Rice is usually divided into three general categories: long, medium and short grains. All have their special bites, textures, sizes and colours.
- Long-grain rice, as the name denotes, is long and thin. It has a fluffy texture when cooked, and its grains remain separate. Parboiled rice is similar in appearance and texture to long-grain rice, but has been steamed and cooked before being milled.
- Medium-grain rice is slightly shorter and fatter than the other types. It absorbs more liquid and has a creamier finish when cooked.
- Short-grain rice is very short, and absorbs an immense amount of liquid during cooking, making the end result sticky and wet.
Primary Dietary Staple
At just under 400 calories for every lOOg in its raw state, rice is the main dietary staple of half the world’s population. From standard white grains to nutty-flavoured brown, to creamy risotto rice, to the exotic wild, rice offers something to tantalise most appetites.
- American Longgrain: you’re bound to have this as a staple in your store-cupboard. American longgrain is the most commonly available rice, and a standard in the kitchen.
- White Basmati: from the foothills of the Himalayas, this rice, with the bran taken out, is full of flavour and aroma. Serve with curries or other dishes which have a sauce to mingle with the rice.
- Brown Basmati: the same as white basmati but with the bran left in. Use this like the white variety.
- Carnaroli Rice: these tubby grains release starch as they cook, which is why Italian risotto is such a great comfort food.
- Red Camargue Rice: this is French rice with a distinctive red colour and nutty flavour. It’s good when served with fish, meat or in salads.
- Sushi Rice: this small, chubby Japanese grain is the perfect rice for making sushi because it gets so sticky when cooked.
- Thai Fragrant: this is grown in the paddy fields of Thailand; it becomes fluffy when cooked and has a faint jasmine fragrance. It is delicious with any Thai dish.
- Wild Rice: this is not true rice but an aquatic American grass. It must be cooked for longer, but the texture is satisfying and the nutty flavour is delicious. It is good mixed with white rice, but you can’t cook the two together. Cook them separately, starting the wild rice ahead of time, and then mix them together.
The highest consumption of rice per capita is in Myanmar (Burma), which is perhaps not surprising when you consider that Burma is smack in the middle of territory where rice cultivation most likely originated thousands of years ago. Radiocarbon dating of strata containing grains of rice found in south China indicates rice was cultivated as far back as 7,000 years ago. Researchers say that rice may have been indigenous to India and then moved eastward to Indochina and south-east Asia.
It is amylose—a linear polymer of glucose—in cooked long-grain rice that causes it to seize up or harden when refrigerated. This is called retrogradation; the starch cells collapse, squeezing the moisture out and causing the realignment of the starch molecules. Much to the chagrin of the cook, the rice turns hard. Retrogradation cannot be avoided, but it can be reversed when the rice is reheated. Don’t keep cooked rice in the fridge for long. Cooked rice is one of the most common causes of food poisoning, brought about by the bacteria Bacillus Cereus, which develops when cooked rice is left too long in the fridge. Cooked rice should be cooled rapidly and stored in a clean, sealed container within an hour of cooking. Treat it like meat: no more than four days in the fridge.
Rice is gluten-free and easily digestible, making it a good choice for infants and people with wheat allergies or digestive problems. A half-cup of cooked white rice provides 82 calories; an equal amount of brown rice provides 89 calories.
Tofu, also called bean curd, is a gentle, comparatively bland food product made from soybeans. Tofu is an significant source of protein in the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Tofu is made from dried soybeans that are soaked in water, crushed, and boiled. Tofu is 7% protein and is high in calcium, potassium, and iron. It is also a good resource of calcium, manganese; a source of phosphorus, selenium.
Combine with greens, a rich source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C; a source of vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, manganese.
Ingredients for Garlic Tofu and Greens
- 3/4 pound firm tofu, sliced in 1-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, divided
- 6 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
- 1 bunch kale, tough ribs removed, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
Method for Garlic Tofu and Greens
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss tofu cubes with 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and half of the minced garlic, making sure the cubes are well coated.
- Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden.
- While tofu is baking, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add penne pasta and boil for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.
- Heat the remaining oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the garlic and red pepper flakes and let them sizzle for just a moment.
- Add the kale a handful at a time, turning frequently with tongs.
- Once kale turns bright green and begins to wilt, about 2 to 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Mix the kale with the baked tofu, tossing well.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta.
Serving Suggestion for Garlic Tofu and Greens
The toasted sesame oil and garlic add depth to this simple vegetarian dish. This meal makes it easy to get greens in your diet. Try using broccoli for the kale when broccoli’s on sale. Or leave out the pasta and top the kale with poached or fried eggs for a high protein breakfast option.
Nutritional Information of Garlic Tofu and Greens
380 calories, 18 g. fat, 35 mg. cholesterol, 70 mg. sodium, 41 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. fiber, 17 g. protein
Rice colored with turmeric and shaped into a cone is a common sight during festive occasions in Bali and Java. The conical shape echoes that of the mythical Hindu mountain, Meru, while yellow is the color of royalty and one of the four sacred colors for Hindus.
Even in Muslim Java, this traditional festive dish remains popular, and is accompanied by sambal trasi, classic grilled chicken, and eggs in fragrant lemongrass sauce.
Ingredients for Indonesian Nasi Kuning
- 2 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced and two tsp ground turmeric
- 1/4 cup water
- 1.5 (300 g) cup uncooked rice, washed and drained
- 1.5 cups (375 ml) thin coconut milk
- 1/2 cup (150 ml) chicken stock or 1/4 tsp chicken stock granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm milk
- 1 salam or pandanus leaf
- 1 stalk lemongrass, thich bottom third only, outer layers discarded, inner part bruised
- 1 inch (2.5 cm) fresh galangal, peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp salt
Accompaniments for Indonesian Nasi Kuning
- Freshly sliced cucumber and tomato
- 1 portion sambal trasi
- 1 portion grilled Indonesian chicken
- 1 portion sambal goreng tempeh
- 1 portion eggs in fragrant lemongrass sauce
- Emping (melinjo nut wafers)
Procedure for Indonesian Nasi Kuning
- Grind the turmeric and water in a mortar until fine. Strain through a sieve to extract all the juice. Discard the solids. If using ground turmeric, dissolve the powder in two tsp of water
- Combine the rice, turmeric juice, coconut milk, chicken stock, salam or pandanus leaf, lemongrass, galangal, and salt in pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer cooked until the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the rice is dry and fluffy. Remove from the heat and mix well. Alternatively, cook the rice and ingredients in a rice cooker.
- Discard the salam or pandanus leaf, lemongrass, and galangal.
- Press the cooked turmeric rice into a cone shaped, if desired. Serve the cooked rice with the accompaniments on the side.
Banaras (also Kasi or Varanasi) is a tirtha, a religious pilgrimage city on the sacred Ganges River in northern India. Pilgrims come from all over India to cleanse in the river at Banaras.
Banaras is the most distinguished and consecrated of the seven ancient holy cities of India, stationed on the west bank of the Ganga (Ganges) in modern day Uttar Pradesh in India.
Lionized in numerous Hindu texts, it is the emphasis of a whole series of homologies which at the same time place it at the center of the world, make it the complete cosmos and position it as the ford or doorway to heaven or liberation (moksha). This last transition is thought to be ensured by dying there—the explicit aim of many ageing and sickly pilgrims. Theoretically, the entire city may consequently be viewed as one great cosmic cremation ground.
Banaras is also an ageless center of long-established Sanskrit learning, since 1916 Varanasi has been home to what is now the biggest residential university in India, Benares Hindu University.
Ingredients for Banarasi Pilau
- 1.25 cups long grain basmati rice
- 3 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 cloves
- 3 cardamom pods
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup peas, thawed if frozen
- 3/4 cup carrots, cut into small cubes (about 2 carrots)
- 2.5 cups hot water
- 2 strands saffron
- 3/4 tsp salt, to taste
- 2 tsp nuts, such as pistachios or cashews, sliced
Procedure for Banarasi Pilau
- Wash the rice in several changes of warm water and leave to soak in cold water for half an hour. Drain in a sieve.
- Heat the oil in a heavy pan and add the cumin seeds, cloves, green cardamom pods, bay leaves
- After about two minutes add the rice and stir gently on medium heat.
- When all the grains are coated with oil) this usually takes three minutes, add the peas and carrots and pour the hot water. Add the saffron and salt. Stir and adjust the salt if necessary before leaving to cook uncovered on medium heat for 10 minutes. When most of the water has been absorbed, cover, lower the heat and continue cooking for a further 8-10 minutes.
- Fluff up the rice with a fork prior to serving.
- Sprinkle over the sliced nuts and serve piping hot
The simple and yet so scrumptious Aloo baingan sabji is a delicately spiced up Indian vegetarian recipe with diced aloo or potatoes stir fried with chopped baigan or brinjals. Aloo Baingan is an easy to make dish from North India. Eggplant and potato make for a fantastic combo and when roasted together in a shallow pan. Serve with bread or rice.
- 3/4 cup (170 ml) new potatoes, cut in half (1 small potato)
- 2 tsp (30 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 tsp / 5 ml black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin seeds
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp (30 ml) Patak’s Madras Curry Paste
- 1.25 cups (300 ml) tomatoes, chopped (about 2 tomatoes)
- 1 cup (230 ml) eggplants, diced (about 1/4 eggplant)
- Salt, to taste
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
- 1 tsp (1 15 ml) cilantro, chopped
- 1 tsp (5 ml) shredded coconut to garnish
- In a pan of boiling water, cook the new potatoes for 15 minutes, until they are almost cooked trough yet give some resistance when pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds. When they begin to crackle, add the garlic and Patak’s Madras Curry Paste. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil.
- Add the aubergines (eggplants) and potatoes and cook, covered at a simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add salt to taste and stire in the sugar.
- Serve garnished with cilantro and shredded coconut.
- Aubergines (eggplants) begin to discolor once cut so put them in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice
Tuscan cooking is exemplified by having simple food—food that is not covered in heavy sauces. Cooking is done with olive oil (not butter, as is used further north.) Olive oil is used as a salad dressing, is poured over bread, and is used in soups and stews. Beans are a staple. Sage, rosemary, and basil are popular spices.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup minced white onions
- 4 cloves crushed garlic
- 1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 cup roasted Roma tomatoes
- 3 cups cooked white beans (navy beans are best)
- 1 small potato, diced (preferably Yukon Gold)
- Water or vegetable stock
- 1 bunch basil
- Optional Toppings: Crispy bacon, truffle oil, kale threads, Grana Padano, fresh basil
- In a thick-bottomed pot, heat butter and olive oil
- Cook onions and garlic until translucent. Deglaze with white wine.
- Add tomatoes, beans and potato; cover with water or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours.
- Remove from heat and puree in blender or food processor until smooth.
- Refrigerate for one day before serving to allow flavors to build. Reheat and garnish with the options listed above or get creative.
Arguably the most famous rice in the world, basmati rice is a variety of long grain rice renowned for its fragrance and delicate flavor. In Hindi, basmati literally means “queen of fragrance.” Characteristically, the grains of basmati rice are longer than usual forms of rice. The grains grow longer as they cook. They aren’t sticky and remain firm and separate.
The lyohe fertile plains in the Indian subcontinent have cultivated basmati rice since the dawn of civilization. The best basmati rice grows in the foothills of the Himalaya range of mountains in Northern India, where the rice crops are fed by the mineral-rich rivers sourced in the melting snow of the Himalaya mountains. The best of basmati rice, traditionally aged for several years before it is milled and sold, consists of lower moisture content and therefore rice cooks better.
Basmati Rice Recipe: Traditional Method
- Clean the rice. Soak it in water for five to seven minutes. Never soak Basmati for too long since the grains are softer than most varieties of rice and over soaking makes it soggy when you cook.
- Boil water first and then add the rice to it.
- Cook till the grains get tender. This generally does not take much time. You have to check repeatedly to make sure that the rice is not overcooked. Now, since I cook rice such that there is water to be drained, I have a specific measurement for water. But generally I pour enough to ensure that the rice is completely soaked and if the water gets less due to evaporation, I add some more so that it does not get sticky or dry.
- Drain the extra water. You can do this by letting the rice settle first at the bottom of the container and then drain as much water as you can on the top. There will be some water still remaining. Cover the container with a dish of the same size as the rim of the container and gradually pour out the rest of the water. Now, with the mouth covered with the dish/lid invert the container completely and let it rest on the kitchen slab near the sink for a while so that most of the water drains out and flows into the sink. (you don’t want a mess right! Also remember to be careful while draining the water. Hold the dish/lid with a cloth so that you don’t burn yourself.
- To ensure that the grains are completely separated add some cold (room temperature) water into the rice again and repeat step 4. I have found that this really helps and separates the grain.
I always cook rice by draining the extra water and thus the starch.
In the Indian tradition, women learn how to cook from their mothers and their mothers-in-law. Historically, women learned how to run a household and women in elite and upper middle-class families oversaw servants who did the cooking. Every home therefore has collections of interesting traditional recipes. The family’s recipes tell a story, the story of how people lived and cooked at a particular point in time.
The nuances in recipes tell about a family’s place in the social order, their enthusiasm for serving others food as they engage with others in their social class. In India, food can be anything from hunger-satisfier, hedonistic stimulation or merely an object of intellectual and social curiosity that delights the mind and body far from the family’s dining table with one overwhelming bite after another.
Carrot Halwa is a rich concoction of milk-boiled grated carrot and syrup flavoured with cardamom powder. It is a very popular dessert in several parts of India. Across India, the carrot halwa is a cultural phenomenon. Made with various practices and conventions, flavor preferences of carrot halwa is influenced by cultural factors. And these delightful tastes evolve over time with social intermingling and cross-breeding of cooking traditions.
- Carrot: 2 lb, finely grated
- 2% Milk: 1/2 of the volume of carrot
- Sugar: 1/2 of the volume of carrot
- Half-and-Half: 1/2 a cup
- Ghee (Clarified Butter): 5 tsp (can substitute with butter)
- Raisins: 5 tsp
- Cashew nuts, pistachios, almonds: 10 tsp (broken into small pieces)
- Cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp
- Take a sauce pan and heat 2 teaspoons of ghee; fry raisins and cashew nuts on low heat until lightly roasted. Keep aside.
- In the same sauce pan, add grated carrot and milk and boil on a low flame until all the milk evaporates and the mixture looks dry. Keep the sauce pan open during this process; keep stirring regularly.
- Add sugar and half-and-half to the boiled carrot, keep stirring until all the sugar melts.
- Continue to stir regularly until about 80% of water in the sugar has evaporated.
- Add cardamom powder, the remainder of ghee and the roasted raisins and cashew nuts. Stir thoroughly and continue to evaporate the rest of the water in the mixture.
- When most of the water has evaporated, switch off the flame and stir. Do not allow the mixture to become hard. Remove the sauce pan from the stove, close the sauce pan and keep aside for 10 minutes.
- The carrot halwa is now ready. Serve it warm or chilled.
- Makes 5 servings
- Cooking time: about 75 minutes; slower the cooking, tastier the halwa.
- Adjust sugar based on preference.
- Grated carrot can be substituted with grated white pumpkin for another very popular dessert known as Kashi Halwa (named after the town of Kashi, a legendary city in the location of modern-day Varanasi and a prominant pilgrimage centre in India).
- To make Carrot Burfi, continue to heat the preparation on low flame. Take a plate and apply some ghee/oil to the surface of the plate and transfer the mixture on to the plate to prepare a fairly dense bed. After the halwa solidifies down, cut the bed into rhombus shaped blocks using a knife.