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At the Chef’s Table: Black rice is a bold flavor alternative

Chef Chao ThapthimkunUniSushi + Barbeque Bar likes texture flavor black rice provides. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Chef Chao Thapthimkuna of Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar likes the texture and flavor black rice provides. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 9, 2012 8:02AM

I love black rice. It is different, in good ways, from white and brown rice. It’s sticky and just very tasty. At my restaurant, we feature black rice as a healthier and flavorful alternative to white rice.

Black rice has fewer carbs and calories and more protein than white rice. It has about the same amount of fiber as brown rice, but I think it also has much more flavor. It is sweet and savory with a chewiness to it — much more texture for your teeth to sink into.

Black rice is used throughout the world, but is not so well known here yet. Few Chicago restaurants serve this wonderful grain, mostly because it costs more.

When some guests came in and ordered black rice with all their sushi, I realized I needed to showcase it by using it all sorts of ways. We created a black rice sampler — four kinds of sushi rolls made with black rice — and we haven’t stopped there. 

Sometimes for guests we prepare the same dish with both black and white rice. It is a fun comparison, and they are always amazed at how black rice really makes a dish different. Black rice allows me to be more creative, by using it in different ways and with different ingredients.

One of our desserts is Black Rice Pudding. It is such a simple dessert that anyone can make at home. When you cook it, you will notice the black rice actually is the very darkest red you have ever seen.

Chao Thapthimkuna is the chef at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, 230 W. Erie.

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