Kitchen & Pantry

From the Chinese grocery store: rice cakes rice-cakes

After our delicious meal at Wai-Ying in Chinatown last Sunday, we went to the Chinese grocery store across the street. Wait, wrong sequence. We ate at Wai-Ying, we crossed the street, Sam saw a toy store and went in. I had to call Speedy who was already walking toward the Chinese grocery store. We followed Sam into the toy store, she saw stuffed toys, started caressing them, smiled sweetly and asked us to buy her one. We said no. She went to the the wristwatch section, looked at a Disney watch, asked us to buy her one, we said no. She’s 21 and almost done with college, in case you’re wondering. And I started pushing her out the door and onto the sidewalk.

Then, we went to the Chinese grocery store. And I wanted to buy everything. But I didn’t. It was just a momentary impulse. I looked at the items on the shelves, spotted a lot of vegetarian ingredients and started choosing. Among the items we bought was a bag of rice cakes — similar to tikoy but not sticky and unsweetened. There is a fresh version of these rice cakes sold frozen in Korean grocery stores. I’ve been meaning to try them, never got around to it because the frozen bags were too large and I wondered what we’d do with all those rice cakes if, after trying a batch, we decide we didn’t like them. rice-cakes2

The dried version that I found at the Chinese grocery store came in smaller packs. That’s how they look. Each piece is separated by a plastic sheet.

To cook the rice cakes, they need to be rehydrated. For soups, drop the rice cakes in boiling broth and cook until softened, two to three minutes according to the package instructions but it was more like five to seven minutes in reality. If preparing a stir fry, the instructions said cook the rice cakes in water or broth first before adding to the stir fry.

The rice cakes are slightly chewy when cooked and they absorb the flavors of whatever they were cooked with. I haven’t tried making a stir fry with them but I have made a simple spinach soup with the rice cakes. They make a light vegetable soup more filling, definitely (the soup recipe, coming up) and because of their capacity to soak up flavors, they turn out to be really savory. Very nice.

What else did we buy? A few other vegetarian cooking ingredients, vacuum-packed ready-to-eat vegetarian food for Sam, a tray of mochi for Alex…

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