Friday, September 10, 2004

108 Gods in Salad

Rice Salad

Just like many other Japanese people, I LOVE RICE. Just like many other Japanese people, I feel very attached to rice and have a special feeling towards it. When I was a kid, my grandma did not get mad at me when I couldn’t finish the meat/vegetable on my dish, but she never let me leave the table with any rice left in my bowl. She strictly made me finish the rice, literally all --- without leaving any single grain in the bowl. According to her, there were gods (or spirits of nature) living in rice, so we should never throw them away. She said, “If you throw away rice, you’ll get punished and be blinded.” I wondered why the spirits were only living in rice and not in other foods, but I couldn’t ask her.

Anyway, that kind of childhood experience sort of molded my view on rice, and I had eaten rice only in conventional ways until I went to the U.S. (Of course I didn't believe that eating it in an untraditional way would make the Gods angry. It was more like --- to me, rice was just something different from other grains and beans.) After my stay there, I got very flexible about how I eat rice. I even tried chocolate rice pudding and I liked it. But still, I didn’t care for the idea of using the sticky short-grain rice in salad very much.

Then about one year ago, I started bringing back some leftover rice from where I work at night. There they mix some barley when cooking rice. This barley-mixed rice tastes OK when it’s warm, but it doesn’t smell or taste good when I eat it at home after work. I asked around for ideas to use the cold and smelly barley-mixed rice, and someone gave me an idea of making rice salad with it. (I can't remember exactly who it was. Sorry!)

This time it sounded OK to me, because with the barley mixed, the rice wasn’t as sticky as regular cooked rice. So I gave it a try, and I loved it!! Now this is one of my favorites.

Corns and soy beans are the key ingredients here; they HAVE TO be in my rice salad. These give some sweetness that goes very well with the sour dressing of olive oil and vinegar. And most important: the finely cut green perilla leaves on top. The flavor from this herb makes the salad something really special!

I'm sure of one thing, though. My grandma would've never ever approved of this.