The very first time I tried Guoba was with my grandfather. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Taipei for Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch eating out is very much a family tradition where my grandfather would order all kinds of different dishes I hadn’t tried before. This time he ordered Guoba and I believe he ordered it to try to impress me.
Back then I was really young so my grandfather would try to impress his princess granddaughter and say things like the magic dish will “talk”. Even back then at such a young age I thought my grandfather was talking silly. How could a dish “talk”. I remember the waiter put a big plate of “crispy rice thing” on the table and wondering why they served crispy popped rice treats and when will it talk. Crispy popped rice treats, or “爆米香”, are a kind of street dessert in Taiwan. During the process of making this dish the machines that make them sound like they have really loud fireworks going off inside. If you walk down a street in Taiwan and someone is making Guoba, it almost sounds like a bomb is going off. It’s funny, scary, crazy.
So, two minutes later, the same waiter came back with a pot of hot, steamy, fragrant shrimp sauce and sourced the sauce on top of this weird looking crispy rice thing and the moment the sauce touched the guoba, a loud sizzling sound came out and it was absolutely eye opening to me! That was my first memory of this fun and interesting dish.
Nowadays you can guoba that has already been cooked and is “ready-to- use” in supermarkets so the first time I made it was for an article I was asked to make for Today.com. Luckily, I always have my mother and grandmother (the latter being an amazing cook) available on Skype to ask for tips.
HOW TO PREPARE THE RICE FOR GUOBA
This is the longest process for making this dish. Measurements in the recipe below, I first of all rinse the rice three times before using a rice cooker to cook all the rice. I use a water/rice ratio of 1:1 (1 cup rice, 1 cup water). Every rice cooker model has slightly different requirements but as a general starting point, 1:1 usually works). In case you’re wondering why I use a rice cooker, well, almost everyone in the Far East uses one. They produce very reliable cooking results and you can use them to make soups, steam vegetables and different kinds of meats, desserts and all kinds of other things. They’re not just limited to cooking rice and they don’t have to be expensive so I definitely recommend investing in one.
The rice for Guoba should be like the rice that you will use for cooking fried rice. I used Taiwan Chishang rice “池上米” for this recipe but you can use any other kind of Chinese rice, Japanese rice or Korean rice for making this dish.
Some tips for making Guoba:
- Dehydration is the key! If your rice is dehydrated properly then you have a better chance of getting a crispy texture. The wetter the rice, the less chance of crispy. I left the freshly cooked rice in a fridge overnight before baking in my oven. By leaving the rice overnight, it helps the rice stay in shape as so when you slice the rice it will keep it’s shape better (won’t fall apart).
- If you find it’s hard to spread the rice on the tray with your spatula or spoon, apply some cooking oil on the surface of your spatula or spoon. The same thing with the knife you use to slice the rice as well.
- If you find the knife is hard to slice the rice then use a food scissor to cut it. If you find the rice is falling apart use your hand to gently press them back together.
- You can adjust the amount of seasoning or the amount of vegetables you use in this recipe as you wish. You can use tofu to replace shrimp if you are a vegan. You just need to air fry the tofu or pan fry the tofu until it’s lightly golden brown on both side and remember to use firm tofu.
- Don’t worry too much and just enjoy the process of trying and making new dish! Cooking should be fun and free. Just enjoy the process.
- If you want the “popping” sound when you pour the sauce on top of the guoba then you have to fry the guoba before you going to serve this dish so the guoba will be in the most fresh and crispy states and you will be able to hear the popping sound once you pour the sauce on.
- You can make guoba ahead if you don’t really mind if this dish will make the noise or not. It will still taste delicious with or without the sound effects.
You can also eat guoba without any sauce and just treat it like a snack or rice crips. My husband and daughter love munching on guoba and I have to hide the guoba from them before the sauce is made, otherwise they’ll eat everything. You can store the baked rice sheet in the freezer for a couple months and fry it when you want to eat.
Guoba Rice Dish with Hot Shrimp Sauce
- 3 cups Cooked Rice White
- 2 pinches Salt
- 1 cup Cooking oil
Shrimp Sauce Ingredients
- 20 Shrimps shelled
- 1 cup Edamame beans shelled
- 1 Yellow pepper diced
- 1 clove Garlic minced
- 1/4 Onion diced
Shrimp Sauce Ingredients
- 1/2 tbsp Asian chili bean sauce Toban Djan
- 3 tbsp Ketchup
- 1 tbsp Demerara sugar Can also use caster sugar
- 1/2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
- 1 cup Cornstarch slurry
- 1/2 tbsp Cornstarch
- 2 tbsp Water
- 1 tbsp Rice wine
- 1 tsp Cornstarch
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1 pinch Ground white pepper
Prepare 3 cups of cooked rice. Rinse and cook the rice as you would normally do when cooking rice for a meal
Place the rice on one of the baking sheets and sprinkle salt on the rice and mix it gently with spoon. Spread some oil on the surface of the spoon if you find the rice is too sticky
Gently flatten the rice on the baking sheet as shown in the instruction photo. Please don’t press the rice too hard to the baking sheet. Just gently press down to help the rice to form the shape and not too crumbly
If your rice is still quite warm, leave it to cool down before you cover the cling film on top and store in the fridge over night
Next day, heat up the oven to 100c (212F) and bake the step 4 rice for 1 hour
After 1 hour, take out the rice from the oven and use a knife to slice the rice into even square shapes. I sliced the rice into 12 portions but you can decide the size you want and adjust the portion to suit
After slicing the rice, turn the rice to the other side and bake for another hour to make sure the rice is dehydrated like shown in the photo. If you feel the rice still a little bit moist then cook a little bit longer in the oven
After the rice has dehydrated, take out from the oven. Heat up some oil to 180c (356F) and put a little piece of the rice into the wok and see if the rice puffs up. This should only take around 5 seconds to see the rice has puffed up in the oil. The first time I made guoba I was a bit worry as the rice isn’t puff up immediately when I put into the oil but after 3-5 seconds the rice puffed up nicely like magic!
When the rice has start to puff up in the oil, I was turn off the fire and cook for 15-20 seconds. Take out after this time so as to not overcook or burn the gouda. Leave aside on a plate then prepare the shrimp sauce
Marinade the shrimps with all the marinade ingredients for 20 minutes
Mix water, chilli bean sauce, ketchup, sugar and black vinegar in a bowl
Heat up 2 tbsp oil in the wok, stir fry the shrimps until the shrimps have changed colour and immediately take the shrimps out but leave the oil in the wok, place the shrimps on a plate and leave it aside for use later
Use the same wok to stir fry the onion and garlic until it’s fragrant
Add step 2 sauce into the wok bring to boil
Add edamame beans and yellow pepper and boil for 10-20 seconds
Add prawns back into the wok
Stir in 1 tsp corn starch slurry into the sauce and check the density of the sauce. Once it starts to thicken and boil, turn the stove off. Season with salt. If you feel the sauce isn’t thick enough, add more cornstarch slurry and bring the sauce to boil again
Place guoba on the serving plate, pour the sauce on the dish is ready to serve. You can also pour the sauce on to the guoba on the table so everyone can listen the to crackling sounds
Add salt and pepper to taste. The chili bean paste is quite salty so be careful with extra seasonings