Thursday, February 5, 2009

Okayu: Japanese Rice Porridge

Okayu is a traditional rice porridge eaten in Japan by babies, old people, sick people, and almost everyone else. Every Asian culture makes its own version of rice porridge which is simply rice cooked in water until very soft and served with an infinite variety of garnishes. Okayu is usually the first solid food given to infants and is often served for breakfast or a late night meal; it's the favored food of those suffering from colds and flus or other illnesses. This is comfort food at its best! Use any good quality white rice. Makes about two servings.

1/2 cup white rice, rinsed and drained
3 cups fresh water
1- 2 pinches sea salt

Place ingredients in a heavy bottomed soup pot, cover, and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer on a low flame for at least 30 minutes. (You may vary the proportion of rice and water to attain the thickness you prefer).

Garnishes: During cold and flu season, serve steaming hot okayu with thin slices of fresh ginger root and green onions. Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds if available. It's traditional to add one umeboshi plum to each bowl. Umeboshi are sour-salty pickled plums available in Japantown and natural food stores. 

Umeboshi Vinegar:
Pictured below is a bottle of umeboshi vinegar, which may be used instead of whole ume plums. It is the liquid brine (it contains no vinegar) in which the plums are aged. It is very flavorful but quite salty so use sparingly. Delicious on savory grain and vegetable dishes!