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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

HONOLULU PLUS: with a Special Focus on Rice and Sake

I inadvertently picked up a copy of Honolulu Plus magazine at Marukai this weekend and was surprised in two ways.  First, I did not know such a monthly existed, and second, some of the articles were quite good and educational.  As February was volume 22, I guess it's been around for 22 months, and, best of all, is FREE.  Of course, this is also a publication full of ads, but the maps of Honolulu are useful.

The February issue pointed out the 150th Anniversary of the First Japanese Immigrants to Hawaii:
  • If you did not know, and are of Japanese descent living in Hawaii (and I guess anywhere outside of Japan), you are a Nikkeijin.
  • Japanese represent 25% of the Hawaii population.
  • They (150) first came in 1868--about the same time as Kenjiro's (my father's father) parents left Akita for Hokkaido--and are called Gannenmono (first year men).
What I particularly enjoyed about this publication were the small print anecdotes at the bottom of the page, with tidbits like:
  • Israel Kamakawiwoole's Over the Rainbow is the top-selling song in Hawaii history.
  • Hawaii played a major role in scientists calculating the size of the solar system, in 1874.
  • Iolani Palace had electricity four years before the White House.
  • Students at my high school, McKinley, earned enough money during World War II to buy a B26 bomber.  I was not there during those years.  I further checked, and, apparently, it actually was a B-24 named Madame Pele.
  • Joanie Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi was written while on her first trip to Hawaii.
  • Hawaii's last Queen, Liliuokalani, composed over 300 songs, including Aloha Oe.
  • Want a free baseball?  Visit the grave of Alexander Cartwright at Oahu Cemetery, located just a few yards from where I now live.  See those balls?  People leave them here.  Whether Abner Doubleday or Alex invented the game of baseball is still  disputed, but the current sway is in the direction of Cartwright.
I can go on and on, for there were many more, but there was also a descriptive article about The Rice Factory, located in my home village of Kakaako.  

To educate some of you, there is white rice, which is the result of taking brown rice, and milling away the bran layer, about 10% of the grain.  As you must know, most of the vitamins and proteins are thus thrown away.  Why?  White rice is said to be "sweeter."  But such a waste.

Then, there are terms like 50% milled and 70% milled brown rice, which must mean that some of the brown part is retained. They don't make sake from the effluent because up to half of the outer layer of the subsequent white rice is further polished off to make the highest grade alcoholic drink.  This additionally-milled portion of the grain is also discarded.  Why do they do this?  Any retained protein destabilizes the fermentation process and the resultant starchy core minimizes unpleasant flavors.

Regarding sake:

This is why junmai daiginjo costs more than junmai ginjo, although most sake experts say the average person will not be able to distinguish between the two.  Heck, I can't tell the taste difference between junmai and non-junmai, nor the kind you find in a milk-container quart from those in a regular bottle.  Sort of the same for me on most wines.

Back to rice, why would anyone want to pay five or ten times more for these special grades?  Amazon sells regular rice for $1/pound, Uncle Ben's for $2/pound and Koshihikari for $4/pound.  I've seen Calrose on the shelf for 50 cents/pound.  The Rice Factory? Think Koshihikari.  No cheap rice there.  Not different from buying expensive wines, except that a 10 pound bag can last for a long time, so I do splurge with good reason.   I mixed those two bags on the left I purchased from The Rice Factory for my meal on Saturday with wagyu and otoro.  That bottle of red was my wine that day, which was a good example of a bottle costing ten times more than what is normally drunk.

Do you need to first rinse the rice with water?  Probably not.  However, some sellers still do add talc (magnesium silicate) to improve the look, and, while not particularly deleterious to your health, sounds icky.  Plus, you do get rid of stray products, rat excrements (I'm mostly exaggerating here) and dust.  But certain government regulations also prescribe the addition of vitamins and nutrients, which you will wash out.  Rinsing removes some surface starch, making the end product sticky.  But many like sticky rice.  The bottom line is do what you want.  If you're hopelessly lazy, don't bother.

The safe recommendation is to have three parts  water to two parts rice, by volume.  Don't try to complicate the process by thinking that there is a lot of air with the rice in a cup.  Yet, this ratio depends on country, because certain types of grains do need less or more water.  Most use a rice cooker these days so almost anything works well.  Note, however, that brown rice needs twice the water.

Soak the rice in the water for at least 30 minutes, if not overnight.  This is supposed to reduce the cooking time, thus retaining rice flavors.

No matter what I do with my rice cooker, I seem to get the same acceptable rice.  Through considerable discussion, I agree that the rice tastes best soon after harvest in a pot over a wooden fire cooked outside, slightly burned.  My rice cooker is somehow engineered to produce that minimally charred product.

Changing subjects and returning to Honolulu Plus, there was a particularly interesting article about the J. Ludovico Farm chicken.   Some of you might have heard of Kobe-beef or Kurobuta-pork, but, someday, there could well be Ludovico-chicken.  The birds are grown outdoors with no antibiotics.  They are delivered daily to customers and the liver is said to be like foie gras.  You can go to the Honolulu Farmers' Market at the Neal S. Blaisdell center from 4PM to 7PM on Wednesdays to test this out.  Cost?  Not provided. They have a problem with mongoose (the plural is not mongeese), but are working on it.  

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