Delicious, Fun & Healthy Food

black rice

Black (Un)fried Rice + Happy Chinese New Year

Lunch, Dinner, AsianLina LiwagComment

Gong Hei Fat Choy!  The Lunar New Year's celebration is underway in many parts of the world, even in my own city.  It started on January 31st and will last for 15 days.   As custom goes, food is a huge part in all these festivities.  I'm not sure if you're familiar with the top "lucky foods" to eat at this time. Clementines or oranges, noodles and dumplings to name a few.  Take a look at the list here  or here.  At first I thought I'd be using one of these for the main ingredient to my Asian-inspired post but I had a change of heart.  Instead, I'm going back to my childhood memories.

 And so I started reminiscing about the  foods that I ate growing up in a place located at the northernmost tip of the Philippines. The town is called Aparri and I just realized that it can now be found on Google map.   However, our small village which is on the western side across the huge Cagayan River will never be on Google map, I'm afraid.  Rice is grown big time here being an agricultural land.  It's eaten 3x a day -  yes even at breakfast!  Before my grandparents moved to California in the mid-70's, they were seasoned rice farmers back home....successful enough that they were able to send all their 6 children to university.  So let's just say that on several weekends and summer vacations in the 60's and  70's, my siblings and I experienced rice farming 101.  It was hard work, let me tell you.  And as a young child, I didn't really like it much then,  but I loved all the the foods that were being prepared during rice planting season and harvest time.  My grandma was a great cook.  She also grew a lot of vegetables and fruits, even coffee and cacao!  Our first experience with hot chocolate was from cacao beans harvested from her own backyard.  The word "fair trade" was not in foodies' consciousness yet at that time I don't think! 


Many of those rice fields have been passed down to the next generations and at this time, my sister who's an agriculturist manages them...don't know how she does it but  I'm glad she does as I would be totally lost having no experience and passion for farming nor a green thumb for that matter. 

So to celebrate the Lunar New Year and those awesome food memories of my childhood, I've decided to make "fried rice" but with a little twist of the classic. My family still grows Milagrosa, Jasmine or sticky rice in those fields but I've chosen black rice for this recipe.  Great for its fibre, nutrients and especially its antioxidants, it's usually the variety that I choose if ever I make a rice dish.  Check out these recipes that I've shared from over a year ago, here and here.  

The trick to this rice dish is using minimal oil (a total of 2 Tbsp. only). The 1 Tbsp. of oil is used to cook the garlic, ginger and scallions and the rest is mixed with the sauce. The vegetables were also lightly steamed.   This way the dish is not heavy and the vegetables still has a crunch and not overcooked.  


Black (Un)fried Rice
Ingredients (Preferably Organic):

For the Rice/Veggies:
1 cup organic black rice preferably soaked for up to 6 hours
1 1/2  cups water for soaked rice, 2 cups for unsoaked rice
2 cups broccoli florets, cut in small pieces 
1 1/2 carrots,washed, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes 
1 cup  frozen peas 
25 snow peas, thinly cut diagonally, about 1/4" thick and 2" long
3  cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped 
1" ginger grated 
4  scallions/green onions chopped into small pieces or cut diagonally
(separating the lighter parts (dark green parts for topping) 
1  1/2 Tbsp. avocado oil (see suggestions)

For The Sauce:
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil 
1  1/2  Tbsp.  mirin  (or 1 Tbsp. lime juice + 2 tsp. maple syrup)
3 Tbsp  wheat-free tamari or Braggs
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted 

1. Rinse the rice in a strainer under cold water then transfer to a pot.  Add the water and bring to a boil then simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 40- 45 mins. Fluff and cool it down.  Soaked rice cooks faster at 30 minutes.
2. After all the veggies have been prepped, place them except the snow peas in a steamer. Cook briefly making sure the veggies are still crunchy, about 5 minutes.  Add the snow peas on the last minute then remove from heat. 
3. Place the the avocado oil into a pan and on low heat, cook the garlic, lighter portions of the green onions and ginger until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes then turn off the heat.  Mix in the sauce then add the rice and veggies stirring a few times to incorporate all the flavours .  Transfer to serving bowl then top with sesame seeds and the rest of the scallions.  Enjoy!

1. For better digestibility, soak the rice for a minimum of 4 hours to 6 hours.  I've tried both ways and either one works.
2.Some other options for vegetables are: mung bean sprouts, Chinese napa cabbage, cauliflower or bakchoy.  This is a versatile dish so you can go creative.  
3. Please note that when it comes to oils, there are healthier options to use.  You can read a very informative article  "What's the Best Oil to Cook With" on this link here.


As I was reminiscing, I can't help but be thankful for all those wonderful experiences I had  in the Philippines.  We grew up where the air was clean and the ocean was pristine.  We ate fresh seafood and seaweeds from the ocean nearby.  Sunshine was abundant all year round.  Free Vitamin D!

My dad planted the biggest orchard in our neighbourhood.   It produced a variety of tropical fruits...all we did was climb up the different trees to pick the freshest and purest fruits in season. No chemicals or preservatives or no storage necessary.  And most of these trees are still bearing fruits over 50 years later.  We grew our own vegetables in our gardens.  We had many moments playing in our backyard or in the muddy rice fields connected we were to the earth...grounding, anyone?   Mind you, we never knew how lucky we were then.  Thank you Lord for all of these!

I hope you'll start reminiscing about your own childhood memories too.  Happy Lunar New Year!



"Homemade Bibimbap"

Asian, Dinner, LunchLina Liwag4 Comments

It's been a rainy Saturday so I thought it's just perfect timing for one of those recipes that require a longer time to prepare.  What a treat for someone who usually only has 30 minutes to whip up meals during the week.   


Bibimbap is a Korean dish which literally means "mixed rice." The traditional one is usually served on a hot stone pot (pre-heated in the oven) with steamed rice, topped with "namul" (a mix of sauteed and seasoned vegetables) and a chilli paste called "gochujang."   Other additions are raw or sunny side egg, meat or tofu.  The ingredients are then stirred together before eating.  This dish is nutritious and looks so colourful.

Every now and then, we would visit a Korean restaurant in the Uptown area of Toronto to eat bibimbap. Lately, I've been making my own homemade version and so I've finally decided  share it.  The ingredients are not written in stone and would really be all up to you.  This is one of those that anyone can get creative on.  I'm using tempeh with this mix and I pretty much did everything non-tradional.   Sometimes, Austin even wants a different version by omitting the rice and substituting it with soba noodles. Some veggies can also be raw.  


"Homemade Bibimbap"
Serves 4
Maple ginger tempeh, recipe below
Pickled daikon radish and carrots, recipe below
1 cup black rice for cooking
Sautéed enoki  mushrooms, recipe below
Sautéed shiitake or oyster mushrooms, recipe below
1 package bean sprouts, blanched
1 lb. baby bokchoy cleaned, washed and blanched
Boiling water for blanching
1 sheet nori, cut into strips
3 Tbsps. sesame seeds, roasted
Asian sesame sauce, recipe below or this option

Maple Ginger Tempeh
1 block organic tempeh (250 g.) cut into 5 strips
( I used this brand)
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. walnut oil

2 Tbsp. Braggs liquid aminos, tamari or Nama shoyu
2 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1. Lay the tempeh strips in a glass container.  Mix the marinade and pour over. Coat and marinate the slices for 1 hour and up to overnight.
2. Transfer the tempeh slices into a skillet and add the water. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium. Let them cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes, turning over once halfway thru cooking.
3. Add the oil then finalize cooking by browning at  approximately 2 1/2 minutes each side.
4. Cut into smaller cubes before serving.



Quick Pickled Daikon Radish & Carrots
1 small daikon radish, julienned, about 2 cups
2 medium sized carrots julienned, about 2 cups
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. maple syrup
3 Tbsp. water, boiled then cooled down
2 cloves garlic, grated

1. Wash, peel and julienne the daikon and carrots. Transfer to a bowl and add the salt. Stir and leave for approximately 10 minutes to soften. Transfer to a colander or wire sieve and rinse in water. Squeeze and drain well.
2. Place the vegetables in a clean jar . Mix the pickling ingredients together and pour over. Best eaten after a day or two but they're good to go after 1 hour.

Sautéed Shiitake and Enoki Mushrooms
.75 - 1 lb. shiitake or oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 pack (150 g.) enoki mushrooms , bottom end cut 
1/2 of a small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped tomatoes
1/4 c. water


In a pan on medium heat, sauté the onions until soft, approximately 3 minutes then stir in the garlic and tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes soften.  Add the shiitake mushrooms. Let them sweat then add the water. Stir and cook for about 8-10 minutes at which time the water will be absorbed. Move them to one side of the pan then add the oyster mushrooms on the other side. These will cook in 2 minutes with just the heat of the pan. Remove and transfer them to separate bowls.


Cooking the black rice: wash and soak the rice  for 2  hours if time allows. In a saucepan, place the washed rice with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to low until water is absorbed, approximately  30-40 minutes.

Blanching the sprouts and greens: boil water in a medium sauce pan. Place the sprouts in a wire sieve then lower into boiling water for only 20 seconds. Transfer in a bowl with filtered cold water to stop it from cooking further. Drain and transfer to another bowl.  In the same water, place the bokchoy and leave to blanch for 2 minutes then repeat the same cooling down process as the sprouts. Place in a bowl.

Dry roasting the sesame seeds: in a skillet on low heat, place the sesame seeds and let them roast until they turn fragrant, approximately 5 minutes.

3 Tbsp. Braggs liquid aminos or tamari
3  Tbsp. brown rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated garlic
1/4 tsp. grated ginger|
1 Tbsp. tsp. roasted sesame oil
Hot sauce to taste (I used this)

Assembly: in four bowls, place a serving of each ingredient. Add sauce and top with roasted sesame and nori strips. Stir before eating. Enjoy!

Other options:  kimchi, tofu, zucchini, other greens like spinach, watercress or choysum.


I've been thinking that maybe next time I can make something sweet as my tendency is always on the savoury side.  Freshncrunchy just turned one and I should be posting something celebratory like a cake, right?  I'm hoping I can come up with a good one...desserts are a challenging projects to me.  Wish me luck:)