Today was ‘Shared Lunch” day at Magnus’ school. The children bring food from home to share with their classmates, and as the school is an international school with kids of different nationalities, it becomes a day to share their national dish, cuisine from their home country.
In view of this lunch, I had asked Magnus a few days ago what he thought we should bring.
“Maybe we should bring some noodles? Everyone likes noodles”, I said. He was patiently drawing his new superhero ninja figure in his large sketchbook, and he lifted his head up and said – quite categorically – “I think we should bring rice with soy sauce. Everyone likes rice and soy sauce”.
Really? – I thought to myself. Isn’t it too simple? I knew exactly what kind of ‘rice with soy sauce’ he was thinking about. It is his staple – rice with roasted salmon and nori seaweed. Sometimes with pine nuts or chopped kale.
Can I really bring just a rice dish to a special lunch day?
“Mommy, we should really bring that rice”, he said again. And went back to his drawing.
So rice it was. I knew I wanted to bring it warm and fresh and that it would take me only a few minutes to make it and get it into a tupperware. So I waited to the last minute to whip it up and dash out of the house. Of course, I miscalculated the time and was 10 minutes late. The tables and chairs had already been set up by diligent mothers who were there on time. All I could do was to quietly offer my tub of rice. Thankfully, it was still warm.
This is a great dish for parties, because you can make a large batch and it keeps well even when it cools down to room temperature.
Now some people in Japan, like my mother, would say that this is akin to cat food. And maybe that is true for the older generation in Japan (they used to mash leftover fish and fishbones with some rice and give it to street cats). They would say that I should not mash together fish and rice. That each item should be eaten separately. And mainly, they would preach, that rice should be appreciated in its plain rice glory without added flavors.
But they forget that while rice is usually consumed plain in Japan, it is also enjoyed as a ‘mazegohan’ – mixed rice – with its myriad of chazuke (rice spice) flavorings with dried fish flakes and nori, with bonito flakes, with tea and pickled plums, and so on and so on.
In my view, that which gets a child eating is good enough reason to keep mixing things up and moving it along. And when it is about salmon, one of the best sources of DHA Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, calcium and Vitamin B12, I try not to get too overwhelmed with tradition and keep doing what works for my son.
So rice dish joined the other dishes from Brazil, England, Belgium, Sweden, France, U.S., India, Japan, Holland and Spain and hence was our ‘shared lunch’.
It was a lovely lunch. And Magnus was right. His friends loved his ‘rice with soy sauce’, as did the teachers and mothers.
Sometimes, simple is best.
Here are some of what the other kids brought to share:
Rice with Salmon, Soy and Nori
(Serves 8-10 kids for a party)
6 cups freshly cooked rice, brown or white
3 salmon filets
4 -6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 large Nori seaweed sheets
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. On a baking sheet, place foil and then the salmon filets, making sure there are no bones in the filets.
3. Roast for 5-7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. It should be pale pink and flaky when touched with a fork.
4. In a large bowl, place the fish filets and with a fork, mash it up so that it is broken up into small pieces.
5. Add the rice and soy sauce and toss well – You should fold it together with a large spatula so that you don’t smash up the rice – it will become sticky.
6. Put the rice mixture in a container or serving platter and with a kitchen knife, cut the nori seaweed into small pieces and sprinkle on top. Serve immediately.