Rice is a staple of many people's diets and has been for centuries. Author Yotam Ottolenghi once said, "Rice can play the lead or be a sidekick." It is delicious, affordable and easily accessible. Most adults assume that everyone knows how to cook rice. There are, however, intricacies to cooking rice that every amateur or experienced chef should know. Perfectly cooked rice is a key step in several popular dishes such as sushi, risotto, curries, and stir-fries. Even the most basic of dishes can lend to opening your palate, and begin a culinary adventure.
No matter which variety of is rice chosen for the meal, it's always important to rinse the rice. Imported rice has traveled a long distance and been repackaged. Washing the rice removes additions that may have gotten mixed in. Additionally, cleaning rice washes away the excess starch before cooking. This step helps to prevent rice from turning out gummy.
For white rice, the ratio of water to rice is 2:1. So, for every cup of rice, use 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, add a pinch of salt, and then add the rice. Stir the rice once to ensure it does not clump together. Cover with a lid and turn down the heat to a simmer. When all the water has evaporated, the rice is done!
It is common to hear chefs talk about fluffing their rice. Fluffing is an important step but should not be confused with stirring. After the first stir to ensure the rice does not clump together, do not stir the rice again while it is cooking. Stirring the rice activates the starch and will result in mushy rice. However, when the rice is finished cooking, it is good to fluff it. Fluffing the rice with a fork releases excess moisture.
Steaming rice is essential to get the best flavor and texture. Once the rice is done cooking, do not serve immediately. Instead, allow it to sit covered for an additional 10 minutes. This will let the rice steam in the pot. After the 10 minutes are complete, proceed to fluff the rice and serve it.
Brown rice is different from white rice in the cooking process. For every cup of brown rice, use 1.5 cups of water. Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, often taking 30 minutes. Put the rice and water in the pot, uncovered, and bring the water to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce the heat and allow the rice to simmer for 20 minutes, covered. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat, and leave the rice covered for another 10 minutes.
Making rice for sushi has its own specific instructions. Sushi rice is made with a type of rice called sticky rice. Follow the same ratios and cooking instructions as white rice until the water is evaporated. What makes sushi rice unique are its seasonings. Sushi rice is flavored with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. All of these seasonings are added to the rice after it's been cooked.
Another thing to note is that rice comes in long grain or short grain versions. Short grain rice is starchy and cooks up soft. Varieties of short grain rice include sushi (sticky) rice, arborio rice, and black rice. Short grain rice is perfect for sushi and risotto dishes. Long grain rice is drier and cooks up more separate. Examples of long grain rice are basmati, jasmine and brown rice. Long grain rice is ideal for saucy dishes.
Rice was first domesticated in China as far back as 2500 B.C.E. It slowly spread to other parts of the world including the Philippines, Bali, Korea, Japan, New Guinea, and East Africa. It is likely that rice came to the United States in 1694 from Madagascar. Today, over 100 varieties of rice are produced commercially in the United States. China is the largest producer of rice in the world, with India being a close second.
Despite trendy diets preaching otherwise, rice has many health benefits. Rice is a nutrient dense food that is high in carbohydrates. The human body requires carbohydrates to have energy and function properly. Different types of rice are known to control diseases including Alzheimer's, heart disease and stroke. Rice is high in fiber, helps to control blood pressure, and is a naturally gluten-free food. Rice contains low amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol. Similar to other foods, rice is healthy if it's consumed in appropriate quantities and combined with other nutritious foods.
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