Two years ago in the midst of winter, my best friend Niki was in her second trimester of pregnancy with her son, Raury. I was home in Minneapolis for the holidays, and I wanted to cook something cozy that would warm her and baby from within. After a little research, I found a Japanese recipe for Ochazuke, which is essentially leftover rice steeped in green tea-infused broth. Often Ochazuke includes cooked salmon and nori, a type of dried and seasoned seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls; other versions call for eggs, pickled umeboshi plums, zucchini, or shiitake mushrooms. Whatever the version, Ochazuke is meant to be simple comfort food.
And that’s exactly what I was after: less time at the stove, more time to enjoy my friend. Here are a few more reasons why we love this recipe:
The fetal brain develops exponentially during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. EPA and DHA are critically important Omega-3 derivatives to fetal neurodevelopment. Wild-caught salmon is a direct source of both EPA and DHA.
Sea vegetables and salmon are great sources of the trace mineral iodine, which is used by every cell in the body. Iodine supports thyroid hormone production, a process required for optimal neurodevelopment during pregnancy and early childhood. Because thyroid hormone production increases during pregnancy, pregnant women require more iodine than the normal RDA of 150 mcg. (Rather than supplementing with iodine to reach the RDA, we generally prefer the consumption of whole foods that are naturally packaged with synchronistic nutrients).
Green tea in excess is not recommended for pregnant women, as caffeine can interfere with folate absorption. Folate is the B-vitamin crucial for neural tube development. Green tea has so many other health benefits that consuming it in moderation (1 cup a day) after the first trimester, when the neural tube develops, is considered safe. Polyphenols in green tea support healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Green tea is also a natural source of l-theanine. A systematic review of 21 studies published in Phytomedicine (October 2017) found that the combination of caffeine and l-theanine in green tea are beneficial to cognition and anxiety reduction, and that either component in isolation was shown to have a lesser effect.
Salmon Ochazuke – Serves 2
6 ounces Wild-caught salmon
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups brewed green tea
2-3 Tablespoons Coconut Aminos
Splash of rice vinegar
Sea salt to taste
½ sheet of toasted nori, cut into thin strips
3 scallions, sliced
Toasted sesame oil
Season the salmon with sea salt and black pepper. Then steam it and remove the skin. Flake into bite-sized pieces. At the same time, warm the rice (if it’s cold).
Brew the tea and season with Coconut Aminos and a splash of rice vinegar. Add sea salt to taste.
Mound the rice into deep bowls.
Add flaked salmon over the rice.
Add strips of nori over that.
Then divide seasoned green tea among the bowls.
Sprinkle with sliced scallions and sesame seeds, and drizzle with toasted sesame oil.
Jacqui Gabel is from Minneapolis and moved to Denver two years ago to attend NTI’s Natural Food Chef Program. Like many, she fell in love with Colorado and chose to stay. She’s currently working on completing her MNT certification. Find her on Instagram @realfooddesire.