Nice Rice To Spice Up Your Life!

The grain staple of Asian fare made interesting.

By Chris Ong        3 November 2021

A little bored of pointing at the same old for your everyday caifan (economic rice)? A family member too tired out from cooking family-sized rice dishes? Yet, you and your loved ones still can’t live without your fluffy carbs? We suggest buying and trying some intriguing and delicious rice-based cuisines from around Asia.

Whether it’s Japanese glutinous rice or a soupy rice dish, a Korean rice bowl or Taiwanese rice roll, there are enough varieties of grains (not just white), and enough Asian and fusion flavours in them to tickle your palate. Pick through this list here for a “rice” time!


Photo: Yonehachi

No, it’s not a prefecture in Japan, neither is it the next new cult anime breakthrough. Okowa is actually a traditional festive Japanese steamed sweet rice dish mixed with various meat and vegetable ingredients.

The usual suspects in this: edible Japanese mountain wild herbs, plants and root vegetables such as baby bracken ferns, fiddleheads and butterburs, boiled bamboo shoots, azuki red beans, chestnuts, mushrooms and Japanese sweet potatoes.

The meat bits: roasted duck, diced sausage, chicken, char siu pork and seafood.

The rice: short grain, sweet mochigome rice.

Basically, think of it as glutinous rice mixed with all kinds of goodness, making for lots and lots of variations of this dish.

Yonehachi is your best bet for getting authentic okowa dish varieties. With over 4 decades of serving up this dish and some 140 okowa shops in Japan, the rice-based fare served here uses top-shelf grains from northern Japan prefectures such as Iwate and Akita.

Photo: Yonehachi

Options are aplenty here. Newbie foodies should order Yonehachi’s Classic Okowa; from about $8 for a 200-gramme takeaway (depending on the type), you get to try either the Salmon Okowa, Scallop Okowa, Cha Shu Okowa or Gomuku Chicken Okowa.

Need more for your dining pleasure? Then opt for the Yonehachi Okowa + Udon sets that come with a half-bowl of udon and a side dish of fried chicken or udon (from $11.90).

Need even more? Then head straight for the Makunouchi sets such as the Salted Egg Yolk Chicken Makunouchi Set ($16.90) or the Shio Salmon Makunouchi Set ($22.90) that come with a meat main and an Okowa rice dish, fried chicken, a mini bowl of udon and 3 pieces of gyoza.

Yonehachi, various locations, www.facebook.com/yonehachisg; www.instagram.com/yonehachisg

BONUS: SAFRA members get to enjoy 10% off à la carte menu at Yonehachi. Click here for more information.


Korean Rice Bowl

Photo: Gerill Bab

Skip your beloved poke bowl for one day and try a Korean rice bowl instead. It’s a compact assemblage of rice with grilled meat and veggies. That’s it.

What’s so special about a Korean rice bowl then? It’s humble comfort food that’s satisfying (taste- and hunger-wise) and affordable – at least it is at Gerill Bab.

Named so because Gerill sounds like “geulil”, the Korean word for “grill”, while “bab” means rice in Korean, this food kiosk found in malls specialises in seafood and meats cooked on a hot pan, Teppanyaki-style, that are served atop a bed of rice (or other bases such as noodles or salad).

Photo: Gerill Bab

Inspired by original Korean family recipes passed on by a certain Halmuni (Korean for grandma) Song, their mouth-watering halal-certified fare includes rice bowls featuring chicken, fish, beef patties and even premium beef and garlic butter prawns (from $6.80 and up).

Accompanying each Korean BBQ sauce-flavoured meat are sides such as kimchi, sliced cucumber, sous vide egg and seaweed flakes, making it quite a hearty meal.

You can also choose to add more ingredients to fill your bowl to the brim (we’re thinking the crispy Korean fried chicken cutlet or chicken wings), but each one is already flavourful enough.

Photo: Gerill Bab

It’s a family-friendly takeaway that even your own homecooked-food-proud granny will approve of.

Gerill Bab, various locations, www.facebook.com/gerillbab.sg; www.instagram.com/gerillbab.sg

BONUS: SAFRA members get to enjoy 10% off the total bill at Gerill Bab at Canberra Plaza every day (also applicable Mon-Thu for national servicemen with 11B). Click here for more information.



Photo: Café Kuriko

Okay, this isn’t exactly a true-blue rice dish – more like a soupy one – but it’s got enough grains in it to be considered for this list.

What it is: a “one-pot” hot pot (nabe refers to “pot” or the types of meals cooked in a pot, in Japanese) soup or broth that comes with either rice or udon in it, along with a variety of other ingredients. Just imagine a Japanese version of a porridge of sorts.

Where to try said Cha-nabe: Café Kuriko. Here you can slurp up several healthy-tasting flavoured soup-bases of Cha-nabe such as tomato, shio, tonkatsu and soya milk.

Our recommendations: The fusion-y and savoury Pork Katsu Kimchi Tonkatsu ($13.90) or Aburi Chicken Truffle Soya Milk ($15.90).

And remember to make space for any of the cafe’s desserts. Pick either its alcoholic Waguri (chestnut) Mont Blanc or the Purple Sweet Potato Mont Blanc ($13.90 each), with your choice of a chestnut or cheese cake base.

Photo: Café Kuriko

Both are mounds of coloured noodles of sweetened purée that are as Instagrammable as they are “instant-eatable” – they are the signature offerings of this Japanese Mont Blanc specialty store after all.

Café Kuriko, 107 North Bridge Road, Funan Mall, #01-11, 179105, www.facebook.com/cafekurikosg; www.instagram.com/cafekurikosg


Wholegrain Rice Rolls

Photo: QQ Rice

When one mentions rice rolls, some people think of Vietnamese rice paper rolls, cheung fun (rice noodle rolls) or kimbap (Korean seaweed rice rolls). But wholegrain rice rolls? Only one name springs to mind (at least in Singapore): QQ Rice.

An update on the traditional Taiwanese rice ball, QQ’s rice rolls are fist-sized chunks of rice stuffed with all kinds of fillings – kind of like a baguette sandwich, but made with rice instead of bread. The grains used, according to QQ Rice, are more nutritious and healthier than typical white rice: brown rice (to aid in weight loss), purple rice (to help improve the immune system), mixed grain (to help prevent stroke and cancer), wheat five (to aid in lowering cholesterol) and red rice (to help reduce the risk of cancer).

The popular rolls may be healthy but are belly-fillingly tasty. For less than $7, you can get one and go (they are made to be takeaway fare): Honey Goose Rice Roll, Chai Fish Rice Roll, Ah Ma Curry Chicken Rice Roll and Smoked Duck Rice Roll are some of its more novel meat options.

Photo: QQ Rice

There are also smaller, Japanese onigiri-like triangular Snack Rolls (from $3.30 each for a medium size and up) such as Oyster Mushroom Snack Roll and Wakame Snack Roll to snap up if you’re just feeling peckish.

QQ Rice, multiple locations, www.qqgroup.sg/qqrice; www.facebook.com/qqrice.sg; www.instagram.com/qqricesg