December 3, 2008

I love rice. Its in my blood. There are so many options for rice. It is a launching pad for so many other good foods, or even plain. Despite being a lover of flavors, I am also easily amused by bland balls of rice. Rice is everywhere, except for a hot second when it was rationed at Costco like gas during the oil embargo.

But seriously, I must be the only asian without a rice cooker. And when I flew the coop, I was forced to reconcile this problem. Why did I not buy a rice cooker? I was that cheap. Apparently, a dozen pots of burnt soggy rice does not warrant a cheap rice cooker from Walgreens. I asked my mom for her advice yet she had none. She had always had a rice cooker.

Expensive rice cookers utilize something called "fuzzy logic"........which pretty much sums up asians.

You can put any amount of water in those puppies, and they will spit out perfect rice. My dad preaches the "rice line", which refers to the height of water added to a pot of rice. When you stick your finger in, the water should come up to the second knuckle. The second knuckle. Whatever. The machine does everything.

My old babysitter used to cook rice in a claypot on the stove top, preaching varying placements of the vessel on the burner -- words likely to be uttered in the same breath as "feng shui". The upside to this method is the crunchy crusty cracker that forms at the bottom of the pot. My dad claims these crackers begat Rice Krispies. That the Chinese invented cereal, as well as gunpowder and spaghetti.

It turns out I had to seek advice from a crunchy hippie. Yup, they have it down. It is actually pretty easy to make good rice. So no more Uncle Ben's, although it does have a soft spot in heart, right next to gradeschool cafeteria nostalgia.

I asked the brown rice purveyor at the SF Ferry Terminal Farmer's market for his tried and true method after years of suckign down brown rice and vegetables. Here are his sage kernels of advice:


- 1 portion of rice. A portion is a portion. It can be a cup, 2 cups. Whatever it is, it is. I use mugs, soemtimes bowls as my metric.
- water

1. Put 1 portion of rice in a saucepan, preferrably a thick one. Fill is water and swish arround your rice to remove the "soot". Pour out murky water. My friend Terrance had this to add: "we also briefly rub the rice in between our hands during cleaning -some say this creates tiny cracks in the rice surface which absorbs water to make rice fluffier."

2. Refill the saucepan and swish once again. The water should be a little less murky this time.

3. Tilt the saucep and and pour out as much water as you can. Your kernels will be wet and there maybe a little excess water floating around. Leave it, its ok. Don't be anal. There is a bit of intuition to rice cooking.

4. Fill with a 1 1/3 portions of room temperature water. Soak for 30 minutes (optional) .

5. Bring to a boil on high. Here is where we depart from the back of the box instructions. Continue to boil on high until little craters for on the surface of the rice, like 1 cm in diameter. The steam will rupture the surface of the rice and create pocket of air, resulting in craters. The rice will look drier than usual. Keep track of how many minutes it took to do this.

6. Once there are craters, put a lid on the saucepan and turn to simmer. Simmer for however long it took to complete step 5 (same amount of time). Don't peak! Once done, open the lid and fluff! Taste.

**I will try and add some suggestions for course correction, once I figure them out.

**CAVEAT: This method works best with manageable portions of rice. Once you get to doing 4 cups of uncooked rice at a time, stovetop methods get a little dicey. I only tried doing this once, at high elevation, and I ended up with a clusterf**k in a pot.

This recipe is for chinese style rice. Good with medium grain rice, such as Calrose. As I continue to blog, I will try and elucidate the longer and shorter grains. This is really a launching point for a multitude of dishes, especially fried rice. Leftover rice? Throw it together with the rest of your fridge's forgotten goodies and fry that sh*t! You can even resurrect that hard crumbly mass of rice from Tuesday.

Later on I will add posts on the basics of fried rice as I was instructed by my parents with varying iterations of flavors. For now, don't fret. Rice is totally doable, as long as it is available!


Terrance said...

my family does the finger method. ancient chinese secret. and we also briefly rub the rice in between our hands during cleaning -some say this creates tiny cracks in the rice surface which absorbs water to make rice fluffier.

i was really hoping for "too hot so don't stay in the kitchen"


penny* said...

the fuzzy logic thing is really funny. my mom said that i am not allowed to eat cheap sushi in hong kong because she saw on television that ten pieces has the bacterial equivalent of one tablespoon of feces. what kind of scientific method is that?

i was taught that the rice to water ratio is calculated by putting your hand in the rice/water mixture and the water has to be at the wrist level.

katie said...

that's because your family eats a lot. To the wrist, my god!

although apparently you are no Luddite. thanks for the tips.

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