Fluffed One is­sue, a whole lotta rice

From wash­ing it clean to let­ting it rest – and ev­ery­thing in be­tween: Dale Bern­ing Sawa serves up rice ad­vice

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page -

With rice at the core of what at least half the world’s population cooks, it will come as no sur­prise that there are as many va­ri­eties of the grain as there are ways to prep it. Plain white rice is the beat­ing heart of most Asian cuisines – the cook­ing of which in­volves noth­ing more than wa­ter – whereas in Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries plain rice will in­vari­ably in­volve both fat and salt, and some­times gar­lic too. Broadly speak­ing, though, how you cook your rice lies some­where be­tween let­ting it ab­sorb all the liq­uid it needs and steam­ing it un­til ten­der. Ex­actly where you lie on that spec­trum – and whether you start by wash­ing and soak­ing the grains – is de­ter­mined by the va­ri­ety and the cui­sine within which you’re work­ing.

To rinse or not to rinse

White rice gen­er­ally needs a good rinse be­fore cook­ing, to re­move its starchy coat­ing – not wash­ing it leads to smellier rice that spoils faster. You put the rice in a bowl, cover with cold wa­ter and swirl around with your hand, re­peat­ing this sev­eral times un­til the wa­ter runs clear. Of course, rid­ding the rice of its starch is not what you want for dishes where the grain’s creami­ness is used to full ef­fect – risot­tos, pael­las and sweet or savoury rice pud­dings. (It’s still a good idea, though, to pick over the dry grains to get rid of any for­eign mat­ter …)

To soak or not to soak

While wild, whole­grain or gluti­nous rice al­ways need to be soaked be­fore cook­ing, usu­ally overnight, many plain white rices also do. Ja­panese short-grain rice, for ex­am­ple, once rinsed and com­pletely drained for 10-15 min­utes, is best soaked for 30 min­utes in its ac­tual cook­ing wa­ter be­fore the heat is turned on. Mar­garet Shaida soaks bas­mati for Per­sian-style white rice for 3-6 hours in lots of fresh cold wa­ter with rock salt, then drains it com­pletely. And Mad­hur Jaf­frey soaks her In­dian bas­mati for 30 min­utes be­fore thor­oughly drain­ing. Ba­si­cally, whether you’ve only rinsed the rice, or soaked it in lots of wa­ter, you’ll al­ways want to drain it thor­oughly be­fore adding in its cook­ing wa­ter.

To steam ...

Ei­ther you par­boil the rice in lots of wa­ter, then steam it un­til ten­der – see the in­volved method for Per­sian-style

ch­e­low, or Fuch­sia Dun­lop’s trad recipe for Chi­nese long grain where, af­ter a 7-8 minute sim­mer, it is tipped into a steamer bas­ket over a high heat and left for 10.

... or to boil

Or else you boil it in just enough wa­ter so that it is fully ab­sorbed. Ja­panese short-grain re­quires about a 1:1.1 rice to wa­ter ra­tio – or in other words, the same vol­ume as your rice, and a tiny bit ex­tra. Most im­por­tantly, though – and this ap­plies to meth­ods ev­ery­where, from Viet­nam to Ecuador – never lift the lid on a pot of cook­ing rice. And for 20 min­utes af­ter you turn off the heat too, just leave it be. You want a heavy-based pan and a lid that fits well – wrap the lat­ter in alu­minium foil or a muslin, or weigh it down with some­thing heavy to en­sure no steam es­capes. Most meth­ods will see you bring­ing the wa­ter to the boil and cook­ing over a high heat for a short while, then over the low­est pos­si­ble for longer. The browned crust that high heat of­ten pro­duces isn’t the sign of an in­ex­pe­ri­enced cook, but rather the bit eaters at ta­bles across the globe fight over.

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