Umami Rice Stacks with Vegan Caviar
It hasn’t happened in so long; when an idea hits like a bolt of lightening, and a recipe is downloaded perfectly into my brain, complete and fully-baked. I was talking to a dear friend a couple weeks ago, about nothing related to food, and this random idea for vegan caviar popped into my head. Out of nowhere. Understanding how my creative self works, I had to say this idea out loud immediately so I wouldn’t forget. No sooner had the words chia and kelp come out of my mouth, then the rest of the recipe tumbles out, one element after the next until it was there: a crispy rice, caviar-studded, spicy, creamy, savoury, stack with carrot-kimchi salad, avocado, and sesame. If you’re familiar with “sushi pizza” you’ll get where I’m going with this!
Although the entire dish is absolutely delicious, my favourite part has to be vegan caviar. It’s so easy to make and really fun! I knew that it had to have an “ocean-y” flavour, so using a sea veggie made the most sense. Nori is widely available and is a mild seaweed that most people enjoy the taste of, so I went with that. I used a product called nori “krinkles” that are minimally-processed kelp (just dried and toasted), but if you can’t find those, use nori flakes, or a couple sheets of sushi nori instead. After soaking for a minute, the nori becomes soft and easy to blend, and with the addition of tamari, it a salty, umami-bomb liquid ensues – perfect for soaking the chia in!
After 15 minutes, the chia absorbs all of that dark, delicious liquid, and swells up to resemble teeny tiny eggs…BOOM! Vegan caviar is born! I added a touch of olive oil to create a slick mouthfeel too. This is optional, but pretty effective. And the “chaviar” continues to absorb the liquid it’s in while hanging out in the fridge, so to make it the right consistency, I just drizzled in a little water before serving each time. I’m over the moon about this one, people!
Sea vegetables, like the nori used in this recipe are abundant, incredibly nutritious, eaten world-wide, and an truly nourishing food. Sea vegetables come in all different colours: red, brown, green, blue, and more and can be grown in the sea or cultivated in tanks. They have a smaller carbon footprint than the veggies we know and love that grow on land and don’t rely on the soil which globally needs restoring and rejuvenation!
Kind of like the sprouts of the ocean, packing so many nutrients in a small amount of food — they are actually the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, how rad is that? These rainbow-coloured, unassuming, under-water plants contain protein, various vitamins, important iodine (for thyroid health!), fiber, calcium, iron, and more, often times in much higher concentrations than their land veggie or even animal-food counterparts. Shining stars of the sea, the micronutrient content is just unparalleled especially as our soil nutrients continue to decrease due to degenerative farming practices. Holistic, regenerative agriculture works to combat soil nutrient loss and I highly recommend you seek out your local farmers trying to bring life back to the soil in your area and in the meantime, try incorporating more sea veggies into your daily diet.
Some of the most common Sea Vegetables:
A great source of calcium (more than other sea veggies) and vitamin A. Sweet and mild, perfect for beginners and because of the fiber, Arame is great for digestion!
Folate-, manganese-, and iron-rich wakame is a sweet kelp that’s often found in salad form!
Handy in a pot of beans to enhance digestibility, and as a flavour and mineral-enhancer in broths, kombu is high in magnesium and potassium.
Likely the most common sea veggie because of the popularity of sushi, you can find nori in krinkles, sheets, or flakes, dried or toasted! This is an easy and accessible way to eat more seaweed!
You’ve probably seen the brightly-blue-hued smoothies coloured by this algae. Just 1 Tbsp. of spirulina has as much protein as a small handful of almonds and an impressive amount of iron.
A beautiful red seaweed, with ample amounts of magnesium and calcium.
There are countless more but these are the ones most commonly used in my recipes and are generally readily available! There are some concerns for sensitive populations about seaweed’s ability to store heavy metals when grown in polluted water. It’s important to find brands that are conscious about their sourcing, aren’t over-harvesting or are growing responsibly, and make sure you eat in moderation. I do think we all could benefit from diversifying our diets a little more to include these incredible superstars.
Now back to the recipe!
The first layer of this dish is the rice bottom, and that is what I cooked first (after nailing the chaviar). I tried using a couple of types of brown rice here, but I only found success was the short grain, I’m guessing because it has a more gluttonous consistency than long grain and basmati, which tend to be lighter and fluffier. When I tested with the latter, I had to use an egg to bind the ingredients, but desired a vegan final product, so wound up using short grain in the end. You can absolutely use white rice if you like, but keep in mind that brown rice still has the bran intact and therefore more fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Since my inspo was sushi pizza, I wanted a super crispy rice base. A quick smear in a hot pan was great, but without deep frying, I couldn’t get the satisfying crispiness that I desired. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you take this extra step. I bet an air fryer would work beautifully here! The rice is still good even if it’s cold or room temperature, and a lot less fussy. Either way, make sure to cook the rice at least 4-5 hours before serving, so that it has time to cool down, so you can cut it into your desired shape. I used a jar lid for this, but a drinking glass or other circular tool would work perfectly.
The kimchi-carrot salad was inspired by the spicy salmon that often crowns a sushi pizza – it’s savoury and moreish, with a consistency walking the fine line between and al dente and tender. I steamed the carrots to achieve this texture, and you can cook them as little or as much as you like depending on your preference! The end result was so close to raw fish that my husband has a hard time believing it was carrots at all. Smothered in a creamy, brine-y, funky sauce, these humble roots become uniquely surprising and remarkably flavourful.
Don’t be intimidated by the multiple components of this recipe – once the rice is cooked and cooled, the rest comes together pretty quickly. Perhaps bookmark this dish for a special occasion or celebration, so that you’ll set aside the time to make it. When tackling something new and different, I make sure I have ample hours so I don’t feel rushed. Cooking under pressure is the worst! Give yourself the gift of slow kitchen creation time.
Now for some notes on the recipe…
I would encourage you to use short grain brown rice here because it is the most glutinous and sticky, and it holds together well when you’re making that little base for the toppings. But! If long grain brown or brown basmati is all you have available, no worries. You may need to skip the cut-out step, and instead make a little pile on your plate instead. It’s all going to same place and tastes great no matter what format it takes! Haha…
If you have the the time for it, soak the rice overnight or for 8-12 hours in plenty of filtered water with a little apple cider vinegar or lemon juice added. This improves the digestibility of the rice, and cuts back a little on cooking time too.
The amount of water you’ll use to cook the rice in depends on whether or not you’ve soaked the rice, and the size of the pot, so keep an eye on it, and add water as needed. You want the rice on the wetter side of things, since it’s the moisture in it that is going to help hold it together. Mirin, a sweet rice wine, is a tasty addition here, but it can be substituted with rice wine vinegar and a pinch of your sweetener of choice, or omitted altogether.
1 cup / 200g short grain brown rice
2 3/4cups / 650ml filtered water
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 Tbsp. mirin (optional, but delicious)
1/2 cup / 125 ml nori (too light to have a gram measure) sub with 3 sheets of sushi grade nori
1/2 cup / 125ml hot water, more as needed
1 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbsp. chia seeda
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup / 40g kimchi, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. sriracha
1/3 cup / 85ml mayonnaise (vegan or egg-based)
1/4 tsp. ground chili, to taste
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
3 medium / 300g carrots
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. finely grated ginger
1 batch kimchi mayo (recipe above)
1 ripe avocado
2-3 spring onion
1 Tbsp. toasted black sesame seeds
- Start by soaking the rice (see headnotes). Drain and rinse well, then place in a cooking pot with 2 1/2 + cups / 625ml + water, plus the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook covered for about 35-40 minutes if soaked, 45-60 minutes if cooked from raw. Check the water levels periodically to make sure the pot isn’t drying out, and add water to the pot if necessary. When the rice is cooked, remove the lid and let cool for a few minutes. Add the mirin, and fold to combine.
- Prepare a standard brownie pan (8×8” / 20x20cm) by rubbing it with a little fat to proven sticking (olive oil, expeller-pressed coconut oil, ghee, or butter). Press the rice firmly into the pan, making it as level and even as possible. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Make the chaviar by combining the nori with water from a recently boiled kettle. Let soak for 1-2 minutes, then add the tamari and transfer this mix in a blender (or use an immersion blender). Blend on high until smooth. Transfer mixture to a jar, then stir in the chia seeds. Let the chia absorb the liquid, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
- Make the kimchi mayo by stirring the ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Scrub the carrots well, and chop them into your desired size – just make sure that they are relatively similar so that they cook evenly. Place in a steamer basket over medium-high heat, cover, and cook for 4-8 minutes, deepening on their size and your preference. While the carrots are steaming, whisk together the tamari, lemon juice, olive oil, and grated ginger in a medium bowl and set aside. The carrots are ready when they are tender. Remove from heat, and immediately add to the bowl with the marinade. Stir well to coat. Let cool.
- While the carrots are cooling, cut the rice out into your desired shapes. I used a jar lid (see photo) that would create four equal-sized portions, but you can also just cut the rice slab into four squares as well (alternatively, make a bunch of small, bite-sized pieces for appetizers!).
- Place the rice bases on your plates. Spread a dollop of the kimchi mayo on top of each base and spread it to the edges. Top with avocado slices, then a few spoonfuls of the chaviar on top. Fold the remaining mayo through the marinated carrots, then spoon those on top of the avocado. Sprinkle with finely sliced spring onions and sesame seeds. Say thank you and enjoy immediately.
I am so grateful to all of you that participated in naming this dish. I was HOWLING with laughter reading your proposals on Instagram! Wow, ya’ll are creative! I’d be remiss to not share some of my favourites: “The Inspired Layered Spire”, “Mountain of Love”, “Dynamite Discs”, “Avo-Kimchi Pow Pow”, “Shizza Shazam”, “The Candlestick”, “Hokey No-Poke”, “Mt. Abundance”, “Mystic Pizazz”, and “Rainbow Tower of 1000 Saveurs”. LOL! Love you guys so much.
Big thanks my brain for channeling this stellar dish, so that I could share with you! I hope you love it as much as I do. Such a vibrant and delicious way to celebrate life! Sending you love on this day and every day.
xo, Sarah B