Sitting at the table, staring at a fatty piece of meat. That sums up a large part of my childhood dinner experience. I didn’t like meat, yet a "no, thank you" didn’t quite fly in our household. You ate what was on your plate, or you sat there until you did. Or, you tried to discreetly throw away what was left but then your big sister told on you, so you were back at square one. So: all this in mind, for me, white rice was always a glistening, pristine savior of sorts.
These days, although Korean restaurants seem to continue to serve white rice, there seems to be a distinct shift away from plain old white rice in Korean households. I’ve been seeing all sorts of healthful concotions of brown rice, oats, millet, barley, red beans and other grains. There’s always been ogok-bap (five grain rice), which typically includes pat (red bean), chapssal (glutinous rice), gumjung gong (black soybeans), chalsusu (sorghum), bori (barley). But there are a lot of other varieties, as well. There’s also pat bap, which is usually just plain bap with red soybeans. I personally prefer a made-up mix of white short grain rice, barley and brown rice.
My umma says that these days, Koreans seem to have an aversion against white food – and no, I don't mean hamburgers. I mean literally white-colored -- everything plain white is just bad for you, whether it’s rice, flour or sugar. And believe it or not, Koreans are even growing more appreciative of tan skin as well (or so she says)! But for people who suffered through the Korean War, like my parents, white rice was very precious and served to the most important members of the household – babies, elders, etc. Everyone else had to make do with things like barley and wheat flour. So there is still that legacy attitude towards white rice, mixed in with a new attitude of ever-vigilant awareness of what’s healthy.
All of that adds up to more consumption of different types of rice. If you want to hop on that bandwagon, here's how -- generally, forethought is involved with multi-grain rice. If you haven’t given in to the pressure cooker/rice cooker frenzy, and you find yourself hitting the quick cook button on your rice cooker, you may need to change your ways a bit.
The key? Pre-soak, pre-soak, pre-soak and in some cases, pre-boil: pat (red bean) and gumjung gong (black bean) both require soaking of 30 minutes to 1 hour, and pre-boiling (approximately 10-15 minutes – the more you soak, the less pre-cooking you have to do). Even when you put the rice into the cooker, you have to mentally account for more time to cook as you prepare the other components of your meal.
If you have a fancy pants pressure-cooker rice cooker, you don’t really need to do any of the pre-soaking or pre-cooking if you use the appropriate settings. However even my hand-me-down Zojirushi with a few mixed rice / brown rice settings seems to take an inordinate amount of time when I actually use them. I prefer to pre-soak and pre-cook and just use the regular (white rice) setting. Recipes for multi-grain rice: