20 March 2009

What’s it for – rice?

When asked to think of things we could eat that were made of rice, we came up immediately with with sushi (well, we would, wouldn’t we?) followed by rice crackers, rice crispies, spring rolls (apparently the wrappers are made from rice) and – with a little help – rice pudding (well, I though of that one; remember the blob of jam in the middle?  Remember stirring it round and round to a vibrant pink mess?)

And then we thought of other things that rice could be used for.  Rice paper and – glue?

So began our ‘investigation’ of that versatile grain, thanks to two wonderful mums (those belonging to Ryoma and Leon).

Rice paper.  Now when I was little, my mum used rice paper when she baked macaroons and biscuits.  It was edible (though not especially tasty!)  Not so the rice paper we would use.  This was made, not from the seed of the rice plant, but instead from the stem; perhaps in the way that conventional paper is made from the stem (or trunk) of a tree.  Definitely inedible.

We got to paint a picture…..


or write, Japanese-style (although actually this is Chinese, isn’t it Owen) on some rice paper.


Our finished designs would then be mounted scroll-like using rice glue to attach the paper to two pieces of wooden dowel.

First though…..


we would need a wooden pestle…..


with which to pound the sticky cooked rice in a clay mortar.


Jolly hard work it was too.  But soon it was suitable gooey.


Ready to be spread onto a piece of wooden dowel…..


on which we would stick our masterpieces.


And quite possibly our fingers too!


After all that effort, a little (!) sustenance was surely required.  Let us have a go at making ‘rice bowls’.  Similar in a way to the sushi we made.  A square of cling film…..


a dollop of rice…..


and your choice of tasty things…..


to sprinkle on top.


But this time, ‘chop’ or ‘cut’ the rice with a plastic knife or spoon…..


to mix in the tasty flavours, before wrapping it in the cling film and squashing it carefully into a pyramid shape (a task which I found impossible, but which the children of course mastered easily!)  Oyishi!  As Quentin (who managed at least three, and that after having eaten three helpings of lunch!) will testify.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we got to try out something completely different.  Hot rice cakes.  They come partly-cooked and individually-wrapped in cellophane.


They need to placed in a special grill…..


and ‘toasted’…..


until nicely browned on one side.


The special grill is then turned over to toast the other side.


When they are ‘done’, they should be dipped (quickly) into soy sauce…..


which they soak up really fast; before being lifted out…..


clamped in a piece of nori…..


and eaten.  Texture?  Crunchy on the outside; incredibly stretchy within.  Deeply savoury.  Satisfying.

Oh, and we invented a great game to play while they were toasting.  Japanese Whispers.  A bit like Chinese Whispers.  But with a Japanese flavour.  And even a few Japanese words.  Like fork.

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