• Hal Decker

What is "keen-wah"

Updated: Feb 1

I had the distinct pleasure of working with the Quinoa King for 2 days at the Lacey Fun Spring Fair in July of 2016. And his feature product? Quinoa. I knew, or thought I knew what quinoa was, but as we worked the crowds and serve his flavorful dishes, I realized how much I didn't know. He has the passion that is needed to succeed in getting the word out about this wonderful product. He knows everything there is to know about quinoa, and his menu reflex's his knowledge and passion to serve healthy dishes in a meat and potato climate. His whole family participated in the festivities.

The night before the opening of the fair, they were grinding the quinoa into flour and making and baking muffins and cookies to sell. His 240,000 BTU woks, turns out a wonderful sauté of fresh vegetables, with a choice of tofu, chicken, beef or prawns, with all natural stocks, atop of freshly cook quinoa. Watching him work and talking to the guest who do not know what quinoa is, is a testament of his passion to reach out and teach each and every one of us the qualities and understanding of what quinoa is.

Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is an ancient food that is not yet well known in North America. It has been cultivated in South American Andes since at least 3,000 B.C. and has been a staple food of millions of native inhabitants. The ancient Incas called quinoa the "mother grain" and revered it as sacred. Technically quinoa is not a true grain, but is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. It is used as a grain and substituted for grains because of it's cooking characteristics. The seeds are similar in size to millet but are flat with a pointed oval shape and look like a cross between a sesame seed and millet. Quinoa has a delightful characteristic that is all it's own: as it cooks, the outer germ around each grain twists outward forming a little white, spiral tail, which is attached to the kernel. The grain itself is soft and delicate and the tail is crunchy which creates and interesting texture combination and pleasant "crunch" when eating the grain. Quinoa has a fluffy consistency and a mild, delicate, slightly nutty flavor that borders on bland. The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is exceptionally high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains. It is a good complement for legumes, which are often low in methionine and cystine. The protein in quinoa is considered to be a complete protein due to the presence of all 8 essential amino acids. Some types of wheat come close to matching quinoa's protein content, but grains such as barley, corn, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa. Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein and four ounces a day, about 1/2-cup, will provide a child protein needs for one day.

The 6-7% fat of quinoa is relatively high when compared to other grains, but it boasts a low sodium content and also provides valuable starch and fiber. Quinoa also contains albumen, a protein that is found in egg whites, blood serum, and many plant and animal tissues. The seeds are gluten-free which makes this a nutritious and flavorful alternative grain for those with gluten sensitivity .Cooked quinoa is excellent in hot casseroles and soups, stews, in stir-fries, or cold in salads. The seeds cook very quickly, in only 15 minutes. Uncooked seeds may be added to soups and stews as you would barley or rice and quinoa is often substituted for rice in rice dishes. It is cooked like rice. a 2-1 water/quinoa and slowly simmered for about 15 minutes. So next time you are looking for something a little different and healthier, give quinoa a try. I am sure you will keep some in your pantry as a staple like rice.

Suggested recipes

Orange-pistachio quinoa salad

Skillet baked eggs in quinoa