Thursday, August 8, 2019


Cooking Great Rice: a wonderful grain that’s naturally gluten free

Rice can be wonderful. Yet many Americans have trouble cooking it. When I was a kid, my mother rarely served it, and when she did she used “Minute Rice” because it was “dependable.”

I got introduced seriously to rice when I went to Asia as a young man. There over a number of years I got extensive exposure to it, both eating it and cooking it. I’m fussy, frankly, about rice. Rice is so important for many of the dishes I cook I’m focusing this blog post just on cooking rice.

While Americans consider rice an accompaniment or side dish, for most Asians, rice is the central dish and the curries, stir-fries, etc., are the accompaniments or “with-rice” dishes. Rice is the principal food for half or more of the world’s population, so much so that in several languages, including Chinese, Thai and Malay/Indonesian, you can’t simply “eat. Rather you “eat rice,” even if it’s non-rice food. Those languages also have at least three words meaning rice, one for the plant, one for the harvested grains, and one for cooked rice.  
Photo: Maria Dondero; Bowl: Chinese, Qing Dynasty, early 20th century

Here’s the tried-and-true Asian top-of-the-stove cooking method, sometimes called “steaming.” And although nowadays most people in east Asia use electric rice cookers, which simplify the cooking process plus keep the rice hot afterwards, until recent generations, everyone cooked their rice over fire. The stove-top cooking method should work in any American kitchen. But I’ll also mention cooking with a rice cooker, since if you are serious about rice, you’ll eventually use one. For the wonderful and complex seasoned rice dishes, from pilaf to biryani to Mexican yellow rice to Louisiana jambalaya and dirty rice, the cooking methods are different and individual. I’ll describe those with the particular recipes as I add them to the blog.

The two principal types of high-quality white rice available in the US are 1) Thai Jasmine rice, which I use for Southeast and Chinese cooking, and 2) Basmati, a wonderful, fluffy, very long-grained rice from India and Pakistan, which I use with curries and Middle Eastern dishes. American long-grained rice is more like the Indian rice, and is cooked like it. Both at home and at our restaurant, I use principally Thai Jasmine rice and Indian Basmati rice. (Brown rice is almost a different grain, and not traditionally used with Thai, Chinese or Indian dishes. I’ll deal with brown rice at another time, since it has its place.)

There are important differences in cooking the two types of white rice, the most important being the amount of water used with the rice. There are several “tricks” that apply to both types of rice: The first is buying good rice; next is rinsing and draining the rice; third is using no salt (however, salt is used in some complex, seasoned rice dishes); fourth is using the correct proportion of water to rice; and finally is not stirring or even uncovering the rice while it’s cooking.

“Steamed” White Jasmine Rice (Thai and Chinese style)

Serves six to eight. Leftover rice can be successfully reheated in a microwave.

2 cups long grain white rice (Thai Jasmine; not Uncle Ben’s or Basmati)
2-1/8 cups water
NO salt

Place rice in heavy pot and rinse twice with cool water, draining while holding the rice in with your hand cupped along the edge of the pot.

Add 2-1/8 cups cool water and bring to a boil, uncovered. Do not stir, but boil 30 seconds, cover pot tightly, and reduce heat to lowest setting. Simmer 20 minutes without opening. Turn off heat and let sit 10 minutes, still covered. Uncover and fluff rice gently with fork. Cover until needed.


Cooking Basmati Rice, for Indian or Middle Eastern food

Serves six to eight. Leftover rice can be successfully reheated in a microwave.

2 cups long grain white rice (preferably Indian Basmati, or Mahatma, long grain rice; not Uncle Ben’s “converted” rice)
2-1/2 cups water
NO salt

Place rice in heavy pot and rinse twice with cool water, draining while holding the rice in with your hand cupped along the edge of the pot.

Add 2-1/2 cups cool water and bring to a boil, uncovered. Do not stir, but boil 30 seconds, cover pot tightly, and reduce heat to lowest setting. Simmer 20 minutes without opening. Turn off heat and let sit 10 minutes, still covered. Uncover and fluff rice gently with fork. Cover until needed.

Rice Cooker Method


Follow either of the recipes above, except rinse and drain the rice in the rice cooker container rather than a pot. Add the same amount of water as in the recipes above. Cover rice cooker and turn on, not opening the lid until cooking is complete. When the rice cooker turns off (switching to “warm”), keep the cover on and let sit ten minutes before fluffing the rice. Cover the fluffed rice and it will stay hot for hours.

No comments:

Post a Comment