Monday, September 18, 2006

Ode to Rice



I love rice.

It's #1 on my Top Ten Starch list, followed by bread, then noodles - aka pasta. I enjoy eating potatoes, but spuds don't top my list.

I'm a rice eater from way back. Dad would carry home those 50# sacks of Texas Patna long grain rice from Chinatown and we'd empty the contents of the bag into our covered rice barrel stored in the kitchen pantry. Inside the barrel was kept a rice bowl that served as a measuring cup.
Cantonese lesson: 'Muh-ai' (say it as one syllable) is raw rice, 'Fon' is cooked rice.

In my parents' kitchen, I learned how to properly prepare a pot of rice using the finger measurement technique to determine water-to-rice ratio. To make 'steamed rice', the grains are actually boiled then steamed.
Referring to the bowl measurement for uncooked rice, Mom would say 'Two even' or 'Two level' - if just the six family members were dining that night. If company was expected (it wasn't unusual for another one to three people to casually drop by for dinner), Mom would instruct me 'Three heaping, and use the BIG pot'.
For further instruction, she might add 'One notch' or 'Just over one notch', meaning how high the water line should be using the finger measurement technique. I never questioned the ratio, and the rice would come out just about perfect every time.

Since the days of consuming only long grain white rice I've discovered short grain, medium grain, brown, sticky, saffron'd, wild, super fragrant varieties and more. Rice is delectable served up plain or with the sauces from accompanying dishes.

At this point, I feel compelled to make mention of the fact that in most inner Asian circles, it is considered a major faux pas to douse one's steamed rice liberally with soy sauce. Certainly, if you're served an inferior rice, sousing it with soy serves to provide some taste to a bland, watery or undercooked rice, and to mask any off-flavor. However, showering soy sauce on a serving of perfectly cooked higher quality rice distracts from the subtlety of its taste. Ditto with immersing nigiri sushi in a soy-wasabi bath, btw....
(Remember the scene from 'The Joy Luck Club' film where the clueless boyfriend of one of the daughters liberally splashes soy sauce all over his future mom-in-law's signature dinner entreƩ?)

Yes, it is possible to discern differences in taste between grades of rice. And you thought rice was tasteless! True rice connoisseurs can detect the subtle nuances of delectable flavor and aroma in a bowl of unadulterated high quality perfectly steamed rice.

Some folks tell me they 'can never cook rice right' and succumb to the evils of instant quick white rice (Pssst! True confession: whilst I eschew Uncle Ben's, I do enjoy any flavor of DingalingRice-A-Roni. Go figure. Perhaps it has something to do with being 'The San Francisco Treat'?).
The only truly bad rice is poorly cooked poor quality rice, and really, there's no excuse for that in most parts of the world...
If even the tried and true 'finger method' of rice measurement fails you, best outfit your kitchen with one of these four top electric rice cookers for under $40.
It ain't cheatin', it's cookin' rice.

Rice figures significantly in Asian tradition.
We write about it, create art about it, devote entire blogs to it (!!!) This post is pretty darn novella length, but check out that rice blog!!! Do 'we' dream about it? Probably.

Besides eating rice as a main course, you can indulge yourself with rice snacks and rice-based desserts too. Just writing about it, I'm craving a pot of the steamed white stuff (maybe I'll add some chopped up lop cheong...), and am also eager to try recipes using red, black and green rices. I recently promised to make Persian Cherry Pilaf for DollinkDaughter JrS, who was fortunate enough to eat a lot of this at a friend's house some years ago...

MmmmmmMmmmmm RICE. Congee, sushi, sweet puffed rice cakes, glutinous rice joong, mochi, Indian rice pudding...
Good to the Last Grain Recipe:
Using the bottom layer of hardened rice left in the pot, add a pat of butter and a sprinkling of kosher salt, slowly heat over a low flame, roasting to a crisp golden brown layer that can be lifted off with a fork. Munch on as an after-dinner-before-washing-dishes treat...

Last, but not at all least - there's a delightful little NYC eatery called 'Rice' that features a variety of rice colors, types and flavors in simple but oh-so-tasty dishes. When DollinkDaughter LLS and DollinkSonInLawDRF moved back to California from NYC, I know they bemoaned not being able to frequent 'Rice' like they used to!

See ya - I'm heading off to the kitchen...

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

HI B

RICE. I CAN NEVER COOK IT ON A STOVE TOP. I EITHER BURN IT, OVERCOOK IT OR UNDERCOOK IT. I RESORTED TO INSTANT RICE (I HEARD THAT GASP!) WHEN I FOUND OUT ABOUT BEING ABLE TO COOK IT IN A MICROWAVE...HOO HAH! NOW I MAKE THE REAL DEAL AGAIN, AND IT'S PRETTY NEAR PERFECT EVERY TIME!
AS FAR AS THE FINGER MEASUREMENTS FOR COOKING RICE, I NEVER HEARD OF THAT UNTIL I WATCHED A COOKING SHOW, JUST RECENTLY AS A MATTER OF FACT, CALLED DAISY COOKS! HERE'S HER WEBSITE IF YOU AREN'T FAMILIAR...
http://daisycooks.com

SHE USES THE FINGER MEASUREMENTS FOR COOKING RICE, WHICH SHE SAID SHE LEARNED FROM HER MOTHER, WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN PUERTO RICO.

I FEEL ABOUT PASTA, LIKE YOU FEEL ABOUT RICE. I CAN EAT PASTA ANYTIME, IN ALMOST ANY WAY.

THANKS FOR SENDING ME THE URL AGAIN. IT'S POSTED TO MY FAVORITE PLACES NOW. I WAS CLOSE THOUGH. I ALMOST HAD IT RIGHT, BUT BEING CLOSE WASN'T CLOSE ENOUGH!

D

me again said...

Hi b'sblog,

As a young mother I had a problem. I'd never been taught cooking or household chores (nor required to do them).

Now, grown up, I had to ask all my friends, "How do you make stroganoff?", "How do you wash diapers (olden days, I know)", and "How do you sweep sticky rice off the floor after dinner?”

One dear friend was very neat, organized and tidy AND she was a good cook. This woman, who'd polished off great amounts of rice over her lifetime, told me the secret: Leave it on the floor overnight...it will be dry the next morning and easy to sweep up!

It works! How simple! I was amazed that she left food on the floor! I was amazed at her wisdom.

Thanks to all my friends who helped me grow up!
Aren’t good friends just the best thing?

Lauren said...

Uh oh- now you've made me start thinking about eating at Rice (the restaurant) again! Veggie meatballs with black rice... indian chicken curry with basmati rice... and for dessert, Rice Krispy treats!

jrideshorses said...

Well, I just have to put a word in for white bread, white bread toast, milk toast, and saltines.
I stayed with a very poor family; teachers. Every month they'd buy what seemed like 100's of day old (week old?) loaves of Kilpatrick's white bread, in the blue gingham bag. They'd go into the huge freezer...had to last a month. In the few days before the paycheck, when there was little food around (we ate jello every night), we could start to pig out on the Kilpatrick's! Boy, it was tasty toasted with butter!

baffle said...

D ~ I also love all manner of noodle-pasta, especially homemade - and served with a bit of olive oil and freshly grated parmigianno-romano and a liberal grating of black pepper.
Thanks for the link to daisycooks!

me again ~ I wish I had a brilliant friend like your dear friend!

Lauren ~ Ooooooh, don't get me going on Rice Krispy treats! Doh! How could I have forgotten to mention
them? Thank you! Now I want some...

jrides ~ I too grew up with a white bread fixation! For a real taste treat, my Grandma showed us how to soften a slice of Wonder or Kilpatrick's white bread by steaming it. Then lift out of steamer and while still hot, roll the slice of bread over a cube of butter (it shouldn't be so hot that your fingers can't handle it). The butter will melt all over the hot bread as the bread squishes down just a bit in the process. Sprinkle with sugar, then EAT right away!

jessierose said...

my tummy just made a gurgle because it's craving some steamed rice with lop cheong, and mochi (with bean, not ice cream) for dessert. yummers!
but don't get me started on soy sauce! use it ONLY for cooking or to add the teeniest-tiniest salty flavor to your sushi! ARGH!
soy sauce+rice=a good way to ruin a perfectly good meal.

pear said...

Late one night while we were really hungry, we watched an informercial for the "Snackmaster". A delectable pastry-delicious apple pie! The pie made was made with crappy white bread and crappy canned apple pie mix, but it looked so good!
"Snackmaster" made it in mere seconds and we drooled and called and ordered one for ONLY $29.99!
"It showed up, we ripped open the carton, made our "apple pie"...it tasted like toasted white bread with apple goo.
Returned "Snackmaster" the next day.
Here's a cuter one, probably makes equally crappy apple pie.
http://www.amazon.com/Sanyo-HP4363KT-SANYO-SANDWICH-MAKER/

Conn said...

Lauren... we just had rice the other day. It was delicious.So you know how I love the black rice from there... but I have never found where to buy it. I even just hit China Town a few months back looking for it. Perhaps I should try this Heirloom Chinese Forbidden Black Rice.
Don't you just love that name?

http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/organic_heirloom_rice.htm

Does anyone else have a resource for black rice?

Now as for the white bread caze... I too had my ritual for eating white bread as a young'n in Indiana.
I would take the crust off 2 pieces of white bread then proceed to roll them into a ball... like i was making a snowball. I just loved how dense the bread became in that form.

baffle said...

Oooooh Conn - you simply must try the Heirloom Chinese Forbidden Black Rice and submit
a full cooking/taste report to us!
The sources I found for black rice all seem to point to the same stuff. Short of ordering online, have you been to any Indian markets in NYC?

Speaking of black (or shades of gray), I used to roll soft white bread into balls too. Not snowball size - in Chinatown we couldn't relate to snowballs - just teeny bite-sized spheres. It's always advisable to wash your hands thoroughly before proceeding with the rolling. More so if you'd just come in for a white bread snack after playing in the backyard...

Cute story about the crappy apple pie goo stuff!
Late night infomercials + hunger = bad choices! Try try try again. Or come over for homemade for reals apple pie. Or meet at Happy Donut....


Onward with good times and good eats.
All of ya crack me up royal!