KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 – Cooking for one can be such a chore. I’m not a naturally gifted cook but I can find my way round the kitchen fairly well, given the right motivation, you see. Gone are the days when I was a bachelor and takeaways seemed to be the default dining option.
When you are cooking for someone you love, the stress and strain of preparing the ingredients (I have my own obsessive-compulsive layout of my home mise en place), fighting with a stove that won’t co-operate and the horrors of washing up are minor sacrifices.
A smile that lights up after the first sip or bite; a bowl or plate wiped clean at the end of the meal: these small things make every new recipe an adventure and its own reward.
Yet whenever my better half is not around, I confess I am given to sin. The sin of Sloth, that is. Overnight I return to my bachelor days and am tempted daily to hit the speed dial for some convenient (if not entirely guilt-free) fast food delivery.
Fortunately some severe admonishment from my partner has made me see the light. Dining solo is no reason to sup poorly. Long cross-continental video chats cannot be my single nourishment. I must eat, and eat well.
Don’t get me wrong though; I’m still utterly lazy.
However, necessity being the mother of innovative cheats, I have come up with a reasonable compromise. Inspired by the sensational miso ramen we had in Sapporo – oh, all that luscious butter and fresh corn! – I have decided to incorporate this simple yet nutritious ingredient in a one-pot dish that even the most hardcore of bachelors out there would approve of.
Usually we only encounter miso in the form of miso soup, an accompaniment to whatever bento meal we order at a chain Japanese restaurant in the city. “Fresh” miso is readily available at supermarkets in plastic tubs and tastes far superior.
Miso is traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (the fungus Aspergillus oryzae). Sometimes other grains such as rice and barley are added. Salty, earthy and rich in protein and vitamins, this single ingredient will help to keep us in good health.
I add it to a “rice soup” dish, with plenty of vegetables added and some tofu for good measure, and the result is a bowl brimming with flavours and guaranteed to sustain me till my next video chat, when I shall present this as proof that I am taking care of myself.
We should all take care of ourselves, so that we can care for the ones we love too. Enjoy.
BACHELOR’S MISO RICE SOUP
Here’s a trick I learned with cooking parboiled rice: don’t rinse it immediately. Instead, let it soak in enough water to cover for 10 minutes before rinsing. Also, parboiled rice requires less water than normal rice so add 1.1 cups of water to 1 cup of rice in the rice cooker. Once the rice is cooked, don’t open the rice cooker lid straight away. Let it rest for another 10-15 minutes with the heat turned off to help the grains get fluffier.
Another good trick is to cook a lot of rice ahead of time and let most of it cool down before freezing in separate containers, i.e. portion the rice out according to your serving size. When it’s time to cook your next round of miso rice soup, you can add the frozen rice directly to the boiling water without defrosting. In fact, allowing the rice to cool/freeze before reheating increases the amount of retrograde resistant starch which is said to lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity and aid digestion.
For the miso, I like awasemiso, a mix of both white and red miso, due to its balance of flavours. You can always try a lighter white miso (shiromiso) or a stronger-tasting red miso (akamiso) according to your personal preference.
1 cup of parboiled rice
1 cup baby peas
1 cup frozen spinach
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 packet soft tofu (approx. 350g), cubed
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
White pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of mat kimchi (fermented cut cabbage), optional
Cook the parboiled rice according to instructions. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add baby peas, frozen spinach and chopped tomatoes. Let it come to a boil again before adding eggs, parboiled rice and tofu. Once the eggs are cooked, turn off the heat and add the miso paste. Mix well before turning the heat on again to a simmer, not a boil, for a couple of minutes.
Ladle into a bowl and drizzle sesame oil on top. Add white pepper to taste and some mat kimchi if desired.
Yield: Two hearty bowlfuls. (Some bachelors have large appetites, no?)
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