It is not exactly surprising that I love rice. Growing up, first in Singapore and then in England, with a Malaysian Chinese mum meant at least half of our dinners revolved around this grain. Occasionally it would be colourful nasi gorengs, or beautifully spiced biryanis laced with cardamom and turmeric but more often than not it was plain, boiled rice which served as an accompaniment to more punchy meat and vegetable dishes. Rice is the ultimate blank canvas that sits unintrusively in the background of more vibrant accompaniments while providing essential comfort and carbs.
One of my favourite examples of rice in its behind-the-scenes guise is this sushi bowl. I adore sushi, but getting out the nori and mats to roll my own is far more than I can be bothered with on a lazy day off, so for lunch today I settle for the much simpler but equally satisfying chirashi sushi – which translates as ‘scattered sushi’. Here you just fill a deep bowl with lightly vinegared sushi rice and top with whatever protein and vegetables take your fancy. Note: in Japanese these toppings are called ‘gu’, which I find quite pleasing…childish I know.
Today I top my rice with very lightly seared keta salmon fillets crusted with seeds and some of the beautiful things I filled my basket with at my local greengrocers. I particularly enjoy the saline tang of monks beard (one of my favourite sea vegetables), the deep, meaty umami of pan-fried shiitake mushrooms and, perhaps most of all, the mellow earthiness of thinly sliced raw beetroot. Pick and choose whatever vegetables take your fancy but here the combination of raw and cooked, salty and earthy, soft and crisp work perfectly and is something to keep in mind when building your own bowls. It may not have the finesse of creating your own rainbow rolls but in its own way this bowl is utterly beautiful, delicious and thanks to the shy and retiring rice, lurking beneath the layers of reds and greens, it will absolutely keep you going until dinner!
Seeded-Salmon Sushi Bowl
- 300g Japanese sushi rice
- 400ml water
- 80ml sushi vinegar (I used Uchibori brand)
- 2 very fresh keta salmon fillets, skinned
- 60g mixed seeds (here I used sunflower, pumpkin, chia and sesame seeds)
- 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
Use whatever vegetables you like but here I used the following:
- 5 shiitake mushrooms – sliced and pan-fried
- 1 small raw black radish – thinly sliced
- 1 small raw beetroot – thinly sliced
- 1 bunch monks beard – picked and blanched in salted water
- 1 head radicchio
- 1 bunch purple-sprouting broccoli – blanched in salted water
- handful purple mustard cress leaves
Rinse the rice with cold running water for a minute or two to get rid of any excess starch. Cover the rice in water and leave to soak for half an hour.
Drain the rice and add 400ml of fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer with a lid on for 15/20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave uncovered to steam for another 15 minutes. While the rice is still warm gently fold through the sushi vinegar.
Lightly oil and season the salmon fillets before coating both sides in seeds (these should stick to the oiled fish, but be delicate otherwise you’ll lose your coating!)
Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick frying pan and lightly sear the salmon for a minute on each side (or for longer if you prefer it cooked through, which I definitely do not).
Fill a bowl with the sushi rice and top with the salmon and choice of vegetables. Serve with soya sauce and wasabi.
Makes 2 generous sushi bowls