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Author Notes: You could call it soul in a bowl. Think Zen garden with limpid, darkly-soothing pools of elegantly standing lily pads and gracefully gliding, vermilion-flashing koi. Four elements compose this dish - a broth that speaks a rich baritone of umami, sesame-speckled sticky rice balls, moist, meaty yet light shreds of chicken and finally, the colour and crunch of greens to balance it all. —quiche'n'tell
For the broth:
- 1 chicken, skinned and cut into large pieces
- 3-4 dried shitake mushrooms soaked in hot water for an hour
- 3 spring onions (white part only, reserve the green part for garnishing the soup)
- 2 cloves of garlic, halved
- 1 1 inch piece of ginger, halved
- 1 1 inch piece of cinnamon
- 1 star anise
- 1 tablespoon mushroom sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- Salt as required
For the rice balls and sautéed greens :
- 200 grams Arborio or sushi rice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon Mirin
- 2-3 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons black sesame seeds lightly toasted
- 3-4 bunches Chinese mustard greens
- 1 fat clove of garlic, finely minced
- 2 fresh red chillies finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Salt as required
- To make the broth, put the chicken and all the other ingredients including the shitake with the soaking water ( but except the mushroom and soy sauces) into a big pot of water (about 2 1/2 litres) and bring up to the boil. Once on a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer and keep skimming off the scum rising to the surface till such time as the broth appears clear. Continue to slowly simmer for an hour. Patience at this stage will build a flavourful broth.
- After an hour, add the mushroom and soy sauces and check the seasoning. Take off the heat, remove the chicken pieces and mushrooms and set aside. Discard the ginger, garlic, onions, cinnamon and star anise. Slice the chicken and discard the bones. Slice the shitake mushrooms thinly, discarding the stems. Set aside.
- To make the rice, soak it in water for 20 minutes, drain and cook on a medium heat in 500 ml water, stirring occasionally. Add water in small quantities if required and cook till all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked but not mushy. Transfer the rice to a bowl and mix in the chillies, fish sauce, vinegar and mirin. Allow to cool before shaping into golf ball sized portions. Roll to coat with back sesame seeds and set aside.
- To cook the mustard greens, blanch them in hot water for 15 seconds only and then quickly shock in ice water for a minute. Drain and roughly chop them for stir frying. Heat oil in a pan till fairly hot but not smoking. Throw in the greens, minced garlic and chillies and fry for 2 minutes tossing frequently to make sure they do not burn. Season with salt. Cook for 30 seconds more and remove from the heat.
- To assemble the meal, heat the broth. Place 3 rice balls in each bowl, add a generous helping of chicken and a few slices of mushroom, pour enough broth to partially cover the rice balls, sprinkle with chopped spring onions and serve immediately with the fried mustard greens on the side.