazake contains vitamin B1, B2, B6, folic acid, dietary fiber,and oligosaccharides. It also contains cysteine, arginine, large quantities of glucose and amino acids such as glutamine. Koji, one of key ingredients, helps digestion. It is also known for promoting healthy hair and skin.

Chef Andy Matsuda

Interview

Chef Andy Matsuda

Chef Andy Matsuda

Bio
Master Chef Andy Matsuda is founder of the Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles. Born in 1956 in Kobe in Japan, He was raised with a family restaurant business. Chef Matsuda was trained and worked at one of the most prestigious restaurants in Osaka. At the age of 25, he headed for a new challenge in life moving to Los Angeles, California. Along the way, he had worked hotels in major metropolitan cities in the USA and learned other cuisines. At the age of 36, Chef Matsuda faced the biggest challenge of his life; he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer and began the epic battle for his life. Going through 4 years of intensive treatments and self reflection, he began to understand the relationship between food and health; people and environment.  Overcoming Cancer, he gained full of appreciation of life and wanted to somehow pay back his depth of gratitude to American society. In 2002, he opened the Sushi Chef training school in downtown Los Angeles. One of the few Sushi schools outside of Japan, he teaches beginners and professional chefs from all over the world. He also works with the California Rice Commission & Norwegian Seafood Council.

1. Sushi Chef Institute is known for being one of the only few certified sushi schools outside of Japan. What was your motivation to opening up the Sushi School in abroad or United State?
Over 17000 Japanese restaurant in US and much more coming in to the world,  but less than 5% of these restaurants are owned by Japanese.  That means most of the sushi booming world of are owned by Non-Japanese.  The world sushi boom is growing without Japanese. The concern is if they know Sushi and safety and is it "tasty sushi?" The realty is not and standards are in decline. It is not right that such a decline can take place. Most of chefs or owners need help and knowledge, but who is able to help them?  No one.  After my cancer treatment I had a very difficult recovery for my life. I was one of the few with skill and knowledge of sushi.  That is why I like to share with everyone my knowledge. American medical and its supports made life possible, so now I can give back by sharing my knowledge to anyone.  

2. How important is rice in sushi making?
Sushi is a 70% of portion are sushi rice. Bad sushi rice happens to be a bad business. Sushi rice is a most simple cooking method using rice and water. BUT, there are many secrets. Everyday consistency of the same condition of taste and flavor make success in business.

3. How much time is devoted to the teaching of rice in your class?
Basic understanding and concept of cooking sushi rice minimum 2-3 hours. Everyday keeping the same consistency sushi rice making takes 3 years’ experience.

4. What is the most important key to cooking rice? How do you identify the best cooked rice for Sushi rice?
Choice of rice, season, tools, temperature and all basic practice. When eating Nigiri sushi you feel of cold fish first. You don’t feel much rice, because of as same temperature of the body of sushi rice. It is soft and supports matching the flavor of each fish. Soy sauce and wasabi help both flavor. "Make happy and enjoy the sushi." Best corroboration with fish and sushi rice.  

5. Is it hard to find a great quality of Sushi rice in US and how do you tell your students what to look for in selecting the best sushi rice?
Sushi main ingredients are fish not sushi rice. So best matching with fish with sushi rice. That a best sushi rice.  How to make a sushi rice for what purpose? Take out or sushi bar or cater. A box sushi or Nigiri or rolls  

6. I have seen one of your workshops at NYC. I know you have many classes, but also workshops. What is the most surprising thing that people don’t know about rice. What was your response?
I always ask for Japanese ladies, how do you cook rice? Most people said to put hand in the rice cooker and cover all fingers with the water and start cooking. That’s it. Looks very simple…Then I keep asking few more questions. Are you cooking Gas, or Electric? Are you cook new crop or old crop? Can you cook Brown rice? Do you know how to cook rice at Japan, Thailand, NY or Alaska?  Most answers are No. If one is to become a sushi chef, we need to know anywhere how to cook sushi rice with same conditions and consistency. But most chefs do not know either. But, all my graduates are knew it now. That's my education. Be a chef to professional Sushi chef.

7. What is your message to your students about rice?
Sushi could be copied by look, but taste of sushi are not able to copied. Anyone can tell by putting in your mouth whether it isl good or bad. Need to educate and understand all steps by step 1 to 10 about Sushi & fish. Comprehensive story of sushi education to be professional sushi chef. “Rice is such a wonderful ingredient to be used in many Japanese food. Especially, fermented rice could be very important to help a healthy strong body.”

chef andy matsud with his student

chef andy matsud with his student