Thursday, 10 November 2011

Shiitake Mushroom Barley Risotto

I know I have been blogging about soups and stews and all manners of "I want to go home and stay in bed" foods during the past 2 weeks of miserable colds, school and weather. Risotto must sound like another of my comfort food posts, but it's not. Risotto is special. I haven't even heard of the thing until I came to London (don't judge, have you heard of kway chap, tutu kueh, chye tow kway before? HAH.) My cold is over, the projects are over (for this week at least), and the weather is oddly getting more tolerable. So I decided to treat myself to a touch of fanciness.

But I didn't have the 2 key ingredients to a usual risotto: arborio rice and stock. I was looking at my larder again to see what I did have. I saw barley, which cooks up nice and "glue-y" too while retaining its shape, (not to mention being great for the skin and digestion) hurray! And for the cooking stock, I deferred to my usual asian cupboard essentials for quick stock (dashi): dried shiitake mushrooms and kelp. Hence this risotto, or barley-otto. <-- Edit: I realise there is a name for this kind of dish, it's called an orzotto. Boo.

Shiitake Mushroom Barley Risotto
serves 1
70g pearl barley
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 piece of dried kelp (otherwise known as kombu)
2 large shallots, finely chopped
small splash of rice wine
1 tbsp of "sweet dark" soy sauce (made from equal amts of traditionally fermented soy sauce and molasses, or you can use unrefined sugar)
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
white pepper, to taste
chopped parsley and spring onion, to finish

1. Briefly rinse, then soak the shiitake mushrooms and kelp in about 1 cup warm water for about 30 min. Reserve kelp for something else, slice the shiitake mushrooms up and let it marinade in the sweet soy sauce and sesame oil. Bring the dashi up to a simmer.
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan, and saute the chopped shallots till soft and translucent.
3. Add the barley and saute for about 2 min or so (it will not really get translucent like with rice). When it gets a bit toasted, add the splash of rice wine and stir until it evaporates.
4. Add a ladleful of the hot stock, stir until it has almost all been absorbed, then add the next ladleful. Continue like this on low heat but still keeping everything at a simmer, until the barley is cooked. It will be about 30 min, or when the barley is tender but still have a bit of bite and is kind of runny at the same time.
5. Meanwhile, saute the marinated mushrooms in a separate pan. Stir into the risotto for the last couple of minutes.
6. Remove the risotto from the heat, taste and season with white pepper and sea salt if necessary (note kelp is also salty), and then stir in the chopped parsley and spring onions.

I really like this! The barley gives a quite different flavour and an extra nutty texture to the risotto. It's also perfect for the fall/winter, because it immediately brings to mind hearty wholesome stews. I definitely will do this again with other vegetables when I've got some good homemade stock, not that the shiitake-kelp stock wasn't good; it was delicious with the barley, very savoury and full of umami.

I know it's yet another kitchen make-do, but it did turn out well, and one day, one day, I will be rich and spend it all on my kitchen (:


  1. Shu Han You are a marvel. That bowl of risotto looks so tempting. What a clever, healthy, frugal idea. I love it. Keep warm and healthy.

  2. Great comfort food! I love the Asian flavours - makes me feel at home. :D

  3. Wow. What an excellent take on the risotto. It looks so creamy! I have some dried mushrooms left over from my last trip to London and now I know what to do with them. Great tip on the stock too!

  4. this sounds GREAT! I just went out to Hougang this morning for a local soy sauce stockpiling exercise, so I might just have to give this a try with my new bottle of dark soy sauce! p.s. I'd defo go for the tutu kueh (my whole family is hooked on them), but still not brave enough for the kway chap! Ashamed to admit I haven't tried carrot cake yet... must try harder.

  5. This sounds and looks wonderful! What a fun, creative idea - to use barley instead of risotto!

  6. You are so creative! I love reading about cooking experiments and your impressions are so detailed and complete, I almost feel as if I had tasted your orzotto. It looks extraordinary (and if as you say it's so healthy, then I'll make it one day!).
    You've got me: I have never heard of "kway chap, tutu kueh, chye tow kway", so next time I want to open my eyes wide when someone ignores a popular European dish, I'll remember your words ;-)

  7. I too have made barley risotto and really appreciate how good it can be.

  8. That's very creative...using barley instead of arborio rice! The outcome looks very similar.

  9. An exotic duck called Shu Han(s)
    Owned some Le Creuset Pans
    She knew how to cook
    Without aid of a book
    'Cos she learnt what she knew, at her Mam's

    A little limerick for you.

  10. looks fab! i love risotto and orzotto!! yum yum yum

  11. peartreelog: thank you hahah that's a lovely lovely limerik. i WISH i had some le creuset pans though..

    leaf: I know, it reminds me of congee a bit (:

    dom: dried mushrooms are the best! my roommate and i get a giant bag from chinatown each time. best of all, they keep really well!

    little macaroon: try! i think you will liek it! the intestines honestly do not smell or taste of anything but the fragrant soy sauce they're braised in. gosh i must be putting others off now, but really, they are yummy!

    farine: thanks! unfortunately i wasn't exactly the first to have though of it,it seems ):

    sissi: heh go google them, they are delicious!

    stephen: yay!! plus cheap ;)

    biren: the flavour and texture is slightly different, barley is a bit nuttier and ..pearlier? but it makes a delicious alternative!

    victoria: yum yum yum!

    mycookinghut: thankyou!

  12. I love risotto, barley, rice - doesn't matter for me - the concept is the important thing and it's always so great. I had a fabulous shrimp ristotto a while ago... it was so delicious. The taste of wine with the big shrimps was wonderful.

    I find people can be real ass-hats about risotto - so, so snobbish. "Oh, this isn't a real risotto, the rice isn't al dente enough" blah, blah, blah - makes me mad. Half of the fun of cooking is playing about, experimentation, discovering new flavours. If no-one did that we'd still be eating chunks of meat grilled over a fire with raw leaves.

  13. this article, it was really informative yammy and testy your receipe, I’ll be looking forward for your next Kathi roll online order