Monday, June 13, 2011

Rice: My Comfort Food

Sticky Rice with Mung Beans

Rice has been a part of my diet ever since I can remember.  At every meal, my family would have rice on the table.  Rice for breakfast, rice for dinner, rice for dessert - you get the picture.  It was very much a part of the Asian culture I was raised in, and even though my siblings and I grew up in a very non-Asian community, that didn't matter when we sat down to eat as a family.

After I left for undergrad in 1996 and was living a majority of the time away from home, I temporarily lost touch with that tradition.  Living with roommates in the dorms, it didn't feel right having a rice cooker in such closed quarters.  And with the all-you-can eat buffets in the cafeteria, I just ate whatever was available that day.  Usually a lot of cheese, a lot of bread or pasta, and a lot of baked desserts.  Hello, freshman 20.  Anyway, during my third year of undergrad, I was living in an apartment across the street from a Korean restaurant.  And every time I would walk by, I would smell rice cooking.  It was very comforting, very nostalgic, and it made me want to start cooking rice on my own.

So I bought a rice cooker, bought some fancy jasmine rice, and I was all ready to get started when it dawned on me....I had never cooked rice before.  Sure, it was always on the table, but either my mother, my father, or my grandmother would make it.  And with such a sentimental memory, I didn't want to screw it up.  So I called my mom, which to my surprise, just made matters worse.  She said, "Wash the rice until the water is pretty clear, add water and then cook."  When I asked about the amount of water to use, she said "Enough to cover the rice and then a little more.  Maybe a cup or two.  Warm water.  Use warm water. Ok, JoJo?"

Um, ok.

So taking what I could from the conversation and supplementing it with the directions on the bag of rice and some tips from the internet, I began to learn how to make rice.  Which brings us to today's recipe post.  I've learned a lot since that time in college about rice, including cooking techniques, how other cultures prepare it, and the huge spectrum of rices available to enjoy.  This posting gives you a little bit of everything. :)  Kind of like those college cafeterias.....

Sticky Rice with Mung Beans (GF, DF, V, rSF, SF)

1 c brown rice                                       
1/2 c red rice                                         
1/4 c black rice                                     
1/4 c dry mung beans                           
4 c warm water for soaking
4 c warm stock for cooking
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons oil
1-2 teaspoons salt

1.  Combine all three rices and mung beans in a large, sealable container.
2.  Cover the rice and beans with the 4 cups warm water, seal the container, and allow to soak for at least 2 hours (I soaked the rice pictured for 8 hours).  Soaking not only makes cooking rice easier and quicker, but it also drastically increases the nutritional benefits and ease of digestion.
3. After soaking, drain and rinse the rice and beans. You'll notice that the grain and beans will have absorbed some of the water and will be much more plump. And if the water smells a little sour due to partial fermentation, don't worry. Just nature doing its thing. :)
4.  Smash the cloves of garlic, either with the side of a knife or by gently crushing them with a kitchen mallet.
5a.  If using a rice cooker, combine all ingredients in cooker.  If the stock you are using is already seasoned with salt, you may only need to use 1 teaspoon or perhaps none at all.  If you do not have stock on hand, water may be substituted.  Select appropriate setting and allow to cook.
5b.  If using a stovetop method, combine all ingredients in a large saucepan or pot.  Cover tightly and bring to a boil.  As soon as it has reached a boil, immediately reduce temperature to bring to a simmer.  Allow to cook for 40 minutes to an hour.  It is very important to keep lid secure the entire time.  It will be finished when almost all the water has been absorbed and the steam within the saucepan has subsided considerably .  Remove from heat source and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before uncovering and serving.
6.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Beauty shot

Activate nutrition!

Plump after soaking

Wish this was scratch n' sniff

And that's that.  The aroma while it's cooking is incredible.  If you're entertaining guests, see if you can time it to finish cooking just after everyone has arrived.  They will be drawn to the kitchen like moths to flame (but with a much better outcome).  Serve it with bold flavors, like a rich coconut curry, stir-fried vegetables, a mushroom ragout, or braised duck.  Yummmmmmmm.

In cooking rice, I am proud not only to continue the tradition I was raised in, but to also have the opportunity to enrich that tradition and share it with others.  I hope this posting can help you avoid some of the trials and many errors I had to go through to get to delicious rice.   While not rocket science, there certainly is a method that can only be cultivated from doing.  But once achieved, the sky is the limit. 

May you find comfort in both your doings and achievements. :)


  1. The wondrous aroma of rice being cooked it makes me think of the movie title 'The scent of green papaya.' Rice was indeed the center of the culinary universe growing up and it's very much true that my siblings and I didn't get a grasp about how to cook rice until we were much older.

    I think perhaps learning to cook rice may be the equivalent of the standard of knowing how to make a proper omelet in the French kitchen. If you're able to cook rice/a proper omelet then you can pretty much do anything after that.

    I still cook rice on the stove sometimes, but I adore my rice cooker and it's one of the reasons why I sent almost the same model or rice cooker to Senor Canary ;p A rice cooker is a must have and if it has a steam basket with it you'd better snap it up. It makes your day and mealtime a lot easier.

    The recipe that Jonathan has put together is awesome and it's packed with lots of healthy fuel. For Vegetarians and Vegans it's a great complete protein powerhouse and if you just add some sautéed vegetables to this; then you'll have a wonderful meal.

    Good job, kuya =)


  2. Oh I almost forgot to mention that another awesome property about red rice and black rice (aside from fiber and nutrients), is that they have anti-inflammatory properties! =)

  3. Speaking of things we forget, just a quick word about black rice (aka forbidden rice). It is considered "glutinous," but mind you, that has nohing to do with gluten. It simply refers to its sticky texture due to a large amount of amylopectic. Glutinous rices are native to Asia and the Pacific Islands. Yay for trivia!

  4. Hey Jonathan, I made this yesterday and loved it. I found it also makes great tutong!

  5. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Nori! Hope you and the family are doing well. :)


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