Explore the World -- Literally -- of Rice
Near my home is an international grocery with foods from across the world, an aisle for Mexico, an aisle each for India, China and Mexico, with half aisles for Vietnam, Russia, Indonesia, western Europe, Africa, the Caribbean. It's a destination store of the best kind, a place where recent immigrants and foodies stumble over one another to stock up on ingredients otherwise difficult if not impossible to find. I love to ask a shopper whose cart is teetering with some foodstuff, knowing I'll hear a story about how much that something reminds her of home.
Walk into the store and you'll pass by several long and tall shelves piled with rice -- not miniature one-pound bags, mind you, but 25- and 50-pound bags or rice; not "white" rice, mind you, but huge bags of rice labeled with Chinese characters that my American eyes can't decipher!
Here in the rich west, it's easy to forget that rice is the planet's staple food and is thought to account for one-fifth -- 20 percent! -- of the world's calorie consumption.
FACTOID: Did you know that every single grain of "white rice" starts off as "brown rice?" In fact, "white" and "brown" are not descriptions of color but how much the rice has been processed. A kernel of rice is encased in an inedible outer husk, when it's removed, what remains is "brown rice" and all the kernel's nutrients. When the kernel undergoes further processing, including the removal of the nutrient-rich core called the "germ," what remains is "white rice" which has been so stripped of nutrients, the rice is often fortified with outside nutrients to replace what's been taken away. Go figure.
FACTOID: Did you know that wild rice isn't actually rice, at all, but a grass?
FACTOID: Did you know that when long-grain rice is cooked, its kernels will remain distinct and individual? Did you know that when a short-grain rice is cooked, its kernels will become all sticky, some times creating a gooey clump? In risotto, this is a good thing!
FACTOID: Did you know that instant rice -- the stuff that cooks in a couple of minutes -- is nearly devoid of nutrition and should be avoided at all costs?!
For many of us in the western world, rice has become déclassé, out of favor because of the low-carb craze that seized us a few years back. But me, I'm determined to put healthy, delicious rice back onto our plates! Here are some rice recipes from food bloggers, ones that caught my attention and inspired this article.
Manifest Vegan ~ Forbidden Rice Salad
"If you have not yet experienced the taste/texture/greatness of Forbidden rice, it's worth tracking down. It is, without a doubt, the best rice I have ever enjoyed ... and it's practically black. Very cool."
La Fuji Mama ~ Zakkoku Mai: Japanese Rice with Mixed Grains
"A favorite discovery of mine while living in Japan was zakkoku mai -- Japanese rice mixed with seeds and grains. Not only is it nutritious, adding nutrients and fiber to the rice, but it’s delicious. It has a wonderful subtle nutty flavor and added texture. In Japan you can buy little packets of mixed seeds and grains to add to your rice, but here in the US these packets are a bit harder to find. So why not make your own? It is SO easy! ... Just gather up your favorite grains and seeds, mix them together in a container, and keep the mix in a sealed container in a cool, dry, dark place on one of your pantry shelves."
Just Hungry ~ Nanakusagayu: Seven Greens with Rice Porridge
"The more I study old Japanese customs, the more I am impressed by the logical thinking behind many of them, even when examined with modern eyes. ... Nanakusa means seven greens, and kayu (or to use the honorific term, okayu (お粥)), is rice porridge. ... Okayu is the traditional thing to eat when you’re sick; it's the Japanese equivalent of chicken soup in Jewish families."
Gina's Weight Watchers Recipes ~ Scallion Cilantro Rice with Habaneros & Lime
"I made this rice with Spicy Garlic Shrimp for dinner tonight and my husband told me he loved me. I guess it's true, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach!"
BlogHer ~ How to Make Fried Rice at Home
One of BlogHer's most popular food posts, by Kalyn Denny
And you, are you in a rice rut? Or do you avoid it? Or if you're a rice lover like me and the REST of the world, what's your favorite way to cook rice? Leave a recipe or a link to a recipe in the comments!
All week long, BlogHer food editor Alanna Kellogg has been obsessing over her favorite Oven-Baked Brown Rice, made with a cup of brown rice and a half cup of wild rice.