Jan 26, 2016

Hawaii's STICKY RICE... Is It Good for You?

The Hawaiian culture has a love affair with two scoops of sticky rice, Spam Musubi, Jook (Chinese rice porridge), Onigiri (Japanese rice balls), Fried Rice, Mochi Rice Pudding, etc., all of which are made from glutinous sticky rice, which comes in short and long grains. It's called sticky rice because of its glue-like texture. Sticky rice is a staple here on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i. Local families buy sticky rice in large 20 pound bags because it's cheaper in larger quantities, and rice keeps their families fed, but is all that rice good for you and your family? 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 1 cup serving of sticky rice contains 169 calories, or about 8 percent of your calories on a 2,000 calorie diet, and almost 37 grams of carbohydrates. Between 45 percent and 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Nearly all of the calories in sticky rice are from carbohydrates. Your ideal carbohydrate intake depends on your activity level and health status. For example, training for a marathon requires you to consume a higher percentage of carbohydrates. If you have diabetes, your health care provider may suggest sticking to the lower end of the range.

Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Filipinos are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes in comparison to other ethnic groups in Hawaii according to the U.S. Department of Health. A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone – low in saturated and trans fat, moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fruit, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Sticky rice has negligible amounts of other nutrients and is not a good source of fiber, vitamins or minerals. At least half of the grains you eat each day should be whole grains, grains like short-grain brown rice, wild rice mixed with brown rice, black rice, red rice, barley, corn, oats, quinoa, farro, etc. There are so many healthy whole grain choices other than refined grains like sticky rice.

After living in Hawaii for 14 years, I realize that no matter what statistics say, locals will continue eating large amounts of sticky rice, and that's the problem. Just like almost everything else we eat, sticky rice should be eaten in moderation. If you are a smart cook, serve lots of fruits, vegetables and fish alongside your rice, providing the vitamins and minerals your family needs.

Healthy Rice & Whole Grain Recipes:

Japanese Kabocha Squash Rice with Edamame
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Japanese Kabocha Squash Rice with Edamame
This beautiful side dish is a great way to use Japanese kabocha squash. Kabocha is very common here in Hawaii. It is a hard squash, has knobbly-looking skin, is shaped like a squat pumpkin, and has a dull-finished, deep green skin and an intense yellow-orange color on the inside. The sweet squash flavors the rice, and the edamame (soy beans) not only tastes wonderful, but adds a nice contrast to the dish. Serve with chicken, pork, or fish.

1 1/2 cups short grain rice
3 cups water
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 1/2 cups Kabocha squash (peel and cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 1/2 cups cooked & shelled edamame (soy beans)

Put rice in a bowl. Wash and pour water out, then repeat 2 more times. Place rice and water in a heavy medium sized pot. Let it soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile peel and cut the squash (I like to use a serrated bread knife). Set the squash aside. Just before cooking the rice, add salt and sake and stir. Add the cut Kabocha squash to the rice and bring everything to a boil on high heat without lid. When it reaches the rapid boil, put the lid on and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand for 10 minutes (don't open the lid.) Fluff the rice, and cooked squash, with a spatula (the squash will be so soft that it will be mashed a little bit, but that's OK.) Garnish with the cooked edamame. Makes 4-6 servings.

Green Papaya Chicken Soup
This is one of my favorite Filipino recipes. It is important to find rock hard, dark green papayas for this dish, with no sign of any yellow-orange on them.

2-3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2-3 pound whole chicken or parts cut into bite sized portions, remove skin
2 tablespoons fish sauce (patis)
3-4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups peeled and cubed unripened (green) papaya
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (optional)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until transparent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and saute another 5 minutes to partially cook and lightly brown. Add the fish sauce and stir well. Add water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes, stirring and skimming off fat and scum occasionally. Add cubed papaya and simmer another 5-10 minutes until papaya is tender. Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste and stir in the chopped spinach. This dish will be soupy when done. Serve with hot white rice on the side with Tamari sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Snow Peas with Mushrooms and Wild Rice
1 package (6 oz.) long grain white rice and wild rice
1 1/2 cups snow peas, trimmed, strings removed
1 1/4 cups white button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Cook rice according to package directions. Stir in remaining ingredients. Place in ungreased 9 inch square baking dish. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Bake, covered, 20 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Jook with Salted Duck Eggs
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Also known as Chinese Congee, a chicken rice soup, sometimes garnished with Chinese salted duck egg.

1/2 chicken
12 cups of water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 inch slice fresh ginger, crushed
3 green onions chopped

Cover chicken with water, add ginger, soy and salt, bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer for 1 hour until tender. Reserve broth.

Remove bones from chicken. Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces.

Place rice in pot with 10 cups of chicken broth to which soy and ginger has been added.

Bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat to low. Cook for at least an 1 hour, partially covered, stirring frequently. Soup is done when it reaches a porridge-like consistency. Remove crushed ginger.

Add minced green onion, more soy sauce and crushed red pepper as desired and serve.

Note: You can also garnish Jook with Chinese salted duck eggs (recipe), chopped bok choy, chopped watercress, chopped spinach leaves, or Chinese parsley (cilantro). Also turkey or pork works well in this recipe instead of chicken. Makes 8 servings.

Pineapple Stir-Fried Rice with Shrimp
1 ripe pineapple
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped, veins and seeds removed
2 spring onions, the green tops only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups shrimp, shells removed and deveined
3 tablespoons garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce or light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups cold, steamed Thai jasmine rice
cilantro leaves for garnish

Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise with green top. Scoop out the fruit, saving the two pineapple halves to use as bowls to serve the rice in. Chop the pineapple fruit into bite sized chunks, removing the tough core. Put the fruit in a bowl and add the shallots, jalapeno, ginger, green onion and cilantro. Add a pinch of salt to bring out the juice. mix and set aside. In a wok, over high heat, add oil, and stir fry the shrimp for 2 minutes or until just pink. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside. Stir fry the garlic a minute or so until golden brown, but not burned. Add the cooked jasmine rice, and stir thoroughly until slightly toasted. Add the fish sauce and sugar, and continue stirring. When the rice is heated through, add the pineapple mixture and cooked shrimp, and stir until thoroughly heated through. Pour the mixture into the pineapple shells, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve as a side dish. Makes 6 servings.

Potluck Fried Rice
Potluck Fried Rice
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Potluck Fried Rice can be any combination you like, whatever you have in your refrigerator. This is how fried rice started in China, throwing together whatever you happen to have and making a delicious meal out of it. Most of the work is in the preparation. The cooking only takes minutes.

3 eggs scrambled into an omelet then cut into thin strips
canola oil for frying
1 1/2 cups leftover roast pork tenderloin cut into thin strips
oyster sauce
6 cups of cooked day-old long grain rice
Tamari soy sauce or regular soy sauce
1 cup green onions sliced thin, divided
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup celery, small dice
1/2 cup broccoli tops cut thin
1/2 cup red bell pepper cut into small 1/4" squares
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts or chop suey mix (bean sprouts mixed with carrots, etc)
sesame oil
sesame seeds or furikake for garnish
Japanese cucumber cut thin on an angle for garnish
seasoned rice vinegar

In a wok on low heat, scramble eggs in a little canola oil to make a small flat omelet like cake. Remove and cut omelet into 1/2" strips and set aside. Add a little more oil to the wok and turn the heat up to medium-high, add the roast pork strips. Cook and stir for a minute or so, then add one teaspoon each of oyster sauce and Tamari soy sauce. Cook and stir one minute more. Remove the pork and set aside. Add half the green onions, garlic, celery, broccoli, bell pepper, and bean sprouts to the wok. Toss, then season with 1 tablespoons of oyster sauce, one tablespoon of Tamari soy sauce, and one teaspoon sesame oil. Stir-fry for 2- 3 minutes, then remove. Add a little more oil to the wok and the cooked rice. Season the rice with 2 to 3 tablespoons of Tamari soy sauce. Stir-fry the rice until heated through. Now add the pork and vegetables back into the wok with the rice. When well mixed and hot, you are ready to serve.

Pack the rice into a small bowl like a cereal bowl. Put your serving plate on top of the bowl and carefully turn it upside down so the bowl is now on top of the plate. Remove the bowl for a rounded mound of fried rice. Garnish the top of the rice mounds with the egg strips and the other half of the onions. Sprinkle sesame seeds or furikake on top. Arrange thin slices of cucumber around the fried rice and sprinkle seasoned rice vinegar on top of the cucumbers. Sprinkle more sesame seeds on top of the cucumbers and the plate. Makes 6 servings. Note: Adding shrimp to this combinations of flavors would be a good thing, I just didn't have any when I put this dish together.

Sesame Snow Pea & Tofu Stir-fry
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin or dry sherry
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 pound firm tofu, patted dry and cut into large dice
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound snow peas
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
Basic Steamed White Rice, for serving


Whisk together soy sauce, mirin, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small, nonreactive bowl; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. When it smokes, add tofu and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, shallots, and garlic and cook until starting to brown, about 1 minute. Add snow peas and sesame seeds and cook, stirring frequently, until peas are bright green, slightly softened, yet still crisp, about 5 minutes. Add reserved tofu and soy sauce mixture and cook just until tofu is warm and sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute more. Serve immediately over steamed rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

Octopus Rice (Tako-Meshi)
Tako-Meshi is a simple octopus rice dish that is popular in the regions bordering 
the Inland Sea in Japan.

2 octopus legs (boiled and chopped into small pieces)
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 1/2 cups short grain rice, rinsed
3, 4 inch pieces of dried kombu, (kombu is dried kelp, found in the Asian section of your grocery store. Soak it in water for 15 minutes before adding to rice)
3-4 tablespoons sake
2-3 tablespoons mirin (cooking wine)
2-3 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
salt (to taste)
3 cups water
fresh shiso leaf for garish (if you can't find shiso, use chopped green onions)

Cut the cooked octopus into small bite sized pieces. Combine all the ingredients and simmer in a tightly covered pot for 18 minutes, or until there is no liquid left in the pot (it helps to add a weight to the top of the lid to avoid loss of steam, or use a rice cooker). After the rice is done, let sit for 10 minutes, then uncover, remove and discard kombu, and stir gently with a rice paddle or spoon. Serve in small bowls garnished with freshly chopped shiso leaves. Makes 4 servings.

Black Beans with Garlic Rice
3 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons extra vigin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large or 2 small bay leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Garlic Rice:
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
3 cups long-grain rice
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
Garnish: chopped onions, avocado slices, sour cream

Place beans in Dutch oven (do not cook). Saute onion and green bell pepper in 2 tablespoons hot oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet 7 to 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Stir in garlic, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and ground black pepper; saute 1 minute. Add onion mixture, wine, and next 4 ingredients to bean mixture in Dutch oven. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Remove from heat; remove and discard bay leaf. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Drizzle beans with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve over Garlic Rice, and garnish, if desired.

Garlic Rice:
Press garlic cloves gently with side of a knife until lightly crushed but still whole. Saute garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons hot oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes or until garlic is golden brown; remove and discard garlic. Add rice, and saute 1 minute. Stir in 3 1/2 cups water and salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Do not uncover rice. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Drizzle rice with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and fluff with a fork. Makes 8 servings.

Portuguese Octopus Rice Stew
1- 3 pound braised octopus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
a pinch of crushed and dried chili pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups short grain rice
4 cups cooking broth (save the water where you boiled the octopus)
1/4 cup finelly chopped cilantro

Braise your octopus as directed in the instructions above. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a separate pot. Add the chopped onion, garlic, bay leaf, parsley and chili peppers. Cook until the onions are translucent. When the octopus is nearly tender place it in a plate reserving the cooking water. Cut the tentacles in bite size pieces and transfer to the onions. Add the rice and stir until all is combined. Mix in the tomato paste. Pour in about 4 and half cups of cooking broth. If you don’t have enough broth, add some water to make up the difference. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the rice for 12 to 15 minutes until the rice is tender. Mix in the cilantro and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Quinoa Hawaiian
If you have never tried quinoa, pronounced (keen-wa), it’s a wonderful whole grain that has a delicate nutty flavor and is easy to prepare. Quinoa is widely versatile and goes well with chicken, pork and fish.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped and roasted
2 green onions, chopped

In a small skillet, toast chopped macadamia nuts on low heat for about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn them, then set them aside. Next, heat olive oil and sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in quinoa and allow to toast for 2 to 3 minutes, then add vegetable broth, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until all liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Add dried pineapple and fluff quinoa with fork, cover and let sit 5 minutes. Serve hot, topped with green onions and toasted macadamia nuts. Makes 6 servings.

Chinese Black Rice with Shrimp & Squid
This dish is not only beautiful to look at, but delicious. In ancient China, black rice was considered so superior and rare, it was reserved exclusively for the emperor and royalty. These days the grain, also known as forbidden rice, has become very popular with chefs and people seeking superior nutrition. You can find black rice at well-stocked markets like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, or online.

2 1/2 cups water
1 cup black rice
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 pound cleaned small squid, bodies sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup tomato sauce

In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil with the rice. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat until tender, 45 minutes.

In a medium skillet, cook the onion and garlic in the butter over moderate heat until softened. Stir in the rice, season with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shrimp and 1/2 teaspoon of the rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until just pink; transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the skillet; increase the heat to moderately high. Add half of the squid and 1/4 teaspoon of the rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once, until the squid is just firm, 1 minute; transfer to the plate. Repeat with the remaining squid, 1/2 tablespoon of oil and 1/4 teaspoon of rosemary.

Add the wine to the skillet and cook for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Stir in the tomato sauce and the seafood; cook just until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Mound the rice on plates, top with the seafood and sauce and serve right away with an Avocado/Cucumber Salad with Celery. Makes 4 servings.

Farro Soup with Kobocha Squash & Kale
Farro is a hearty grain that was a mainstay of the daily diet in ancient Rome. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, similar to barley. You can find farro in most Italian grocery stores, well-stocked markets, or online.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup farro, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
1 medium kobocha squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into medium dice (about 6 cups)
1 bunch kale, large stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and measured salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 8 minutes. Add the herbs and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a simmer, about 15 minutes. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low and continue simmering, covered, until the onion is soft, about 15 minutes more. Add the soaked farro and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the kobocha squash and simmer, covered, until the squash is quite soft, about 30 minutes. Use a potato masher to mash some of the squash so it dissolves into the soup. Other pieces should remain whole.

Add the kale to the soup and simmer, covered, about 20 minutes more. Taste and season with more salt as needed and pepper. Serve hot, in warm bowls with crusty bread. Makes 6 servings.

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