A steaming bowl of chicken broth is brought to the table. As the server pours crisped rice into the bowl the air is filled with the sound of sizzling and popping. It’s sizzling rice soup, one of my favourite soups at any Chinese restaurant. It is light and full of flavor. The crispy rice adds a fun crunch with each bite.
Have you ever noticed how it’s hard to not have “just on more bite” when you go to a Chinese restaurant? There are many great chefs in those places, crafting amazing dishes but the “need” to have more is often connected to the addition of monosodium glutamate better known as MSG. It’s what makes cheap Chinese taste better than it is and quality food burst with even more flavor.
When I get Chinese food out I have gotten into the habit of ordering it without added MSG, I’ve noticed that the dishes that once had spot-on, beyond tasty flavor suddenly lack salt and that extra bit of flavor that I had come to expect.
The key to dishes that might normally rely on MGS is to create umami. It’s the “5th taste”. Umami when translated from Japanese can mean “delicious” or “pleasant savory taste”. A Japanese man discovered that the flavor that made food taste so good was L-glutamate. He later went on to create a stable form of it that we now know as MSG.
How do you create a natural umami flavor in foods like this sizzling rice soup? The key is in rich homemade chicken stock and naturally fermented soy sauce (or tamari) both of which contain L-glutamate or umami. I love that these flavors can easily be crafted in your own kitchen!
Sizzling rice soup is really not that hard to make, the most difficult part is the rice cakes which you can make ahead of time and the give a quick fry before you add them to your hot soup.
If you don’t have the time to fry the rice cakes you can add them to the soup five minutes before removing it from the heat, you’ll be missing the signature sizzle but the slight crunch will still be there. Another thought would be to add leftover rice to the soup five minutes before serving. It won’t be quite as fun but the flavor will still be there.
However you fix the soup it is still going to be delicious, making your tongue and stomach very happy. Now I want another bowl of this sizzling rice soup!
Sizzling Rice Cakes
- 2 cups cold cooked white rice
- 4 cups coconut oil/palm shortening/tallow
- Shape the rice into small flat disks about 2 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.
- Place on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 250 F for 1 hour or until completely dry.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat.
- Break a small piece off of one rice cake. Throw it in the oil. If is puffs up in less than 10 seconds you will know that the oil is hot enough.
- Gently place a rice cake in the oil. Once it puffs remove immediately from the oil. Place on a paper towel or cloth towel to drain.
- Fry only enough rice cakes for the amount of soup that you will be serving.
- Store the remaining rice cakes (if there are any in a glass container) for up to a month. Fry the cakes as needed.
- Add to a hot bowl of soup and listen for the sizzle!