Vegetarian Rice Bowls

This is magical meal is my happy place, my comfort food, my “it’s been a hard day” dinner. I have spent years making and improving upon this signature bowl of heaven, and the best part is, it’s infinitely adaptable and flexible to whatever you have the house. The only must-haves are rice, eggs, and some kind of vegetables. The recipe below outlines what I did on this particular evening, but I’ve notated where there is flexibility if you want to mosey off in a different direction.

Regarding poached eggs. They are extremely satisfying to make (dare I say, therapeutic…??) once you get over the fact that they’re theoretically daunting and sometimes you’ll fail. Just have an extra egg or two on hand, so no harm no foul when one goes awry. More on poaching eggs at the bottom of the recipe (and Nathaniel will be posting his own musings on poached eggs shortly). The best part is, if you don’t want to poach eggs for this dish, just fry an egg, plop it on there and enjoy.

Ingredients: (serves 2 with some extra veggies and rice)

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2-4 eggs (depending on hunger level, plus extras for a sense of security)
  • 1 head broccoli*
  • 1/2 white onion*
  • 2 large carrots*
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 sheet dry nori (seaweed) or 1 package non-flavored seaweed snack
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2-3 scallions
  • Black or white roasted sesame seeds
  • Tamari or soy sauce
  • Optional: chili garlic sauce/sambal oelek (huy fong’s is sold in most grocery stores and is THE BEST) or sriracha
  • Optional: pickled daikon or cucumber or onion

*Note: you can sub out or add to the vegetables above with whatever is in season or appeals to you. I’ve done kale, squash, green beans, brussels sprouts, and more. I will say that I think broccoli, carrots and onions are a winning combo because they all cook at relatively the same speed/temp. If you use kale, I recommend sautee-ing it with some garlic instead of roasting it.

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and chop up the broccoli, onion and carrot into bite-size and similarly-sized chunks. Arrange on a baking sheet, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned and cooked to your preferred level of doneness. I like my broccoli with some crunch to it. [Sidebar: the broccoli is totally good just like this, but also is extra satisfying with a squeeze of lemon juice or with a little garlic if you want to add some brightness].

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While the vegetables are roasting, begin the process of microwave frying your shallot. You can check out my super simple technique in my recipe for Vietnamese Chicken Salad. In a nutshell, slice the shallot into 1/8″ rings, lay them flat in the bottom of a glass dish, just cover with vegetable oil, and then cook in the microwave in 1-2 minute increments until golden brown. Let them cool on a paper towel before transferring to small dish.

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Start the rice cooking however you cook rice (stovetop or rice cooker). While all of this is happening, chop and prepare the rest of your garnishes! Roughly chop your cilantro and scallions, and shred your nori or seaweed snack. Keep all the garnishes separate to keep the fried shallots and nori from getting wet or soggy.

Poach your eggs. [Full instructions at the bottom. Not going to waste time here for those of you who prefer to fry an egg. You know how to do that.]

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Now assemble! Fill the bottom of a bowl with some cooked rice, top with an assortment of roasted vegetables and 1-2 eggs (poached or fried). Top with shredded nori, fresh cilantro, fresh scallions, fried shallot, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. If you’re brilliant, you have some picked daikon or cucumber on hand, definitely throw some of that on. Then drizzle tamari and soy sauce, and finish with some chili sauce or sriracha if you want some heat.

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On poaching eggs:

Poaching eggs just requires practice, but is a very worthy endeavor. It’s a great skill to have in your arsenal of culinary prowess. It’s finnicky, no doubt….but it’s just pretty damn great when you poach a perfect egg. I’m somewhere in between a beginner and an expert: I can barely do more than 1 egg at a time and I still use less water than you’re supposed to. My tricks below are reliable though, and when you master this you should go onto greater heights and poach multiple eggs at a time in a gallon of water, then write to me about it.

Step 1: heat a pot with roughly 2 inches of water. Most savvy poachers use a few more inches of water and they say the egg will sink then come back up, but I’ve had unpredictable results with that approach and wasted too many eggs. So I’ve stuck with just 2-3 inches of water, which isn’t “wrong” but reveals my intermediate abilities.

Step 2: Add a big pinch of salt and 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar or other acid to the water. I use rice vinegar or white vinegar pretty much exclusively, but any kind of vinegar will work. Lemon juice works too. The vinegar helps keep the egg white intact, because, SCIENCE.

Step 3: Let the water come to *almost* a boil, but not a full boil. You want the water to have all those little bubbles, and maybe a few bigger “I’m about to boil” bubbles, but no rolling boil. The key is to keep your water at this exact state the whole time. Happy fiddling.

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Step 4: Crack an egg into a small dish to make it easier to add the egg to the water. The shallower the dish the smoother the transition to the water. If you break the yolk, shed a tear, throw the egg away and start over.

A note about step 4: you want a fresh egg. Poached eggs are the opposite of hard-boiled eggs. With hard-boiled eggs you want an older egg because fresh eggs are so freakin’ hard to peel. With poached eggs, I don’t know why, but when you drop an older egg into the water the egg white just scatter-explodes all around the water. Like some kind of weird milky awful freak out mistake. So….use fresh eggs, the white will stay intact and the result will be both beautiful and delicious. If you think you’re using fresh eggs but then you have an egg white freak-out-explosion, you have to fish that egg out, shed a tear, throw it away, and start over (perhaps even with fresh water, depending on how bad the egg scattered).

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Step 5: Gently stir the water in either direction, clockwise or counter clockwise. You want to be gentle because you want a calm rotation in the water, not a jerky or overly aggressive whirlpool. I actually think “whirlpool” is a really problematic term to use when discussing poaching eggs, at least for beginners. You just want enough movement to let the egg white swirl in a gentle circle around the egg yolk as the egg settles in the water. I use a flat spatula for this step to get the calmest stir possible (as opposed to a curved spoon or other implement).

Step 6: Gently tip the egg from the dish into the center of the slowly rotating water. It’s ok for the egg to settle right onto the bottom of the pan, you’re only going to let it sit there for a few seconds and this is why you only have 2 inches of water!

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Step 7: Watch the egg and as the whites get milky colored, start gently stirring the water in the same direction it has been swirling. Sometimes this action is enough to get the egg free floating around the pan, and sometimes you’ll need to gently coax it off the bottom by getting underneath it. This part takes practice to get comfortable and familiar with the egg and when it’s ready to move.

Step 8: When you’ve got the egg free of the bottom and floating, just keep it swirling and moving. Let it poach this way for 3-4 minutes.

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Step 9: Use a slotted spoon or spatula to lift the egg GENTLY out of the water after 3-4 minutes. This part also requires trial and error to decide how done you like your poached eggs and whether 3 or 4 minutes is going to be enough. You can gently poke the egg with your finger. You want the yolk to be definitely soft with plenty of give…but you want the white to have enough resistance that you can tell the whites are cooked. The egg shouldn’t be jiggly. The one featured below was NOT done yet and needed another minute.

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Step 10: If it needs more time, let it keep swirling. If it’s done, gently set it on a paper towel or dish towel to get rid of excess water.

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Pro-tip: you can pull your egg out 30 seconds or 1 minute before you think it’s truly done, and cook your other poached eggs. Then when ready to serve, gently put them all back in the warm water to heat them up and finish cooking. This trick allows you to serve poached eggs to multiple people at the same time without the stress of poaching all the eggs at the same time.

 

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