Rice! Rice! The Magical Grain

Rice!

Growing up on a steady diet of rice, beans, and chicken,  I was constantly reminded of the starving children in Africa and how they would have loved to eat the rice and beans I was bemoaning about eating for the fifth day in a row.  I had  failed to see the privilege it was just to have food on the table in the snot-nosed years of my childhood. Now, as I languish in adulthood and I am aware of such realities as famines, food shortages, and abject poverty (compounding upon several other factors) that lead to a chronically homeless and hungry population.

Out of the 50,000 edible plants in the world fifteen plants provide 90% of the world’s dietary intake, with such food staples  as rice, corn, and wheat making up two-thirds of this percentage. In other words, out of a world population of three billion people, 1.6 billion depend on rice as a major food staple.  It’s no wonder we were experiencing a rice shortage not too long ago.

For the average Joe and Jane at home that clicked on this article hoping for recipes and not a guilt trip about the TONS  (literally 35 million tons) of food that Americans throw out every year, well… we all want things we can’t have. For the connoisseur that wonders, “How am I going to get my 6-11 servings of grains a day?”, here are a few ways to cook rice that might get you more excited about the prospect:

I. Horchata

(Of Mexican origin, adapted from Allrecipes.com)

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Everything you will need to make horchata from scratch  

  • 1 cup uncooked white long-grain rice
  • 5 cupswater
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

Directions

  1. Pour the rice and water into the bowl of a blender; pulse until the rice just begins to break up, about 1 minute. Pour mixture into pitcher with 3 cinnamon sticks.  You can also use ground cinnamon  itself, but it might  cause discoloration of the liquid. Refrigerate rice water mixture for a minimum of 3 hours, though overnight is preferred, so that the rice has time to absorb the flavor from the cinnamon sticks.
  2. Strain the rice water into a pitcher and DO NOT discard the rice. It will be used in recipe #3 for dessert.
  3. Stir the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar into the rice water.
  4. Chill and stir before serving over ice.

Over variations include substituting the 1/2 cup of milk with coconut milk, adding coconut flakes, or even rum!

II. Perfect Fried Rice

i.e. : cha-han (チャーハン) or yakimeshi 焼き飯

(Recipe courtesy of JustHungry.com , Makiko Itoh)

For this recipe  you will need:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked plain rice
  • 1 cup chopped green onion (I used: 1/2 red onion)
  • 1 cup chopped vegetables of your choice (I used : Purple cabbage, celery, red peppers, carrots)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped roast pork or ham
  • 2 medium eggs (I used: 1 egg)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • cooking oil
  • optional: sesame oil
My Mom asked me how many servings of fried rice I ate. I had to plead the fifth. #NoRegrets

When my Mother asked me how many servings of fried rice I ate, I had to plead the fifth. #NoRegrets – Image: Flickr

According to Google there are about 6,990,000 fried rice recipes online, and out of these millions I recommend one: Makiko Itoh’s recipe on Just Hungry.com. You really can’t improve upon perfection.  Though, it’s as JH notes, it’s a fun recipe and is perfect for using up old rice and leftover veggies loitering in the fridge rather than throwing them out. I’ve made this recipe numerous times and I have never came up with the same final product.

III.  Arroz con Leche/ Rice Pudding

IMG_5965

Arroz con Leche aka Rice Pudding

Adapted from: Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice (I used the cup of rice from the previous recipe)

  • 2 cups milk, divided

  • 1/3 cup white sugar (I used 1/3 cup of brown sugar)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2/3 cup golden raisins (I also added some chopped dried cherries soaked in brandy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1.  Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; stir rice into boiling water. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In a clean saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Keep stirring unless you want a burnt rice layer on the bottom of your saucepan.
  3. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg**, and raisins; cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.

** When I poured my beaten egg (a little too quickly) into the bubbling mass of rice, my rice pudding quickly became a rendition of egg-drop soup. It was recommended in the AllRecipes.com comments section to either 1. have the beaten egg out for a long while so that it reaches room temperature, or 2. mix in milk so that the egg mixture wouldn’t become shell-shocked (hehe) when poured slowly into the pot.I imagine the egg is for additional creaminess, but in the future I would just omit the egg. Too-much hassle.

Images are mine unless otherwise stated.

Feature image: cookbookman17, Creative Commons

Jennifer Ortiz
Hi! I'm Jennifer. I graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's in English. I am currently summoning the gumption to travel the world and revamping my rhetorical film criticism/ appreciation blog . I love books, dogs, and super-chill instrumentals. Here's looking at you Penguin Cafe! Secret Obsessions: 90's angry girl punk music, Parks and Rec, and fashion.