Umami Chicken and Black Rice Bowl

I love umami flavors. I’ve always loved them, but never knew they had a name until more recently. Umami is a fifth category of taste (aside from sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) which has really gained popularity over the last few years. It’s a savory, deep flavor present in meats, broths, mushrooms, and many fermented foods, and it’s the flavor I was going for when I put together this recipe.

Some of the ingredients I use in this bowl can be hard to find, and others have rather strong flavors that not everybody loves as much as I do. So for any off-the-wall ingredients I mention here, I’ll list an alternative just in case you can’t find/don’t like/don’t want to spend extra money on them.

Seamus likes to hang out with me while I’m cooking. He loves umami flavors too…especially fish sauce.

This bowl started with a base of black rice (also known as “forbidden rice”) which, on its own, provides a little pop of texture and a nice nutty flavor. You can use brown rice instead of black if you like, but I got the black rice at Kroger so it really wasn’t too hard to find, at least in my area. Once the rice was finished cooking but still steamy, I added a heaping scoop of white miso, which is a salty but mild fermented soy product that gives the dish its first hint of that umami goodness.

While the rice was simmering, I set to work getting some chicken thighs into the oven. I had already been marinating them in an oven-safe bowl with rice vinegar, sesame oil, coconut aminos, fish sauce, and some other seasonings for about an hour, so I just put the whole bowl into the oven, marinade and all, at 350 for about 23 minutes. My chicken thighs were cut pretty thin, so it didn’t take long for them to be fully cooked (165 degrees F), but if yours are thicker, just start checking the temperature around that 23-minute mark and they’ll be done when they reach 165 internally. I love how moist and rich chicken thighs are, but they can still get dry if you overcook them!

Coconut aminos and fish sauce are the umami component in this marinade, along with the chicken itself. I think I got both of those ingredients at Kroger as well (love u Kroger) but I know Wegmans has them and I’d expect Whole Foods would too. But if you prefer, soy sauce is a great substitute. It won’t provide quite the sweetness of coconut aminos or the punch of fish sauce, but it’ll still be good.

While the chicken was in the oven, I heated up a pan over medium-high heat for the snap peas and mushrooms. This is my favorite part of the bowl because this is where the black garlic comes in! If you can’t find black garlic, regular minced garlic is totally fine, but black garlic is a favorite of mine.

Black garlic is just a fermented version of the regular garlic we all love. I found mine at a local specialty food shop, and I would literally eat it like candy if it came a little bit cheaper. It’s soft, chewy, and has a sweet-savory flavor reminiscent (to my amateur palate) of balsamic vinegar. It still tastes decidedly garlicky, but it’s nowhere near as harsh as fresh garlic. Black garlic doesn’t lend itself well to mincing because of its sticky chewiness, so I cut it into coarse slices and then sort of mashed it up in olive oil with a fork, as pictured. I know that picture doesn’t look appetizing, but just trust me on this.

Anyway, I added the olive oil-garlic mash into the hot pan, followed by the snap peas. Then, about three minutes in, I added a pack of assorted mushrooms: shiitake, cremini, and oyster, along with a drizzle of fish sauce (because everything deserves a drizzle of fish sauce). I let it all cook for about 7 more minutes, stirring frequently, and by that time the rice and chicken were ready too. So I piled it all into a bowl, hastily snapped a few photos, and sat down to devour it while writing this post.

Also, it’s worth noting that this recipe can very easily be adapted to fit paleo or whole30 eaters–just skip the rice altogether and consider doubling the veggies instead.

Full Recipe

Makes 2 servings

Umami Chicken Thighs

  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2-3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Miso Black Rice (Omit for Whole30/Paleo option)

  • 1/2 cup black rice
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste

Snap Peas with Mushrooms and Black Garlic

  • 8 oz sugar snap peas
  • 4 oz fresh mushrooms (cremini/baby bella, shiitake, oyster, or white)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves black garlic (or 3 tsp fresh or freeze dried garlic, minced)
  • Fish sauce to taste
  1. Place chicken thighs in a small oven-safe container and add sesame oil, rice vinegar, coconut aminos, fish sauce, garlic, onion powder, and a generous shake of salt and pepper. Allow chicken to marinate for 20 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Heat black rice, water, and salt in a small pot over high heat until boiling, then turn heat to medium-low and simmer rice for about 50 minutes or to desired tenderness.
  3. While rice is cooking, heat oven to 350. Place chicken (with marinade) in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  4. Meanwhile, roughly chop black garlic and mash with olive oil in a small bowl or custard cup, then heat mixture in a pan over medium-high heat. Add snap peas and a drizzle of fish sauce and saute for three minutes.
  5. Add mushrooms to pan with snap peas and cook, uncovered, for seven more minutes or to desired softness, stirring frequently.
  6. Meanwhile, when the rice is fully cooked, remove from heat and stir in 2 tbsp miso paste.
  7. Divide rice into two bowls and top with chicken and veggies.

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