Lets cook Rice
Rice is one of the staple food of India like many other Asian countries.We spent our summer vacation at ‘Nanighar’,general term used in Hindi for grandparents house from mom-side.So I got the chance to observe the whole rice making process.From field to silo to plate.In every farmer’s house,there is a room dedicated for tall ‘clay’ silo to hold the grains.Different grains in different season.So it was lentil,rice,wheat,mustard seeds etc.Those room were usually dark,for the lack of consistent electricity in villages back then.I wish I took pictures many moons ago.
So it is no surprise that Indians use rice from savory to sweet, breakfast to dinner, snacks.Rice is not just boiled cooked rice, it is ground, beaten, flatten, puffed transformed in oh so many different ways.The way, we cooked rice at home was different.Traditionally many Indian cook and my mom included does not follow rice to water ratio.Water is always much more than 1:2 ratio.Also it is stirred during cooking and checked for doneness.Once it is cooked, lot of water is left in the rice,which is drained by covering the pot of cooked rice with lid and holding it on both side with kitchen towel and tilting it over the sink or a bowl to drain the water.This is traditional Indian method.For many poor family, adding salt to the starchy liquid and eating with the rice is very common.
I did not like this ‘draining’ part at all, burn hazard if you are not careful and checking for doneness is pain.There was always a chance that I didn’t add enough water, so it will be crunchy or add too much water, over cooked and it is sticky mess,which no-one likes.Yes,I have made all that kind of rice too.So when I learnt of ‘rice cooker’ I was very happy.Though after using it for little while, I didn’t like idea of being dependent on gadget in making such a simple routine dish as ‘rice’, an Indian afterall.But I did learn during my ‘rice cooker’ days that water doesn’t need to be drained, if you just add enough water, it gets evaporated in the end.It was quite a mental change for me, ‘so, oh you can actually avoid draining afterall’.
Thing which may help with cooking good rice
Type of rice
- Short grain,long grain,parboiled,how it was processed?Where did it came from?Long Grain Rice fed on air,water,soil, climate in India is different from one which comes from Mexico.All these determines how long and how much water and how high or low,slow or fast rice needs to be cooked.
- For Spanish rice dishes I use short to long grain rice grown around here.For mainstream Indian dishes,I stick with Basmati.For Oriental dishes,I use ‘Jasmine’ rice.For certain Indian dishes,there is special rice made from ‘parboiling’ is used.I have noticed that Indian Basmati,holds its long petite shape after cooking much better than their Mexican friends,which tends to get plumpy and bends.Jasmine rice are sticky by nature.
- For Indian rice pudding or Italian Risotto,I would use ‘Arborio’ rice,since it adds ‘creaminess to the dish’ which is desired.Indian use ‘Arva’ rice for rice pudding.It is very thin and short petite rice.I have not found it here yet.
- Type of rice determines,how much water directly.Though for most rice,standard 1:2 (1 part rice,2 part liquid) works well.Sometimes,depending on type of rice I am using,I would add 1/4 cup more or less. Remember,it is NOT necessary that you measure the rice using measuring cups.Many times,i directly get the rice out in a pot i am about to cook ,one less thing to wash later or any bowl lying around in my viewing range and remember how much filled my bowl was and double the amount of water to that mark.I use the bowl method for sure,when I am making rice for crowd.
- I learnt about the finger method from my South Indian roommates.Amount of water should cover an inch of your finger, when you dip your finger in the water, to the point where it touches the rice.I follow this method for everyday cooking.
- If you don’t want to use your finger,just use spoon or spatula.Mark an inch from the end of it and dip.If water touches the marked end,you are good.
- Normally,when I make rice on stove top,I let the rice come to boil first uncovered.Once it is boiling,i simmer it down to low and cover it for most part,just leaving small gap to let the steam out.(B2B – > B2S).Bring to Boil then Back to Simmer.General principle which applies to anything where you have added liquid to cook.
- Rice continues to cook in steam and gets soft,so I always let the rice sit covered after it is done for 7-10 mins before I serve it.
- My assumption:You are not using Instant rice mixes.
- 17-20 mins is standard rice cooking time + 10 mins rest time.
- If rice is taking more than that,it means water is more or heat is not adjusted when it was suppose to.Result is ‘Sticky overcooked rice.
- If it took less time,it means either water is less or it was cooked on high heat,so water evaporated without cooking rice.Result is crunchy rice.
- I use deep pot.Not as deep as Pasta or Tamale pot but just regular deep pot.
- Someday,I may buy Paella pan, for now,if i can not justify that good paella can be made using only big,flat paella pan.My pot and pan work together well.
My personal choices
- I ALWAYS ALWAYS wash my rice before I cook.It is an Indian thing.It washes of some starch and I feel some dirt too.
- Even if rice looks undone sometime at top,keeping it covered helps with cooking using steam.
- I keep away from processed rice.I do not use Instant rice or other kind of rice mixes.It is an American adjustment for me and i am not sold on to them.
- I have cooked rice with chicken broth/bouillon cube.Though water is my favorite choice.I have set to experiment with mixing broth with wine or tea in future.
- My dad has taught me,adding little oil along with lemon juice helps rice from sticking to each other.You can of course use butter if you want to.