It is impossible to talk about Spanish cuisine without thinking of bread as an essential element of it: the first always in its basket on restaurant tables, in the form of bread, baguette, loaf or roll; more or less grilled, sourdough or yeast. In our gastronomy, it is the ideal vehicle to spread a sauce, to spread well this fried egg yolk. But in Asian gastronomy, this role is played almost exclusively by white rice: just as there are sandwiches for the loaf of bread; There are dishes designed to be served exclusively on white rice, which in Chinese even have their own name: xiafancai (下饭菜).
These five recipes that we bring to you today are not exclusively Chinese, in fact there are more Japanese, but the “dish on rice” concept is shared by all the countries of the continent. What varies between them is the type of rice used: in China and Southeast Asia, the jasmine variety is almost exclusively dominant, spongy and slightly aromatic; although in countries like Thailand, sticky rice is also very popular, extremely sticky.
In India, basmati is the most typical, very aromatic but less spongy; and in Japan, of course, the japonica variety, which is usually sold in supermarkets as “sushi rice”, very fluffy and quite sticky, and here you will find bomba and other indigenous varieties. Whatever your use, keep one thing in mind: for these dishes, the rice is cooked without salt or additional ingredients, because the flavor comes exclusively from the simmered, sautéed or fried foods it contains. And if you don’t know how to cook it, in this video you have some clues.
Vegetarian versions of all of these dishes can be made with textured soybeans, hard tofu, seitan, or Heura-type soy or pea protein. My colleague and editor Mònica Escudero recommends using the latter for the first two stir-fries and seitan or tofu for the curry and paste. In the case of curry we can halve the amount of broth and the cooking time -since we only want it to simmer and mix the flavors- and in the second it is important to drain well what we are going to bread, so that does not splash at first, then remains crispy.
In Japanese Butaniku no Shogayaki, this sautéed pork tenderloin is a daily dish in many Japanese homes. Nothing could be simpler and quicker, and the result is at the top of flavors thanks to ginger and soy sauce. For two servings, start by cutting 250g pork tenderloin into strips as thin as possible with a sharp knife; if you put it in the freezer 30 minutes before cutting it, it will be firmer and easier to cut thinly.
Add it to a bowl with an inch of peeled and grated fresh ginger, 15ml of soy sauce, a little ground white pepper and 30ml of mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine that adds lots of flavor and makes the sauce (if you can’t find it, substitute the same amount of sherry wine and honey in equal parts). Mix well, coating all the pork strips and leave to marinate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and slice an inch of fresh ginger lengthwise, then cut each slice into sticks of equal thickness. Also chop two fresh spring onions or sprouts of garlic and a fresh red pepper.
In a skillet over very high heat, add enough sunflower oil to cover the bottom and heat until it begins to smoke. Add the pork and sauté for a minute, until cooked through. Then add the ginger and sauté for another 30 seconds, until very fragrant. Turn off the heat and add the white part of the Chinese chives and mix. Serve immediately over white rice and finish with the green part of the spring onions and fresh red pepper.
BLACK PEPPER VEAL
The black pepper, in combination with the lightly caramelized onion and soy sauce, creates a super aromatic sauce, full of flavor and – in case anyone was worried – not spicy at all. For two servings, start by finely cutting a piece of beef tenderloin or a rib steak of about 250 grams (you can also put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to make it firmer and easier to slice fine). In a mortar, crush a tablespoon of black peppercorns without reducing them to powder, which maintains the texture; then add it to a bowl alongside the beef, three cloves of grated or pressed garlic, a tablespoon of soy sauce, two teaspoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon of cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Mix well and leave to marinate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop an onion.
Coat the bottom of a skillet over high heat with sunflower oil and heat until it begins to smoke. Add beef and sauté for two minutes or until fully cooked. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add a tablespoon of soy sauce and sauté for 15 seconds. Then, transfer it to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, add the onion and sauté, stirring often over high heat, for about six to seven minutes, until lightly caramelized. When ready, add a little sherry vinegar and season with salt. Return the veal to the skillet with any juices that have released, stir and sauté for another minute; then serve it over white rice and finish it off with the green part of a Chinese spring onion and toasted sesame.
Chana Masala is an Indian chickpea curry full of flavor, creaminess and aroma (and tastes even better the day after it’s made, like so many stews). For four servings, start by peeling and chopping an onion, five cloves of garlic and four centimeters of ginger root. Also chop six unpeeled ripe tomatoes. Prepare the mise en place, add two tablespoons of ghee to a saucepan over medium-high heat; clarified butter, the most popular cooking fat in India. If you don’t have one, you can replace it with oil. Ginger, garlic and onion follow, fry for two minutes, until super aromatic.
When the onions start to turn translucent around the edges, add the chopped tomatoes and sauté for another five minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. It’s the turn of the spices: a teaspoon of turmeric and another of powdered Kashmiri peppers, a kind of Indian paprika with a very intense red color and very characteristic flavor (or normal paprika). Toast the two spices for about a minute, then transfer everything to a food processor and puree.
The sauce is ready, almost everything is ready: chop another onion and some fresh green chillies and fry them with ghee or oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Then we add two teaspoons of tomato paste and fry for a minute, and finally the sauce and two teaspoons of garam masala, the most common and easy to find Indian spice blend. Integrate everything then add a large and a small pot of cooked chickpeas, preservation liquid included. Cook for five more minutes, so the flavors are incorporated, then season to taste with salt, sugar and lemon juice. Serve over basmati rice and enjoy.
Japanese curry is a stew of the meat you prefer with a creamy and super tasty sauce, where obviously the protagonist is curry, a real umami bomb. Ingredients are cooked separately so they retain their own flavor, making every bite different. For the veal version -about four servings come out, this type of stew contains very little meat-, start by cutting 500g of stewing veal; brazuelo for example, in small cubes. Add it to a saucepan with a liter and a half of the broth of your choice, bring to a boil and boil for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and cut two carrots, a few medium potatoes and medium turnips into bite-size pieces. When the 45 minutes are up, add them to the pan and cook everything for another 15 minutes. At the end of cooking, the meat should be tender but not shredded, and the vegetables al dente. Remove everything from the pan and set it aside, broth included.
Let’s go with the curry as it is: in a large saucepan, add 40 grams of butter and melt it, until it bubbles. Add 40g of wheat flour, stir in and cook until it no longer smells raw, about three minutes. Then add 50g of curry, mix, then start adding the reserved broth little by little until it reaches the desired thickness. Season it with a tablespoon of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, very common ingredients in Japan that will give the dish a wonderful touch.
All that remains is to introduce the solids into the sauce. First, an onion cut into medium chunks, which we’ll cook for five minutes – you can also add half a dozen sliced shiitakes at this point – then the rest of the things you’ve already pre-cooked: the beef, carrots, potato and turnip. Leave all the flavors to get to know each other for five minutes over low heat, and it’s ready. Serve with white rice.
ORANGE FRIED CHICKEN
With a sweet and sour sauce and a delicious touch of citrus, this orange chicken maintains the crispiness of the frying and the juiciness of the chicken thighs: to make the sauce, add 150 g of sugar, 175 ml of white vinegar , 80 ml of soy sauce, 50 ml of water, as well as the zest and the juice of an orange. Mix everything and put on medium heat, bring to a boil and maintain a slow boil for 10 minutes. While it is heating, peel and grate three cloves of garlic and three centimeters of fresh ginger. Mix 10 g of cornstarch with a little water and add it to the sauce when it is ready. Mix everything together and cook for another minute, until the starch gelatinizes and the sauce thickens considerably. Turn off the heat, add the ginger and garlic, mix and let cool to room temperature.
Let’s move on to the fried chicken: for four servings, cut four drumsticks into bite-size pieces, transfer them to a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Mix and leave to marinate for 10 minutes. Mientras, calienta abundante aceite de girasol -pero que no llegue a humear-, y prepara la estación de rebozado: en un bol mezcla cuatro cucharadas de maicena y con dos de harina de trigo, y en otro bol dos huevos batidos con un chorrito de Cold water. To coat the chicken, first dust it with the flour and cornstarch, then coat it in the egg and finally return it to the bowl of flour and cornstarch. Fry the chicken for four minutes, in batches so the oil doesn’t cool too much, then drain the excess oil on a wire rack.
To maintain the crispness of the dough when you coat it with sauce, it is important that the two components are hot when you mix them (a lot of sauce will come out, you can use half and save the rest if you are less of a fan of salsa than me). So, heat it in the microwave, transfer the chicken to a bowl once the excess oil has drained off, and cover it with the sauce. Mix and serve immediately over white rice. Optionally, garnish with finely chopped chives.