7 Rules for a Better Rice Bowl

Sho Spaeth wrote . . . . . . . . .

It may sound silly to put it this way, but before grain bowls became a thing, grain bowls were already a thing. Wherever people cooked whole grains and ate them, they likely put them in a bowl and put tasty stuff on top, both because it was delicious and because it was convenient. (Yes, even in America, where grain bowls are currently a “thing”!)

But bowls of rice with stuff thrown on top are only delicious if you give them enough thought and consideration. And while there are exceptions to any set of rules, I generally find that successful rice bowls almost always have certain elements in common, so I wanted to share a set of guidelines that I’ve relied upon to make great rice bowls with whatever I happen to have on hand. I’ve also created a few recipes for quick, easy-to-assemble meals that show how to put those guidelines into practice.

While lessons can be learned from rice bowls around the world, I’ve taken most of my cues Japan’s long tradition of meals-in-a-bowl-with-grains, which typically fall under the category of donburi. The term donburi is used both to mean a rice-bowl meal and the bowl in which a rice-bowl meal is served—wider and deeper than your standard-issue Japanese rice bowl, since it needs enough extra volume to accommodate both the rice and the non-rice portion of the meal. You’re likely already familiar with some of the more famous donburi, like gyudon, katsudon, and oyakodon (which mean, respectively, “beef bowl,” “cutlet bowl,” and, disturbingly, “mother and child bowl”), but even if you aren’t, the appeal of putting tasty stuff on top of rice and eating it all out of one round-bottomed container probably isn’t lost on you. Again, it’s convenient and, if everything is prepared well, delicious.

This guide and the accompanying recipes skew Japanese (because I’m skewed Japanese!), but there isn’t really any reason to limit yourself to ingredients out of the Japanese pantry. That being said, Japanese grocery stores, like Korean, Chinese, and other Asian-cuisine-focused grocery stores, are stocked with a wide variety of prepared food items designed to be eaten with rice. They can be a particularly valuable resource for small and tasty staples that can round out and diversify whatever you decided to put on top of your rice. Beyond that, you can also shop elsewhere (including online) for most, if not all, of the varied prepared products from across the world that are good on rice.

The Rules of the Rice-Bowl Road

Rule 1: The Rice Rules

First and foremost, a rice bowl is all about the rice. Much as with a Japanese breakfast, the rice makes up the bulk of the meal, and everything in the bowl that isn’t rice is meant to be eaten with it. This means that you want a good amount of rice in the bowl—about a cup and a half of cooked rice per serving—and it also means that you want to cook the rice well (take a look at my rice cooker review, which is the easiest way to get consistently great rice with no effort).

Rule 2: Limit Topping Portions but Season Them Well

Second, since the rice is the star, you don’t want to overload it with a mountain of toppings. Still, the food that you do add needs to be seasoned aggressively enough to compensate for the rice’s relative blandness. Whereas a typical American portion of something like, say, a steak, weighs about eight ounces, you’ll want to use only about half that for a rice bowl, and you’ll want to find ways to flavor it beyond salting the steak’s surface alone. A proper showering of salt may be all a seared steak needs, but that’s not going to cut it on a mound of plain rice.

Rule 3: Chop, Chop, Chop

Everything on top of the rice should be cut into bite-size pieces. Whether you plan on eating your rice bowl with a spoon, fork, or chopsticks, you don’t want large slabs of meat or vegetables that will require any kind of cutting.

Rule 4: Texture and Flavor Variety Are Key

Every rice bowl needs to be varied in both texture and flavor. Katsudon (fried pork cutlet with egg over rice) is a great example: you have chewy meat encased in a highly seasoned fried breadcrumb exterior, the tender and silky egg, strands of just-cooked onion that still have a remnant of bite, all of it dressed with a sauce that is both sweet and savory. And, for a final, optional bit of texture/flavor contrast, you can add some crisp pickled vegetables, like pickled ginger strips.

In general, think about combining ingredients that can add the following:

  • Heft: This will likely be the featured player in your rice bowl, whether it’s a portion of meat, cubes of tofu, or a hearty vegetable that can take center stage, like eggplant.
  • Umami: Many ingredients can add savory depth to your rice bowl. Meat automatically will, especially if you brown it well and make a sauce from it. Beyond that, seaweed, mushrooms, and fermented foods (anything from miso and soy sauce to lacto-fermented pickles and funky shrimp paste) will deliver a wallop of satisfying flavor.
  • Acidity: Pickles, whether vinegar-based or fermented, are one of your key players here, but even a squeeze of lemon juice can do the trick.
  • Heat: Fresh chilies, chili pastes, chili flakes and powders all work for adding anywhere from a subtle background warmth to an all-out fiery assault. It’s up to you how far you want to go. Horseradish, wasabi, and mustard are also great choices, delivering that nose-burning sensation we all love with a grimace.
  • Freshness: Thinly sliced scallions, fresh herbs, finely minced raw vegetables, even a dose of raw minced ginger or garlic can bring a breath or blast of freshness to the bowl.

Rule 5: Control Your Sauce

A flavorful sauce is almost always needed in a rice bowl: It coats your toppings and seeps down into the rice, uniting the two. But you don’t want your rice swimming in it. This is both a flavor and a texture issue because too much wet sauce means you’ll end up with overly seasoned, soupy rice. One good trick for ensuring your sauce doesn’t pool in the bottom of the bowl, aside from using an appropriate amount, is to employ some kind of thickener, like cornstarch. When it’s more viscous, the sauce will cling to the toppings more and glaze the top layer of rice, but it won’t run down and saturate everything.

Rule 6: Quick and Easy Are the Name of the Rice-Bowl Game

A rice bowl has to be quick and easy to put together. I suppose it doesn’t have to be, but part of a rice bowl’s appeal as a home-cooked meal is that it’s not going to be a heavy lift, whether you’re making it for lunch or you’re doing it for a weeknight dinner. This is where having a store of tasty stuff in your pantry really helps, but it’s also why rice bowls are an ideal way to use up leftovers. Have some broiled eggplant lying around? Overstocked on pickles? Or maybe you’ve got a leftover stir-fry or some mapo tofu from the takeout spot. All of these things can be used to make a very satisfying rice bowl in no time.

Rule 7: Construct Consciously

Even with all the other elements in place, true rice-bowl success requires considered construction. Exactly how this works depends on the ingredients, but in general, it’s worth thinking about which ingredients you want to ensure get all over the rice so that they can mix in evenly as you eat and which ones you don’t. That frequently means distributing very small ingredients like shredded nori or very finely minced pickles all over the rice, and spooning a bit of sauce (but not too much) all over. Larger pieces of vegetable and protein can be piled on more artfully and then glazed with a bit more sauce.

Anything particularly strong-flavored or pungent, like pickled ginger or hot mustard, is often best left in a small, contained clump so that the diner can choose exactly how much to get in each bite.

Get bowl recipes at Seious Eat . . . . .

Italian-style Roasted Beef with Prunes and Port

Ingredients

1 beef triangle tip (tri-tip) or top round roast (about 2 lbs), trimmed of fat
1-3/4 cups port
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 can (14-1/2 oz) beef broth
2-1/2 cups pitted prunes
2 packages (about 10 oz each) frozen tiny onions, thawed
1 pound dried farfalle (pasta bow ties)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
oregano sprigs
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Set beef in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. In a 3- to 4-quart pan, combine port and sugar. Stir over medium heat just until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Measure out 1/3 cup of the port mixture to use for basting and set it aside.
  4. Add broth, prunes, and onions to port mixture remaining in pan. Set aside.
  5. Roast meat in a 450°F (230°C) oven, basting 4 times with the 1/3 cup port mixture, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 135°F (57°C) for rare (about 35 minutes). After 25 minutes, check temperature every 5 to 10 minutes. If pan appears dry, add water, 4 to 6 tablespoons at a time, stirring to scrape browned bits free from pan bottom. Do not let drippings scorch.
  6. While meat is roasting, bring prune mixture to a boil over high heat. Then reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until prunes and onions are very soft (about 30 minutes). Remove from heat and keep warm.
  7. When meat is done, transfer to a carving board, cover loosely, and let stand for about 15 minutes.
  8. In a 6- to 8-quart (6- to 8-liter) pan, bring about 4 quarts (3.8 liters) water to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in pasta and cook until just tender to bite, 8 to 10 minutes. (Or cook pasta according to package directions.)
  9. Drain pasta well. Transfer to a large rimmed platter, mix in garlic and chopped oregano, and keep warm.
  10. Pour any meat drippings from baking pan into prune mixture. Also add any meat juices that have accumulated on board. With a slotted spoon, ladle prunes and onions over and around pasta. Transfer cooking liquid to a small pitcher.
  11. To serve, thinly slice meat across the grain and arrange over pasta mixture. Garnish with oregano sprigs. Offer cooking liquid to pour over meat and pasta and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Low-fat Italian Cookbook

In Pictures: Food of Italian Restaurants in London, U.K.

‘Dry Fasting’ a Dangerous Dietary Trend

Jessica Roy wrote . . . . . . . . .

A new fad diet making the rounds on wellness influencers on Instagram won’t actually help you lose weight. And it could cause dehydration, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, organ failure — even death.

It’s called “dry fasting.” It goes beyond what most of us would consider fasting — abstaining from solid food or liquid calories — and requires consuming no water or liquids of any kind for many hours or even days at a time.

Instagram and other social media sites have provided a glossy new platform for dubious health and nutrition claims. Posts about dry fasting often tout the need to “heal” or “rest” or “reset” your kidneys, or “boost” their filtration. In practice, what dry fasting will do is make you look a bit more toned, because your body is using up the water in your cells for energy.

Even more dubious claims suggest dry fasting forces your body to burn toxins, or fat, or inflammation, or tumours. It does not. When you stop feeding your body calories, it breaks down muscle and fat. The toxic byproducts of that breakdown process build up in your system, requiring extra hydration to flush them out.

In other words, if you’re abstaining from food, your body needs more water, not less.

Experts agree: There is no dietary or nutritional reason to go on a “dry fast.”

“I don’t recommend it at all,” said Dr. Pauline Yi, a physician at UCLA Health Beverly Hills, who regularly treats patients in their late teens and early 20s. She said intermittent fasting and other fasting-type diets are a popular topic with patients, and she offers this warning.

“But I also tell them when you’re fasting you have to drink water,” she said. “You cannot go without hydration.”

The majority of the human body is water. Your individual water consumption needs depend on your height, weight, health and the climate, but generally speaking, Yi said people should be consuming at least 68 ounces — almost nine cups — of water every day.

CARY Kreutzer, an associate professor at USC’s schools of gerontology and medicine, whose area of expertise includes nutrition and diet, says digestive systems aren’t meant to have extended “breaks.” She likened making your kidneys go without water to letting your car’s engine run out of oil. “You can basically burn out some parts of the car that you’re going to have to get replaced,” she said. “You don’t want those replacement parts to include your vital organs.”

Another unintended consequence of dry fasting: It sets your body in waterconservation mode.

“Your body likes homeostasis,” said Yi, the physician. “If you’re going to cut back on water, your body will produce hormones and chemicals to hold onto any water.”

So while you might gain a very shortterm benefit by looking a tiny bit more toned while you’re severely dehydrated (body-builders have been known to dry fast before competitions for that reason), once you consume liquid again, your body rebounds and desperately hangs on to even more water than before. It’s like yo-yo dieting in fast motion.

Valter Longo has studied starvation, fasting and calorie restriction in humans for nearly 30 years. He’s the director of the Longevity Institute at USC and a professor of gerontology. He developed the Fasting-Mimicking Diet, or FMD, a fasting-type diet with small prepackaged meals intended to provide the health and longevity benefits of a five-day fast without requiring a doctor’s supervision. He said he’s not aware of any reputable studies about the effects of dry fasting, and said he wouldn’t even consider putting one together, also for a simple reason: It’s incredibly dangerous.

“For sure, the body needs to reset, but there are safe ways of doing that, and dry fasting is not one of them,” Longo said. “We require water.”

His work has also involved looking at how cultures and religions have engaged with starvation and fasting throughout human history, and says he hasn’t heard of any that involved extended fasting without water. The closest is Ramadan, during which observers go without food or water during daylight hours — but at most, that lasts for 16 hours, and it’s preceded and followed by extensive hydration.

If someone tries dry fasting for a full day, Longo said, they risk side effects like developing kidney stones. Longer than that, and you start risking your life.

Some proponents of “dry fasting” eschew water but recommend hydrating with fresh fruits and vegetables. Hydrating with fruit is certainly better than not hydrating at all. An orange has about a half-cup of water in it; to get to the recommended 68 ounces of water a day, you’d have to eat around 17 oranges. That’s a lot of peeling.

So, in conclusion: Dry fasting puts you at risk of kidney stones or organ failure. There are no known, proven long-term benefits to doing it. There is no medical evidence to suggest you need to stop consuming water for any period of time, or that water from fruit is better for you than filtered drinking water.

Please drink some water.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press


Read also at Perfect Keto:

Dry Fasting: The Truth About This New Health Industry Trend . . . . .

Radiation Treatment is Hard on the Heart

Radiation therapy that targets cancers in the chest area can tax the heart and trigger high levels of fatigue, breathing problems and a reduced ability to exercise, a new study suggests.

However, doing more physical activity before undergoing radiation therapy may help reduce these problems, the researchers added.

“This study suggests that when a patient is treated with thoracic radiation therapy, it can have a negative impact on their quality of life early on,” said study author Dr. Sheela Krishnan, a fellow in the cardiovascular division of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. “However, engaging in higher levels of physical activity before treatment may help to improve some of these symptoms over time,” she added.

“This study also confirms that increasing levels of physical activity during treatment are associated with concurrent improvements in quality of life,” Krishnan said.

“Though we cannot establish a clear causal relationship from these findings, it does emphasize that physical activity and quality of life are closely linked,” Krishnan added in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.

The study included 130 patients, median age 54, who received radiation to treat breast cancer, lung cancer or lymphoma.

Lung cancer and lymphoma patients had an increase in fatigue and shortness of breath immediately after radiation therapy, which later improved, the investigators found.

Breast cancer patients had significant increases in physical activity and a decrease in fatigue over time after radiation therapy, the findings showed. Moderate to vigorous exercise before radiation treatment was associated with improvements in fatigue over time.

The differences between breast cancer and lung cancer and lymphoma patients may be due to differences in their radiation doses. However, after accounting for differences in chemotherapy and radiation doses, the researchers found that increases in physical activity over time were significantly associated with improvements in fatigue and shortness of breath.

The study was presented Friday at an American College of Cardiology course in Washington, D.C., on heart care for cancer patients. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in cancer survivors, and it’s estimated that 14.5 million cancer patients and survivors have significant heart disease risk factors.

“While our study is a small study, it suggests that high levels of physical activity prior to initiation of radiation therapy for cancer are associated with better physical functioning and quality of life with cancer treatment,” Krishnan said. “Additional work is still needed to understand the types and timing of exercises that can bring about the greatest benefit.”

Source: HealthDay


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