THE GOCHISO GOURMET: The healthier road traveled

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Ryan Tatsumoto’s Whole Grain Fried Rice. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALI was tasked with discussing healthier dietary options especially for those in the Japanese American community and immediately ran into a roadblock. While the Japanese no longer have the longest life expectancy as of 2022 (Hong Kong surpassed Japan by about three months), the average woman in Japan has a life expectancy of more than 88 years and the average man has a life expectancy of just under 82 years. A lot of this is due to diet, as the Japanese consume a lot less beef, more than 144 pounds per year less than Americans, and more than 59 pounds less pork per year than Americans, while also consuming more than 59 pounds per year of seafood compared to Americans. They also consume 16 pounds more soybeans than Americans per year.
So that doesn’t leave a lot of room for dietary tweaking. But as they say, there’s always room for improvement, right?

Sukoshi Shio
While salt consumption in Japan has slowly been declining, the average Japanese still consumes about 10 grams of salt per day (about two teaspoons), which is about 10 percent more than the average American. This is likely in the form of pickled vegetables and shoyu. If you live in an environment that faces harsh winters, pickling is a necessity to store vegetables during the cold season. However, since we arrived in America, most vegetables have become available year-round, even for those residing in the Northern latitudes, so salt pickling is no longer a necessity. And there are lower sodium alternatives or vinegar to pickle your excess bounty in the garden.

For those addicted to shoyu, reduced sodium shoyu has always been an option at most supermarkets. All the larger brands produce a reduced sodium product, which usually contains 40 to 50 percent less sodium than their usual product.

Less Gohan
If you’re fasting, or random blood sugars are running outside of the normal range, or if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you should reduce your consumption of rice to one cup serving portions if rice is the only starch you’re consuming, and even less if you’re also consuming other starches like noodles, potatoes or bread. And better yet, eventually make the switch to whole grain rice, better known as brown rice.

Because brown rice still has the fiber and bran coating, it takes longer to digest, so it won’t spike your blood sugar right after eating. The only drawback to the fiber is it does take a little longer to cook brown rice and you should also soak brown rice for a longer period to get the best finished product. The good news is that many of these newer rice cookers have a brown rice setting that does the soaking and cooking for you so that your brown rice is just as fluffy as white rice.

Another benefit to brown rice is that due to the outer bran coating, you can actually make great fried rice as soon as the brown rice is cooked. With white rice, I normally use day old rice that I leave in the refrigerator for two days so that the rice doesn’t remain clumped when making fried rice. Clumping isn’t an issue with brown rice, so right after it’s done cooking, you can immediately use it for fried rice.

In late 2003, celebrity kung fu actor Jackie Chan opened a Jackie’s Kitchen at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, complete with flair bartenders (popularized by the Tom Cruise movie, “Cocktail”). While it closed just three-and-a-half years later, there’s one dish that I still try to recreate in my kitchen — (“try” being the operative word, since I never received the actual recipe) — the fried rice, which used brown rice, lots of chopped green onions and cremini mushrooms. It wasn’t heavily flavored with the usual oyster sauce and shoyu, but rather had a dashi-type of flavor. I originally posted my recipe way back in 2006 but since I’ve changed some of the ingredients, here we go again.

Ryan’s Whole Grain Fried Rice

Ryan Tatsumoto’s Whole Grain Fried Rice. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

4 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb. cremini mushrooms
quartered
10 or so fresh shiitake
mushrooms (stems removed/roughly diced)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup fresh green onions chopped to half inch length
2 tsp HonDashi
2 tsp reduced sodium shoyu
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp canola or
macadamia nut oil

Roast quartered cremini mushrooms at 350-375 degrees until almost all of the moisture leaves the pan — about 10 minutes (you must pay attention — you don’t want the mushrooms to dry out — they will stick to the pan). Heat oil on medium to medium high, add minced garlic and sauté just until the garlic starts browning. Add shiitake mushrooms. When the shiitake looks just cooked, add the roasted cremini and toss. Add about half of the HonDashi and mix. Add rice, breaking up clumps and toss with mushrooms. Add the rest of the HonDashi and shoyu and continue to stir for one to two minutes to incorporate the HonDashi. Then add green onions and cook for another two minutes.

Be a Teetotaler

Seedlip Non Alcoholic Spirits. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Because I’ve been discussing my cocktail prowess on the monthly “Nichi Bei Café” videos on YouTube, this probably applies to me more than the rest of the Nichi Bei audience. But as you know, there are many consequences of chronic alcohol consumption. Never mind the possible DUI or binge Amazon purchasing, regular alcohol consumption increases the possibility of oropharyngeal and breast cancers, liver damage and possibly accelerated dementia as well as increased blood pressure and heart failure. So while Ms. S and I attended a lunch benefiting Slow Foods at the annual Negroni Week held on the third week in September, Brick Fire Tavern in Honolulu offered three standard negroni variants plus a fourth non-alcoholic version, the Party Mom Negroni. It contained three beverages that mimicked the usual alcoholic versions of aperitif and bitters: Seedlip Grove 42 Citrus, Giffards Aperitif and Crodino Aperitivo all without any alcohol. And it tasted surprisingly good. So much so that I immediately did a Web search and purchased several of these alcohol-free beverages.

Because the Giffards Aperitif isn’t available in the 50th, I substituted the Free Spirits Spirit of Milano (produced in Marin County) which mimics the bitter red liqueur, Campari. Since a negroni also contains gin, I purchased the Fleure alcohol-free “gin” but it didn’t add much flavor so my teetotaler negroni ended up with equal parts of the Seedlip Spice 94 Aromatic and Spirit of Milano. I also use these as mixers when creating cocktails for Ms. S as they provide flavors found in bitters or vermouth but keep the alcohol level lower than beer and they also make good libation substitutes when you are the designated driver or if you decide to participate in the annual Dry January giving the body a rest from the holidays potential libation excesses…

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/ recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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