How to Make Perfect Asian Rice
A few years ago at a culinary conference in the states, I met some eager-beaver folks from the International Rice Board, or something like that, who were there to promote rice consumption. I told them, point blank: “If you really, truly want to increase the consumption of rice, just send everyone a rice cooker.”
I loved mine, but unfortunately in Paris my kitchen is so small that I don’t have room for one. I guess I could get rid of my espresso maker, but really, that’s just not a possibility. (And every time I pass the panini grills at Darty I sigh in admiration…and keep walking.) So I’ve learned to make Asian-style rice in a regular saucepan, which is entirely possible.
Some of the information I gleaned from posts at My Korean Kitchen and this rice is perfect not just on its own, but to use for making fried rice. If you’ve ever tried fried rice and were confronted with a sticky disaster, the secrets is to always use day-old rice and separate the grains thoroughly with your fingers before frying it up.
Aside from using this rice for frying, sometimes I’ll just use it to make a quick meal of sliced of chicken or oven-roasted tofu, grated daikon or carrots, some fresh bits of chili-flecked citrus or kumquats to brighten things up, and a nice big pile of homemade kimchi. (If I don’t plan on speaking to anyone within close range for the next 48-72 hours.) I’m a big fan of roasted peanuts, or peanut sauce, and it just ain’t a rice bowl for me without one or the other.
In fact, when I worked in an Asian restaurant, I lived on bowls of plain rice with peanut sauce for two whole years. I also, coincidentially, gained fifteen pounds during that time.
(Although I could also lay some of the blame for the paunch on the endless procession of deep-fried, crispy shrimp toasts, too.)
The main concern is to always start with good rice. I use short grain rice which buy in Korean or Japanese markets since they usually have the best and freshest selection of rice. I was in a Sri Lankan market recently looking for rice and I had to explain to the fellow who was trying to get me to buy Arborio short-grain rice that no, Korea and Italy are not the same country.
Check the rice before you buy it. It should be lovely pure white, like the rice on the right. If it’s chipped, dinged up, and has dark spots like the one on the left, take a pass. And believe it or not, most rice has an expiration date on the package. If you have a package you salvaged from your grandmother’s pantry before she moved to Florida, toss it. Buy rice from a place that turns over their stock quickly: Asian markets are the best places to shop.
Even though none of my Asian friends add salt to their rice, I may have a few less after they read this as I like to add an umeboshi plum, which are available in markets specializing in Japanese ingredients. These pickled plums not only add a delicate saltiness to the rice but are very balancing for your health. So if you’re wondering why I’m so well-balanced, there ya go.
Related recipes and links:
Secrets of Cooking the Best Fried Rice (Steamy Kitchen)
Myths & Truths About Cooking Rice (Viet World Kitchen)
Bibimbap (Cooking Korean Food with Maangchi)
Kimchi Fried Rice (Amateur Gourmet)
Sushi Bowl Rice (101 Cookbooks)
Bolgogi: Korean Barbecued Beef (Dinner with Julie)
Sizzling Stone Pot Rice (Epikorean)
How to Make Perfect Brown Rice (Pinch My Salt)