Food: Rice, oh glorious rice



I’m half Vietnamese and grew up on white rice. In our house there was always a rice cooker on the counter and it was perpetually filled with white, fragrant, fluffy jasmine rice.

This is embarassing to admit, but I didn’t know that you could cook rice in a pot on the stove until I was out of college and visiting a friend. I was flabbergasted and totally enthralled. Who knew you could cook rice that way? How neato. How lame was I! Look, everyone I knew had a rice cooker, okay? When each of us kids went off to college or moved out on our own, my mom sent us off with a rice cooker and 25-pound bag of rice. Other people’s moms sent cookies, my mom sent rice.

About five years ago I started exploring different kinds of rice: brown, wild, arborio, Basmati, Bhutanese red, Chinese Forbidden (dark purple), Japanese rose, Thai red … it was like a whole new world had opened up for me. Each of these rices offer a wide variety of flavors from sweet to nutty and even floral. And rice varietals are generally identified by grain length: short, medium, and long. The shorter the grain, the more liquid it soaks up and the starchier (stickier) it becomes.

Such a wide spectrum of rice varietals makes it an incredibly versatile food that can combine with just about anything. For someone watching their gluten intake this can be a real Godsend along with being a treat for the palate.

Varietal rices can most easily be found at Asian and east-Asian ethnic grocery stores. In Vallejo, I like Seafood City market (primarily Filipino) for a wide selection of mainstream Asian rice—lots of different white, red and brown rice.

For some of the more exotic heirloom rice like Chinese Forbidden I go to Whole Foods Market, Davis Co-op, or the Berkeley Bowl.

If you’ve never tried anything other than white or brown rice I encourage you to explore the many other varietals available. If you can boil water, you can make rice.


3 responses »

  1. I love rice!!!! I like it with broth, I love it with butter….love it cold from the fridge.

    But I can’t cook it in a pot to save my life. The greatest day was discovering a rice cooker. I bought mine at drug store and it couldn’t have been cheaper or easier to use (my husband can even operate it!)

    When my son moved out, the only appliance my totally caucasian self bought him was a rice cooker….in fact, I ordered it online and had it sent because I KNEW he had to have it.

    I thought I was exotic to use basmati rice….now, with all these varieties, I am going to try a bunch…thanks so much for the ideas!!!!!!

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