Rich rich rich

21 Mar

Dear Nina,
I am still jealous that you get to be in New York this weekend with its spring flowers and friends and fashion while I am stuck in London, Ontario where all we have are glacial ice perimeters, drunk undergraduates, and strip malls.  That said, even though to me you are still the best thing in London, this weekend without you has been pretty delicious.  Today I went to a maple syrup farm that serves an insane $10 Sunday brunch.  Plus, I got inspired and dinner tonight was bomb.  There’s a tupperware in the fridge for you when you get home!

Caribbean Bibimbop

Today I got interested in umami, the most elusive of the five primary flavors which also include sweet, salty, sour and bitter.  These tastes are primary in the same way red, blue, and yellow are: all other flavors can be created using these five fundamental flavours.  Apparently umami is not a taste that can be achieved by combining any other flavors; what umami is, however, is not, apparently, apparent to anyone. According to the Umami Information Center,

As the taste of umami itself is subtle and blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavors, most people don’t recognize umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role making food taste delicious.

So, umami is the “delicious” flavor?  The rest of the identifying characteristics seem to have something to do with science – glutamates and ribonucleotides – which I recognize in a kind of abstract way from high school.  Ribonucleotides are what makes RNA different than DNA right?  (hmm…)

It seems to me, though, that we already have a word for this fifth flavor in the English language: richness.

Usually, when you think about rich foods you think about cheesecake, mousse, butter, and probably even some meats like pork and steak.  According to umami experts, some vegetables such as ripe tomatoes and mushrooms also have this round, delicious-making characteristic.  I bet if you ask any vegetarian which are the “meatiest” vegetables, these two would top the list.  Soy, not surprisingly, is also a food rich in richness (although that may just be the agricultural lobby trying to brainwash us).

Anyway, this evening’s meal was an experiment in balancing the five tastes, with a special emphasis on this fifth and most befuddling flavor.  And it’s vegan!  (…well, almost)

Caribbean Bibimbop

Richness sends my mind straight to the drool-worthy coconut rice I ate while travelling in Colombia this past February.  In the interest of cleaving if ever so slightly to the brunch premise of this blog, I wanted to try and incorporate egg with my rice.  Not a fan of the obvious fried rice option, I scanned until the internets turned up the Korean dish Bibimbop. Coconut rice is more Caribbean than Korean, so I made a mash-up … and it was way good.

Coconut Rice

1 c. jasmine rice

1 c. coconut milk (light coconut milk is just as good as the full-fat)

1 c. broth (I used plain water with a long dash of the water that came with my feta cheese because I didn’t have any broth.  The feta water offered the salt and the richness the broth would have had.)

Prepare as you would regular rice, substituting the coconut milk and broth for the water you’d normally use.

Caribbean Curry

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 of a large purple onion, diced

1 stalk of celery or twice that amount of cabbage

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground mustard seeds

1 small hot chili or 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Vegetables you like (I used red pepper and carrots sliced into matchsticks)

Juice of 1/2 a lime

Feta water and/or coconut milk to add moisture as needed

In a large frying pan, saute onions in oil on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the celery/cabbage and the cayenne and cook for another 6 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Add the cardamom, mustard seeds, coriander and the vegetables, adding those that will take longest to cook first (for instance, if you have carrots and peppers like I did, add the carrots first and let them cook before you add the peppers, which cook much faster).  Squeeze the lime juice and add additional moisture if needed.  Cover and let cook for five minutes or so.  Remove cover and add your other, faster cooking vegetables. Taste and make any adjustments to the seasoning your good judgment recommends.

Fried Bananas and Egg

fried bananas

Once all the veggies are cooked, put the curry in a serving dish and return the pan to the burner set to medium.  Add another tablespoon or so of oil.  Crack an egg into the pan being careful not to break the yoke.  Cut up a banana into 1/3″ rounds and add these to the oil in the pan.  Place the lid on the pan to help the egg white cook on top.  Leave it for about 4 minutes.  Flip the banana slices and fry on the other side.

Do the Hokey Pokey

Put it all together – Coconut rice under curry under egg and fried banana.

Salty: feta water added salt to both the curry and the rice

Sweet: banana gets even sweeter when fried!

Sour: lime juice adds a touch of sour

Bitter: cardamom adds a bitter element to the dish

Rich: coconut milk, carrot, feta water, egg

Make this dish vegan by replacing the feta water with vegetable broth and omitting the egg.  Still a perfect balance of tastes!


6 Responses to “Rich rich rich”

  1. Emma March 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    OMG, Bec! That looks so good. I love that you through cultural preciseness to the wind and mixed it up!

    • Emma March 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

      I meant threw, of course. It’s 9:30 here, and I haven’t had my coffee yet!

  2. Jess March 21, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    mmm… that sounds delicious. I must try.

    I always knew that flavor as savory. Sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory. And the best form of it is obviously msg. Looks good!

  3. Mer March 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    K & C made the vegan version of this last night and it was AMAZING – so excited that I was their ‘guinea pig.’ Thanks for the tasty nosh! Hope all is well in your corner of the universe. 😉
    (PS – I *love* umami…thanks for giving a shout out to the best flavour/taste ever!)

  4. marge March 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    you are my hero. this will be brunch on sunday!

  5. Zack April 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    This looks amazing! I’m definitely making it this weekend! Great work on the site–it looks awesome!

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