Tuesday, May 13, 2008
What is it? Sprouted brown rice, known as hatsuga genmai in Japanese, is brown rice that is allowed to germinate by soaking the rice before cooking.
The process of germination enhances the bio-availability of nutrients by neutralizing phytic acid, the enzyme inhibitor in all grains, seeds and beans, that bind nutrients within the grain until the conditions are right for the grain to sprout. Consumption of unsprouted grains can lead to poor absorption of the nutrients in the grain. The incompletely digested proteins can irritate the intestines, leading to inflammation and allergic reactions. Neutralizing the phytic acid, releases the protein, vitamins and enzymes, allowing these important nutrients to be absorbed during digestion.
Traditionally, grains have almost always been soaked, sprouted or fermented before eaten. In Europe, bread was carefully cultured and fermented over a long period of time before being baked. In Africa, the staple grain millet has traditionally been soaked and fermented before being cooked into a porridge. In Scotland and Ireland, whole oats were always soaked overnight before cooking into a breakfast porridge, although we have lost that tradition in modern times with our instant oatmeal. In Asia, brown rice and millet traditionally were rinsed, then soaked overnight before cooking. Even today, the typical Japanese housewife knows to soak her rice before cooking.
In Japan there has recently been renewed interest in sprouted rice thanks to a number of recent scientific studies done on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring amino acid created during the germination process. The consumption of GABA is credited with important health benefits that range from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, boosting the immune system, improving sleep, and inhibition of cancer cells.
So it makes good sense to soak and sprout your rice. Both from the perspective of tradition and science.
And it is easy to do. Any kind of brown rice will work (white rice won't work because the part of the rice that germinates has been removed). In the picture above, I have sprouted basmati brown rice (you can see the tiny sprouts in the picture). Here is the process:
1. Rinse 1 1/2 cups (or more if desired) brown rice several times until the water is clear.
2. Place the rice in a bowl and cover well with filtered water.
3. Let stand 12 hours or overnight.
4. Pour rice into a strainer and rinse well.
5. Set the strainer over a bowl to drain out of direct sunlight. Cover with a clean dishtowel.
6. Every 12 hours, rinse the rice well.
7. After 24 to 48 hours, small sprouts will appear. Use or refrigerate the rice until ready to use.
8. Cook as you would cook unsprouted brown rice, using slightly less water (for the 1 1/2 cups of rice in this recipe, use 2 cups water). The cooking time will also be shorter.
Sprouted brown rice has a pleasant nutty taste, and is less heavy and noticeably more digestible compared to unsprouted rice.
If you don't want to spout your own, you can find germinated brown rice at some natural foods markets and on-line. DHC, a Japanese health and beauty company, sells germinated brown rice on their website. Also, Zojirushi, a Japanese appliance manufacturer, sells several rice cookers with a built in 'GABA' feature that sprouts the rice for you during the cooking process.