Friday, July 24, 2009

Chicken Teriyaki and Cucumber Salad

I have been dying for some Japanese food for weeks now. Ever since leaving London, I have not had anything remotely resembling authentic Asian food and I was feeling very deprived. I had tried out a few local so-called Asian restaurants, but so far my luck hasn't been very good. At best I have had Asian influenced foods that tasted ok but not exactly genuine, and at worst, well, I guess I just won't get into the worst. It was bad, overcooked, not worth much mention. There must be hidden gems lurking around Tampa, and I do intend to seek them out and will report on them later.

For now, working with my sparse kitchen supplies in my still very empty abode, I had to settle for soaking some chicken breasts in a bottled teriyaki marinade for a few hours, and broiling them on a foil lined pan for about 15-20 minutes, basting with a bit of extra marinade and flipping once halfway through cooking. Not exactly my greatest culinary achievement, but it came out moist, and at least was somewhat closer to what I am used to.

Funny thing is, for someone who normally cooks rice on a practically daily basis, I must admit to being a bit of a rice cooker princess. I am thoroughly spoiled by them. The ease of dumping in my ingredients, pushing a few buttons and walking away, wandering back into my kitchen later to the smell of warm, fluffy, perfectly steamed rice of any variation... how could I not be addicted to this method?

Well, unfortunately for me, I no longer have my trusty rice cooker. My old one, a switch it on -or-off bare bones model I had for years was sold at a yard sale before moving to the UK, and my lovely modern digital version that I lovingly used while living in London the past two years has been passed on to someone else. UK electronics don't really work in the US without a power transformer, and things that heat or tell time rarely function correctly even with such a device. So therefore, I was faced with cooking my rice the gasp old fashioned way, on the stovetop.

After combing online resources for stovetop rice methods, I followed this method, which worked really rather well: Boil 2 cups water, add in 1 cup Jasmine rice (I didn't rinse, as I had nothing to rinse it in), a tiny bit of salt, and an optional knob of butter, stir once, return to a full boil, then drop on a lid, reduce heat to lowest setting and let steam away for about 20 minutes, without touching the pan at all. You can tell when the water has evaporated, as the steam shooting out the sides of the pan slows down and eventually, just at the 20 minute bell, had stopped almost entirely. I then set the pan aside, still covered, to rest for about 10 minutes. The result was very fluffy, loose grains of tender rice. Not hard at all. Click here for the guide I followed for the rice.

I somewhat followed a piece of a recipe on the Kikkoman website for the cucumber salad. The cucumbers came out better than expected, as they were simply marinated for an hour in a mixture of 1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, and a tsp of sugar, with a few slivered green onions tossed in. They came out crisp, slightly pickled from the marinade, very refreshing. I could have eaten a whole bowl of just the cucumbers with some rice. A really simple and delicious treat that went perfectly with the chicken and rice.

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