Umami is the fifth of the five basic taste sensations that our bodies and minds recognize. It’s a savory, meaty flavor that is often achieved by simmering foods slowly in broth or other liquids. Umami can also be created by adding certain ingredients like mushrooms, cheeses and soy sauce to foods.
Rice is a food that naturally contains Umami, but it can be enhanced by cooking techniques. For example, soaking white rice in water prior to steaming can help to develop more of that savory, meaty flavor associated with Umami. Additionally, adding mirin, a sweet Japanese rice wine can help to bring out that Umami as well.
If you’re looking for a way to make your regular rice bowls more interesting, try using koji, a fermented rice inoculated with the fungus Aspergillus oryzae that is used in many Japanese dishes to add Umami to the food. Koji can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores, and it’s a great option for anyone looking to cook with Umami at home.
To prepare this Umami Rice Bowl, rinse your rice and drain the excess water. In a large pot, add your rice and the appropriate amount of water for your desired serving size. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer. Resist the urge to open the lid while the rice is cooking; every time you do, you lose valuable steam and risk unevenly cooked rice. Once the rice is fully absorbed, remove it from the heat and let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.