Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Not Your Uncle Bens' Rice!

I once had a sister in law who didn't last very long in the family..when she and one of my husbands brothers came to visit us in Los Angeles. I of course cooked dinner for them. She wanted to go shopping with me so I took her along. At the market I picked up a bag of rice. She asked me what that was. "It's rice" I told her. For dinner. But how are you going to cook it? "It's rice" I told her. "But it's in a bag, there aren't any directions". "It's rice," I said..."not brain surgery.People have been doing this for thousands of years, trust me".
It seems that the only rice my ex sister in law was familiar with was the precooked microwavable type...she had never actually bought real rice that one just cooks in water!
Sometimes the simplest things are the things that people think are the hardest to do. rice seems to be one of these. In Indian cooking the main rice used is Basmati, which has the most delicious fragrant aroma, even when raw . In fact the name Basmati actually means fragrant in Sanskrit, so there. Like most rices Basmati comes in white or brown variety.
Most Indian recipes that I've used call for Basmati rice though some regional dishes use other varieties ,and now the good news. These varieties once never seen in American markets are readily available. It's not Uncle Bens world anymore. and this is not your Uncle Bens rice. For a great change try Bhutanese red rice. which lends a rosy glow and looks beautiful on the table.

Either way, before cooking rice go over it to make sure there are no stones or grit in it. I was taught to rinse and drain my rice usually three times or so. It removes any dust,rinses excess starch away,and keeps it from clumping while cooking. Sometimes rice is added to boiling water and sometimes the rice is stirred with spices and oil in the bottom of a heated pot before adding water. Either way most of the time once your water boils, put the lid on your pot and turn your heat waaaaay down. In about 20 minutes or so you will have perfect fluffy rice ready for the next step of adding the spices cilantro or what ever your recipe calls for.
One rice dish I'm especially fond of is one of the first I ever learned to make and is found in many Indian cooking sources.

Mustard Seed Rice

Start with Basmati Rice
!.) Wash and drain 2 cups of Basmati rice and let drain. Rinse it about two times as mentioned above
2.) Boil 3 cups of water
3.) When it boils add your rice
4.)1/2 cup of dried shredded UNSWEETENED coconut...NOT the stuff one puts on a birthday cake.
5.) 1 teasp. of turmeric
6.) 2 teasps of salt.

Bring it all to a boil once more and then put a lid on it, turn the heat to low and cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and your rice is cooked.Fluff it with a fork.

Then, get your chaunk on.

in a pan heat some oil. Once it's hot add:
7.) 1 1/2 Tbls of black/brown mustard seed
8.) 15 or so fresh or frozen curry leaves (available at any Asian market or online Indian markets)
9.)3 dried red chiles broken in pieces
Stir it around for about 30 seconds or so, when the mustard seeds start to pop add all the contents of your chaunk pan to the rice and stir it up.

Put it in a serving bowl and enjoy!

There are a zillion rice recipes out there. Experiment and search. Rice is easy, otherwise humans wouldn't have been cooking and enjoying it for so many thousands of years.


  1. I love this recipe for rice...not familiar yet with some of the ingredients...can't wait to try this.....thanks

  2. it's very simple and goes well with non indian dishes. most indian side dishes work really well with any grilled meat or fish. if you need any help with any ingredient let me know. I'm going out to look for linzer cookie molds today.

  3. I love your blog Kathy, I am married to a South Indian hence how I came to love Indian food, you have mastered it well, check my blog for chappatis and dosa and idly, will follow along

    Have a great day




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