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During my Saturday sojourn to the farmers’ market I scored a beautiful piece of rosy Copper River sockeye salmon. If you’re not familiar with Alaska’s famed Copper River, fish from that area are considered by many to be the rock stars of the salmon world. Think of them as being rich, eccentric, and somewhat elusive, and – just like a rock star – bringing one home for dinner is guaranteed to provide you with a memorable evening.

When I was planning the rest of the weekend menu it seemed only fitting to pair my salmon with another elusive ingredient, “forbidden rice.” Forbidden rice is more commonly known as Chinese black rice (not to be confused with Thai black rice). Stories vary, but one legend claims the rice was believed to have unique powers and was grown to be eaten only by Chinese emperors — consumption of the grain by mere commoners was forbidden. Legends aside, this rice is indeed special and it’s utterly delicious.

Chinese black rice has a very short grain with a deep purple-black color, and when cooked it develops a rich, nutty flavor that matches well with its slightly chewy texture. Trust me, it’s worth the hunt — I checked several stores before locating the rice at New Sagaya Market in Anchorage. If you don’t have an Asian market in your local area, check with an online supplier and have a bag shipped to you. You won’t regret it.

Confession: I didn’t discover forbidden rice until a trip to Hawaii where I dined with friends at Roy’s Waikiki Restaurant. My dish of misoyaki butterfish arrived nestled deep in a bed of Chinese black rice … and it was love at first bite. Now please don’t get me wrong — the butterfish was sexy and absolutely divine, but it was the seductive quality of the black rice that added a dimension to the dish that would not have been present had any other variety been used.

Copper River Sockeye Salmon, Black Rice and Red Pepper Coulis | Alaska Food & Wine

Copper River Salmon with Forbidden Rice and Red Pepper Coulis
Serves 4

You can make this dish with another variety of wild Alaska salmon if necessary, but please don’t substitute farmed salmon. If you’re going to stoop to using farmed salmon, don’t bother with the Chinese black rice or the coulis — just whip up some Uncle Ben’s white rice and call it a day.

INGREDIENTS:

4  6 ounce pieces of Copper River sockeye salmon fillets, skin-on, scaled, and with pin-bones removed
1 Tbsp canola oil, divided
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1  large red bell pepper (more…)

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