Monday, June 04, 2007

Healthy Rice in Korea

Big bowl of rice
In my experience, the only food that Koreans eat more often than rice is kimchi. Rice is eaten at every meal except when the main dish is noodle based, and something I heard once was that Koreans take a bite of rice for every bite of 'other' food they have. The traditional rice is either medium or short grain white rice, which is *really* bad for you. White rice is very easily metabolized and has few nutrients, so a daily diet of lots of white rice will lead to diabetes or other health problems.

Because of this, Koreans have come up with a way to have their rice fix and still be healthy. The solution is called 잡곡 ("jahb-gok"), or mixed grains. I learned more about jabgok thanks to my sister-in-law, who stayed with us the last two weeks. There so many different ways to serve jabgok that I don't have time to list them all, but here are a few different variations.

Jabgok, or multi-grain rice

1. White sweet rice with either wild sweet rice, black soybeans, or sweet red beans
2. A traditional Chinese mixture called 오곡밥 ("oh-gok-bahp"), which literally means '5 grain rice'. This is not always the same mixture, but it is usually a mix of sweet and medium grain rice mixed with glutinous sorghum, glutinous millet, dried black beans, and dried sweet beans (a type of red bean).
3. Recently, it has become fashionable in Korea to stuff as many different whole grains as possible in their jabgok. Here's the ingredients list for one brand, called '오색잡곡 (20곡)', which means something like "5-color mix of 20 grains":

  • White color - germinated brown rice, sweet brown rice, kidney bean (peeled, I guess??), pearled barley, glutinous corn, sweet white rice, 향미brown rice (whatever 향미 means...)
  • Black color - black 향미, tiny black soybeans (sometimes called 'rat eye soybeans'), another type of black soybean (서리태)
  • Blue color (? I didn't know there were any blue foods, but it clearly says 푸른색, which means blue color, and the prefix 청 means 'blue') - 청태 (blue soybean?), 녹쌀 (maybe peeled mung beans?), blue millet
  • Red color - sweet red bean, 울타리통 (???), sorghum
  • Yellow color - soybean, yellow glutinous millet, whole wheat
Notice in the picture above that the mix often looks very similar to birdseed sold here in the US. The jabgok I use has only 10 grains, so I guess it's not as healthy as the above. ;-) Mine has brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, millet, barley, green split peas, peeled mung beans, black eyed peas, kidney beans, and sweet red beans. I've also seen jabgok with various kinds of sesame seeds, as many soybeans as are known to man, job's tears... you get the idea. You can very easily make your own. Just so long as the main ingredient is sweet rice, you should be good.

Jabgok should be cooked in a pressure cooker (or even better a rice cooker that can also function as a pressure cooker -- which ours, being a cheap old model, cannot), but I'm getting around that by soaking the beans separately. First I quick soaked them (boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let soak for 1 hour) while the other ingredients were soaking in room temperature water. After the quick soak was done, I drained the water and added the bean mixture back to the soaking rice mixture and left it for another hour. Then I cooked it all on the stovetop as I usually do for brown rice. The end result was a slight bit watery (although perfectly fine after I boiled off some of the water). I think this was due to the fact that the pan I usually use for rice was dirty, so I had to use my Dutch oven -- and I always estimate the amount of water needed. The good news was that beans were only a little bit underdone. This is an extreme improvement over my last few attempts at cooking rice and beans together. Next time I think I'll let the beans soak in the warm water the whole time, instead of half hot water and half lukewarm.

In the meantime, maybe we'll save up some money to invest in a real rice cooker. Read the (English) description of the product. You will be amazed at the technology involved in cooking a batch of rice. So there you have it.

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Myfriendconnie

    This looks good. I wish we could get all those things in our small town.

    Harmony, I commented on your dad's blog and he replied that he had a daughter that he thought I would like, as we had a lot in common! I told him, yes, indeed, and that, in fact, you are on my side bar!

  • Harmony

    Lol... I forwarded him that comment you made a month or so ago about his comments on another blog, but I guess I forgot to let him know who it was who said that. ;)

  • Iris

    There's so many different kinds of rice! I know that 녹두 is mung bean, the kind that you use for 빈대떡 (sp?).

    I really like the voice guide function on that rice cooker (in the link)! It's not a function I would really need but it would be a neat thing to have. =) And 13 minutes, wow!