“1-2-3 is the basic recipe,” I said to Ruth, who was having a slight senior moment regarding how to cook rice. “One cup rice and two cups of water makes three cups of food.”
“Oh yes,” Ruth said. “I was thinking 3 cups of water to one cup rice was how my mother used to make rice. It was always so moist and tender. I forgot the 1-2-3 rule.”
“Well, all I know is that one cup of rice can feed three people. I play The Rice Game quite a bit, and it is amazing how one cup of rice can swell up and make a difference for people in so many countries. It is one staple that truly has global reach.”
That little conversation got me thinking about all the rice in the world, and how odd it is that June brides of the past could waste such a precious food by having guests throw rice at weddings. (While I understand the custom, I much prefer the more recent rose petal tossing or bubble blowing activities at weddings instead of getting whacked in the eyes by errant grains of rice.)
To each her own, however, so here are some of the rice choices we have these days to eat or toss, as desired:
ARBORIO – An Italian rice with short, thick grains that are firm, creamy and chewy due to their high starch content. Arborio is mostly used in making risottos (an Italian rice specialty made by stirring hot stock into sauteed rice).
BASMATI – A fragrant, long-grained rice primarily from the fertile Punjab region (India/Pakistan) with a nutty flavor and aroma. It should be rinsed in cold water and soaked before cooking. Basmati is fabulous in any recipe, from starters to entrees and pilafs to puddings.
BROWN – Unpolished short or long-grain rice with only the husk removed so the high-fiber bran coating is still intact. It has a chewy texture that requires a longer cooking time than white rice. Brown rice is prized for its higher nutritional value and mild nutty flavor. It can be used in most recipes with great results.
CONVERTED (A.K.A. par-boiled) – White rice that has been steam treated before it is husked so it takes less time to cook and has more nutrients than white rice. It has a slightly beige color. The most famous brand is Uncle Ben’s. Converted rice is versatile enough for most recipes.
GLUTINOUS – An Asian short-grained rice that becomes very clumpy and sticky when cooked. It is mostly used for sushi, molded salads, and various desserts, such as the Thai dessert dish “sweet sticky rice with mango.” Yum.
INSTANT (or quick cooking) – White rice that has been fully or partially cooked before being dehydrated and packaged so it cooks quickly (in about 5 minutes) when rehydrated. It is mainly a last-minute convenience food useful when waiting for traditional rice to cook won’t do. That expediency makes it relatively expensive, and some say flavor and texture are sacrificed. Minute Rice is a well-known brand.
WHITE – A common polished long-grain or short grain rice with the husk, bran, and germ removed to make the rice tender and fast-cooking, and to prevent spoilage. (Enriched white rice on the label means some of the nutrients have been restored.) White rice is great for a side dish or as a bed for sauces.
WILD – Not really a rice but a long-grain marsh grass with a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It takes longer to cook and can be used in a wide variety of foods such as stuffing, casseroles, soups, salads, and desserts. Wild rice has also been used in breakfast cereals, and mixes for pancakes, muffins, and cookies.
To satisfy my curiosity (and to verify my memory), I did look up a basic white rice recipe for Ruth and forwarded it to her by email. Many other rice recipes call for more or less water, depending upon the variety of rice used. But for now, you can’t go wrong with this basic white rice recipe:
While this recipe isn’t unusual, it certainly can help Ruth in the future if she adds it to her family cookbook. After all, she might not remember 1-2-3 again, and, frankly, I might not either!