12 (Sat) March 2011
Risotto with Pan-Seared Scallops and Golden Enoki Mushrooms
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Just as I’d always suspected but never bothered to look up for confirmation until now, arborio rice isn’t essential to make a proper risotto.
My first attempt at the dish, many years ago in the States, had me dutifully buying that particular variety as adamantly instructed by every recipe that I’d seen. Its high starch content, so they say, provides that distinctively creamy texture that’s desired in the dish. All these years since, I’ve kept arborio in the pantry for risotto.
Later in Korea, where arborio is expensive and/or nearly impossible to acquire outside a handful of import grocery stores scattered throughout Seoul, I was forced to try using local medium-grain rice, the kind that everyone eats here every day. Though feeling a bit guilty of the cheat, I noticed that the risotto turned out nice and creamy even without arborio.
Turns out that Arborio, named for the eponymous town in Italy, is a cultivar of the Oryza sativa Japonica sub-species, the very same sub-species to which regular Korean rice belongs, same as Japanese rice. Granted, differences in terroir may affect the flavors to a certain extent, but the respective starch contents of the two should more-or-less be identical.
Arborio rice, what a scam.
What elevated this dish to 5 stars, however, were the mushrooms. I’ve used standard white enoki on countless occasions through the years, of course, never even bothering to identify it as an ingredient in any of the post titles. But this golden variety was a first for me. I hadn’t even known they existed before seeing them in the supermarket a few days ago. On a whim, I tossed a few uncooked ones on top of the finished risotto for garnish, for the sake of the photo, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, raw, their slightly crispy texture and slightly bitter earthy flavor contrasted nicely against the soft buttery scallops and creamy cheesy rice. A garnish that actually works.
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