Friday, April 6, 2012


Rice: cheap, plentiful and . . . interesting?!

You know those ads, "Change the cheese, change the _____"? Darn, I can't remember what goes in the blank!

"Taste"? "Flavour"? "Choice?" "Recipe?"

Hmm. Well, I'm going to soldier on regardless. The crux of the Canadian Dairy Farmer's message was that if you substituted one variety of cheese for another, your dish would be completely made over, magically.

The same holds true for rice. 

What kind of rice is that?! No dyes added, no photoshop - read on!

Check out the different varieties I have in my pantry:

Chinese Forbidden Rice (it's black!)

Ever had Chinese Forbidden Rice? You can buy it at The Gourmet Warehouse.

Red Cargo Rice (from Thailand)

How about Red Cargo Rice? I bought it at Superstore.

How to Cook Red Cargo Rice:
1 part rice to 2 parts water (for 2 servings, 1/2 cup rice and 1 cup water)
Bring to a boil, cover with lid and reduce heat to simmer (low) for 40-45 min.
Fluff with fork and serve! No need to soak overnight - this worked just great for me.

Ah, the wide world of rice! Short grain, long grain, glutinous, polished, unmilled, sticky . . . the choices are many! And not all can be easily substituted for the other (the same is true with cheese - you can hardly expect a rigid parmesan-reggiano to have the same properties of mozzarella!); it wouldn't do to use brown basmati to make risotto!

White Basmati Rice

But with a little foresight, you really can change up a hum-drum old rice-based recipe to something exotic and visually exciting, particularly if you use Chinese Forbidden Rice or Cargo Red.

Brown Basmati Rice

Rice is a basic staple that every kitchen needs. And you mustn't buy into the marketing garbage that you need to have rice ready in a minute. Even if you're feeding a busy family, if you chuck the rice into a rice maker or into a pot on the stove, it really only takes 15-20 minutes (note that brown rice takes about 40  - but it reheats well, so you could theoretically make it the day before and reheat it). If you get the rice going the moment you walk in the door, I'll bet that the rest of dinner won't be ready before it is. 20 minutes of watching rice boil might seem like forever, but when you're washing and prepping veggies or setting the table, 20 minutes goes by awfully quickly (sometimes too quickly!).

Long Grain White Rice

Brown rice is reputed to have more nutrients than white, and it also has a lower glycemic index, as far as I know. I personally always go for brown rice sushi when I'm at Kadoya! It's tasty, but it does take a little longer to make. Still, if you can get a full meal ready in 40 minutes, cutlery out and glasses of water poured, and still have time to be annoyed by how long the rice takes - well, my hat's off to you!

Wild Rice (not the same genus as the others, but a close relative!)

Calrose Rice

Flavours, textures and certainly fragrances vary with rice - just sniff the rice bags and compare! Some are nutty and "brown-rice-like' (like Cargo Red), others almost smell sweet, and Jasmine rice smells faintly of jasmine (what a shock!).

Arborio Rice (the stuff you make risotto with!)

Another great way to add interest to plain, old rice (of any variety) is to use a rice mould or form. Moulds are commonly used in Japanese and Asian cuisine, where a high value is placed upon presentation, and rightly so.

Silicone food moulds

I bought these silicone ones at YokoYaya123 (a Daiso subsidiary) for $2, and they've practically paid for themselves already. I can also use them to freeze borage blossoms in to make a pretty and functional ice-sculpture for cooling party platter fare, or to bake with. I haven't tried either yet, but I do reach for these cute little things every time I need to put a pat of rice onto a plate. You can always use a measuring cup as a form (might need a little vegetable oil spray to work), but I encourage you to keep an eye out for these at the Daiso or YokoYaya123.

Cooked Red Cargo Rice, Jasmine Rice, and Thai Green Curry

So what can you do with rice? Well, there's rice pudding, there's congee (I'm going to try making my own one day soon!), there's pilafs and salads and even casseroles, soups, stir-fries, and then the typical 'side-dish' splat of plain rice (not recommended - put a little effort in!). And that's not to mention rice flour and all the wonderful things one can make with it!

Thai Jasmine Rice

If you've never thought about how critical rice production is as a source of the world's food, consider the fact that the United Nations declared 2004 to be "The International Year of Rice"! This site even has free rice recipes from around the world, and unusual and intriguing ones at that!

Sweet (Glutinous) Rice - notice its opacity!

Want to give rice away to the needy for free? Visit and improve your vocabulary while rice is donated through the World Food Programme.

One of the largest Canadian importers of rice hosts the "Have a Rice Day" website, which gives much information on rice and rice-derived products (mochiko rice flour, for instance - for making mochi! Red bean mochi is my favourite!). If you're looking for a little more inspiration, try their site.

I turned some Sweet Rice into mochiko-style rice flour with a spice grinder! Easy!

Remember the ubiquitous rice grain! See the potential, not the routine. Check out your local ethnic grocers and amass a wide range of rice, and you'll have the basis for an economical, satisfying meal from virtually any cuisine (even French! Check out that 'rice recipes from around the world' link!).

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