All right, my vegan (and non-vegan) friends, it’s time to learn to make a pot of rice. Rice is a great, gluten-free, vegan food that many people don’t like to make because of all the messy measuring or don’t enjoy fully because they buy the “Minute Rice” stuff…you know, the parboiled (pre-cooked, later dried) junk that cooks in a few minutes and has the consistency of firm paste.
I am an islander and we eat a lot of rice. If anything I say doesn’t quite jive with you and you think you know how to make rice better, please do so! This is the way I’ve learned to make rice and it’s a fool-proof method that involves NO measuring cups! As usual, I talk a lot but it’s nothing complicated :)
Step 1: Buy Your Rice.
Whatever rice you want, it’s really up to you. Different rice has different textures and consistencies, as well as different nutritional values. Which rice is “best?” I don’t discriminate. Rice is a beautiful thing and the more you try, the more you get to love! I personally buy my rice from Asian or Indian markets because it’s far cheaper than buying it from a typical grocery store. If you’re in an Asian country or India, well, good for you…enjoy your inexpensive rice!
As I said, rice comes in so many different varieties. Rice newbies are typically familiar with two kinds: basmati, which is a long-grain rice, and sushi rice, which is a short-grain rice used for sushi (and other applications, but you’ve probably only had it in sushi if you’re the kind of person I think you are). Oh, and you probably have had brown and white rice…maybe wild.
As I said, rice is a thing of love. Don’t discriminate, love the rice, try the rice, enjoy the rice. Browse the rice! There’s red yeast rice, multi-grain rice (some kind of rice or rices + various grains), black rice, sweet rice, stinky rice, jasmine rice, brown rice, wild rice…there’s a lot of rice, that’s really all you need to know…oh, and make sure you try as many as you can. Sure, certain rice has certain applications. I would never try to make sushi without using short-grain rice (aka “sushi rice,” and it’s good for sushi because short-grain rice gets sticky so it holds together…that’s it) and for a Middle Eastern pilaf I’ll grab long-grain rice. For enjoying without a particular application, the only difference you need to consider about the rice is cook time. White, red and black rice takes 25 minutes, brown rice takes about 45 minutes and wild rice about 50 minutes. These are inexact times because sometimes magic happens on the stove. Don’t worry, you won’t ruin your rice…not on my time! OH! And black rice is SWEET, so don’t freak out and do try it but keep in mind that it’s a sweeter rice.
So pick up a bag of rice, pay for it, and then what?
Step 2: Get Your Hardware.
If you plan on enjoying rice on a regular basis, buy yourself a rice cooker. It saves you a lot of hassle in the long run and they can be really, really inexpensive (I’ve seen some in resale shops that are cheaper than a meal at a fast food restaurant). They come in many colors, some with cool buttons and settings, so pick what you like. Rice cookers don’t have to be expensive. Unless you want to pay more, you really don’t need to spend more than 20 USD on a rice cooker, and that’s pushing it. Yes, there are those that cost three times that (or more!) and if you like it, fine, but I’ve never seen a use for it.
Don’t want to spend the money on a rice cooker? Don’t worry…I’ll give you the cooking instructions for using a pot. Just make sure you have a pot with a lid. Oh, no lid? Then use a pan or cutting board. Yeah, I’m really no fuss in the kitchen. This should be fun, not stressful!
Step 3: Portion The Rice.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people make this mistake: “I wanted four cups of cooked rice so I followed the directions and put in four cups of the rice…and then it came out of my rice cooker!” Listen very closely: RICE EXPANDS WHEN YOU COOK IT. Rice will just about triple in volume (again, inexact, you should know me by now). That means if you want a pot of rice, only add enough rice to reach about 1/3 of the way up your pot (regular or rice cooker). When the rice starts to overflow, it’s pretty hard to salvage at that point, so let’s not go there, okay?
Step 4: Wash The Rice.
No where on your typical bag of rice will you be told to wash it, but every rice-cooking culture I’ve seen, including mine, compulsively washes the rice. Our mothers wash the rice. Our aunties wash the rice. Our grandmothers wash the rice. Our great-grandmothers washed the rice. You see where this is going? I’m relying on thousands of years of rice-cooking tradition, so if your Food Network chef doesn’t wash the rice, I don’t care, I’m washing my damn rice and will always tell you to wash your damn rice, too. Washing the rice is to remove junk that shouldn’t be there. You just add in water (any temperature…but, you know, something you can handle), swirl the rice with your fingers, pour out the water (don’t pour out the rice!) and repeat two more times. I don’t know why, but three times seems to be “the right” amount of times to wash the rice. Some say to wash the rice until the water runs clear but you’ll be there all night…especially if you use black rice!
Step 5: Add A Liquid.
So you dumped rice into a pot and want to know how the heck you can add the right amount of water/broth/whatever without using a measuring cup, right? Tap the pot until the rice is just about level. Place your index finger (or middle finger if you don’t have a full index finger for whatever reason) on the surface of the rice, pointing down at it. Add enough liquid to come up to the first knuckle line on your finger (the one just above your fingernail). That’s it. Confused? Here’s a diagram:
That is the right amount of liquid…every time…no matter what kind of rice you’re using. I don’t know why, but that’s how it works. End of story, no disputes. Oh, what kind of liquid? Well, you can always use water, but I like using a vegetable broth, water with a bouillon cube added to it, or seasoned water (this is the laziest method…just use water then add in your favorite seasonings and use more than you think…except for salt, you salt this stuff later if at all). You can also add other things to it, but we’ll talk about that later.
Step 6: Cook The Rice.
If Using A Rice Cooker - Put lid on pot, plug in rice cooker, switch to COOK. No matter what kind of rice you have, it will be done by the time the switch pops to WARM.
If Using A Pot And Stove - Place pot on stove, uncovered, and turn heat to high. When the liquid boils, place the lid on the pot and turn to simmer (pretty much the lowest setting on your stove). If using white, black or red rice, check after 25 minutes. If using brown rice, check after 45 minutes. If using wild rice, check after 50 minutes.
If the rice (no matter the kind) is still wet/mushy, replace lid and wait about three minutes, check again…repeat until rice is cooked, then fluff with a fork (“stir” the rice with the fork by scraping it with the fork’s tines) and serve.
If the rice is over-cooked, that may not be a bad thing. Myself and others love the “crunchy” bottom part of the rice.
So…Plain Ol’ Rice Or What?
Oh, yeah, I said I’d give you recipes for it. Here we go:
1. Rice + Other Stuff. This is vague because there’s no wrong answer. Basically, before you cook the rice you can add in other things, like vegetables or nuts or other grains, and then add the liquid like I showed you and cook the rice. This way, you get flavorful and nutritious rice that’s more than “just rice.” Try dicing and sauteeing half a medium onion (or one whole small onion) and add that to the rice pot. Add in peas, uncooked lentils or finely chopped broccoli (or all three, or none of the above and add whatever the hell you want), add the water, cook, enjoy. Seriously, you can make a one-pot, one-cook dish here. Add in seasonings and ground mock meat, diced mushrooms, chopped almonds…seriously, the possibilities are endless and you can’t mess it up, I promise!
2. Fried Rice. This is best with leftover rice but fresh-cooked rice is fine. In a pan on medium high heat, add some oil (I like using a high heat oil, like vegetable oil, plus some sesame oil for more flavor…oh, and you’re using about 3 tablespoons) and a diced onion. Saute until onion is starting to get translucent, about 5 minutes, then add diced any other vegetables you want. Mushrooms, baby corn, water chestnuts, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, capsicum or bell pepper or sweet pepper, garlic, turnips, potatoes…and add any mock meat or tofu if you want that, too. Seriously, you can’t mess this up. Cook until everything is cooked through, then add garlic powder, pepper and ginger powder if you have it (if not, no sweat), but NOT salt. You’ll probably have to add more oil, too…no big deal. When everything is cooked and seasoned, add in the rice…however much you want (you can’t screw this up, you’re fine). Then season with soya sauce or tamari (that’s why you don’t use salt) until you think it tastes good and the rice is heated through. Serve.
3. Almond Rice. Add sauteed vermicelli noodles (cooked in oil until browned), chopped or slivered almonds, vegan butter and/or olive oil (I don’t measure, I’d say 1-2 teaspoons each but you can’t mess this up as long as you don’t go dumping all of it in there). Cook rice like I explained above, serve.
4. Add Rice To Whatever. Cook rice. Chili, soups, stews, curries…nothing wrong with mixing rice right into the dish. Plus, it extends the dish…as in, it makes the dish “last longer” without using up more and more ingredients.
5. PB&J Rice. For the rice lover or lazy cook, take your plain cooked rice (cooked in plain water, not seasoned) and add peanut butter and jelly to your taste. No, seriously, give this a try.
6. Raisin Nut Rice. You can make this sweet or more savory. Add raisins and diced cashews, walnuts and/or almonds to the uncooked rice. For sweet rice, add water and season with cinnamon and sugar (or sweetener of your choice). For savory rice, add pepper and curry powder. Cook rice, serve.
7. Fruit & Nut Rice. Cook rice (preferably black rice, but any rice is fine) in half water, half sweetened milk of your choice; season with cinnamon and a sweetener (if you want), add some crushed nuts (try pecans or walnuts). Cook rice. Top with banana and/or cinnamon apples and/or peaches. Drizzle with maple syrup or other liquid sweetener (optional).
8. Supreme Side Rice. To make rice complement your meal, season it in a way that will complement the meal. If serving Mexican, try adding fresh cilantro and lime juice (try cooking a halved, juiced lime in the rice…remove lime halves before serving) before cooking. If serving Japanese rice, try adding seasoned seaweed and soy sauce before serving (not before cooking). If serving burgers and/or hot dogs, try adding pepper, peas, carrots and seasoned salt before cooking. Rice doesn’t have to be served plain…that’s what I’m getting at here.
I hope this has inspired you to get yourself a bag of rice and enjoy it in a few different ways!
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