Two raw fish dishes to serve on top of the perfect bowl of rice | Cook residency

Cook residency: New residents Ana Gonalves and Zijun Meng were brought together by cook Nuno Mendes and a shared love of rice. The grain is now the basis for all their cooking, served here with two raw fish dishes

Bread or potatoes? I have sometimes been asked, in reference to which carb I would keep for the rest of my life and which I would lose. For many in my adopted home of the UK, this is a painfully difficult question, but I would choose neither. For me, its rice always rice.

My partner Ana and I share a love of rice. I am Chinese, she is from Portugal; rice is ingrained in our cultures, so it is something of a staple for us both, much how others see bread or potatoes. In northern China, where I grew up, rice is served plain and is very much a ship for other dishes. Usually medium or short-grained, it is offered at the end of a dinner, when youd typically expect dessert.

Anas first rice memory is of eating her mothers arroz de cabidela( chicken and blood rice ), with its addictive, velvety sauce and topped with plenty of fresh coriander and vinegar. This is a Portuguese classic, and their own families ate it whenever her grandparents, who lived in a little village called Azere near the former capital of Coimbra, killed a chicken. When she moved to London, Ana was well-versed in Portuguese rice assortments, like carolino used for the wet, loose and saucy rice dishes typical in Portuguese cuisine and agulha, a well structured grain akin to basmati used for oven-baked dishes but Asian rice was a new world to her, something different altogether. In China, rice is steamed with just enough water, which eventually all evaporates, while the Portuguese route is to simmer it in generous quantities of liquid. We often exchange narratives, memories and, of course, recipes; and although rice remains a common thread, the types of rice and styles we grew up eating it in Portugal and China are vastly different, as youd expect.

We met in 2009 at Nuno Mendess The Loft Project, where people could experience fine dining in a home setting likely the first initiative of its kind. Cooking was never the plan for either of us: Ana was a graphic designer with the cooking glitch and Id been studying fine art at Falmouth. It was only when working on a final project that I fell upon Ferran Adrias Food For Thought: Thought For Food, which wholly changed my trajectory. Cooking called us both. Seven years into our friendship, we got together.

Our love of rice runnings so deep that we decided to build our first project, Tata Eatery, around it, showcasing innovative cook served over bowls of it. Our food doesnt belong to any one cuisine , nor is it a Chinese-Portuguese fusion. Id say it is based loosely on don, the Japanese way of eating bowls of short grain rice shiny after cooking, somewhat chewy, and full of perfume with different types of topping. Its a mish-mash of everything weve been exposed to in the kitchen to date, things we like to eat ourselves: aubergine and rice, rice with seafood( like the two raw fish recipes below ), or leftover rice from the night before, fried up for breakfast the following morning. We draw on many influences, but wanted to create a homeliness we feel to be emblematic of traditional Chinese dining a table full of little things to be eat over rice and a dinner that brings people together around the table.

Gro a gro enche a galinha o papo( grain by grain, the hen fills her belly) is a food proverb fondly recited by Ana; she takes this to mean that, with patience, we can induce our dreamings reality. In our example, the grain that started our dream is rice. So that seems a sensible place to begin.

Ana Ana Goncalves and Zijun Meng created Tata Eatery, which offers bowls of rice with various toppings, inspired partly by the Japanese don technique of serving food. Photograph: Elena Heatherwick for the Guardian

A perfect bowl of rice

This is how we cook rice at home.

Serves 2
200g short grain rice
200g water

1 Put the rice in a bowl. Fill up the bowl with cold water and gently scratch to wash off the starch. Tip out the water and refill it with fresh water. Repeat this process several times until the water comes out clear. As the rice begins to absorb some water it becomes fragile, so you need to be gentle with it.

2 Set the pot “youre willing to” cook the rice in on to the kitchen scales, then set it to zero. Set the washed rice in the pot and top it with water until it comes up to 400 g in total.

3 Once you have the measurement right, cover with a eyelid and bring it to the boil, reduce the hot to minimum and cook until all the water has disappeared and you can see some holes on the surface of the rice.

4 Turn off the heat and let it steam for 10 minutes with the eyelid on. Take off the lid. Mix the rice to divide the grains and release the remaining steam.

Shime saba with marinated daikon

Shime saba cured mackerel is very popular in Japan. The mackerel fillets are cured with sugar first, salt on the second stage and then pickled/ cooked again in rice vinegar. It is an old method for maintaining the fish longer. Our version is more like a sushi, as you dont really pickle it you use the vinegar for 2 minutes to help remove the thin skin.

For the dressing
3 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp yuzu or lime juice
2 tbsp dashi stock( you can buy hon dashi powder and diluted with water)
150g water
green chilli, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
200g daikon, grated

For the fish
300g sugar
200g salt
4 mackerel fillets, skin on, deboned
Rice wine vinegar

1 Combine the dres ingredients and pour these over the daikon in a small bowl an hour before serving.

2 Mix the sugar and salt together. Set the fillets skin-side down on a baking tray, rub in the cure and leave for 45 minutes. Then clean, dry and set aside.

3 Pour enough rice wine vinegar into the tray to simply encompass the bottom. Set the cured mackerel fillets skin-side down to pickle the skin for 2 minutes, then gently remove the first translucent skin layer not the actual grey scalp. Dry and reserve the fish fillets.

4 Pop the mackerel under the grill briefly to sear the scalp, then, to serve, add some garbed daikon to each plate with slice of fish on top.

Prawn tartare

A dish of good things: seafood, fermented veg and fish roe. Ferment the cabbage a week in advance.

For the fermented cabbage
1 head of hispi cabbage
Mineral water, to cover
Salt: 3% of the total weight( so if you have 1kg cabbage, you need 30 g salt)

For the dressing
tsp wasabi paste
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp light soy sauce

For the prawns
10 prawns, preferably amaebi
60g caster sugar
40g fine salt

To serve
Tobiko roe, 1 tsp per person
Extra virgin olive oil
Sesame seeds and mint leaves

1 Make the fermented cabbage in advance. Separate all the leaves, add the water and weigh the lot, then add 3% of the total weight in salt. Store the cabbage and salt answer in a mason jar somewhere warm for a week. Check after 3-4 days, then savour the brine it was necessary to starting to savor acidic. Savour every day if this is your first time doing it. The finished product should have a very subtle acidity with clue of umami at the back of the tongue. Maintain in the refrigerator it should last a good few weeks.

2 Combine the dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and put aside.

3 Mix the prawns, sugar and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes, then rinse under cold water until clean.

4 To serve, mix the prawns with the dres, fold in the tobiko roe, add one finely chopped fermented cabbage leaf. Splash olive oil over generously, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and mint foliages.

Tata Eatery are Ana Goncalves and Zijun Meng. They are currently collaborating on Curio+ Tata, a pop-up concept with Curio Cabal in east London. @tata_eatery

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