Rice Cakes, Grain Rolls, Rice Sweets – The New York Times
Because loving rice is a lifestyle.
The chef and restaurateur JJ Johnson has a saying: “ Rice is culture . ” I have a saying, too: “Money over everything, rice under everything else. ” To me, loving rice is a lifestyle.
Rice was omnipresent in my childhood, and I’m perpetually craving it in my adulthood. I’ve come to love plus appreciate so many expressions of rice: tahdig , hashweh , jollof , bariis iskukaris . I thought I had experienced everything this grain had to offer — and then I met glutinous grain and rice flour. Each ingredient is really a dream for a person on a lifelong journey to discover all that rice has to offer.
Add-on Tteok That Steal the Show
A few weeks ago, I found myself at Nudibranch , a pop-up-turned-restaurant in the East Village. The three-course menu, featuring gigante beans with octopus, mussels and clams, frog legs shrouded in the flavors of Southeast Asia, is exciting enough. But my eye was immediately drawn to the add-on: country ham along with tteok and honey.
Fittingly, I enjoyed those warm and crunchy-tender Korean rice cakes underneath slightly salty ham along with a drizzle associated with floral honey with my colleague Priya Krishna, who first put me on to the rice-cake fundido at Haenyeo in Park Slope, Brooklyn, back in 2019.
The fundido dish in Nudibranch is a nod to tteokbokki, or smothered, stir-fried rice cakes. But , in this case, the bouncy tubes are additionally smothered in Oaxaca cheese, onions, jalapeños plus chorizo. It’s a messy affair, and easily one of the most fun dishes you’ll encounter on a fine-dining menu.
Saucy Grain Rolls and Toppings Galore
But what of the many versions of rice noodles , you ask. If you’re in Manhattan’s Chinatown, there are infinite rice rolls to explore — silky, broad steamed grain ribbons offered with a number of fillings plus little glasses of soy sauce. On an overcast Thursday recently, I loved the roast-pork rice rolls at Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle , where the turnaround is only a few minutes and the toppings are endless (crab meat and egg, dry shrimp, roast duck). It’s a perfect quick snack that doesn’t taste quick at all.
Or there’s my favorite dish at Bonnie’s in Williamsburg, which on a recent Saturday night was not as hard to get into as you might imagine. (We call this the hype paradox. ) Much has been said about the stuffed rainbow trout and the MSG martini, but what about the cheung fun, seared rice-noodle rolls, in XO sauce? It’s the dish I most look forward to eating when I’m there, a combination of unfettered rich flavor and immediate comfort.
Rice Creations for Dessert
And, of course , rice-based desserts abound, like the fermented red rice plus millet mochi doughnuts at Win Son Bakery in Williamsburg, and the fried tangyuan in Taipan Bakery , which has locations in Chinatown and in Flushing, Queens.
But I am really looking forward to trying the sweets at Lysée , Eunji Lee’s self-described “pastry gallery-boutique” in the Flatiron district, which usually, hot tip, just recently started taking reservations .
While the menu is awash with French patisserie buzzwords like crémeux, choux and sablé, I’m looking towards the brown-rice mousse along with pecan in addition to caramel, a flavor combination that makes my Southern heart sing, as well as the signature milk made with toasted brown rice.
I’d love to know: What are your favorite expressions of grain? Shoot me an email from [email protected] com , and you may very well see your answer here. After all, rice is the great uniter.
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