Thursday, July 17, 2008

How to Boil Rice

This may seem like a waste of blogspace, but I simply must share my discovery.

When you cook regular white rice, does it end up fluffy and light or sticky and gloppy? Do you follow the directions on the package? Or the cookbook? Or the cooking show on television?

You know the directions I mean, the ones that say rinse the rice in cold water to wash away the excess starch. Excess starch sticky and bad. Right?


A few weeks ago, I was in a hurry trying to get supper ready and I skipped the washing step. My rice always turned out sticky anyway, so I figured, what difference could it make?

It made a world of difference. The rice turned out light and fluffy and wonderful. I thought it was a fluke, so I have tried this experiment several times since, with different kinds of rice, long grain and short, even sushi rice, and the result is the same. If you want light, fluffy rice, DON'T wash it before cooking.

Where in the world did this rice-washing myth come from? I think I have it figured out. Rice made for eating with Chinese and Japanese cuisine is supposed to stick together, especially sushi rice. So they wash their rice to make it stick together. Logic says that if you wash off the excess starch, the rice will be less sticky, but the opposite is true. Washing off the starch makes it more sticky. I believe this method of cooking was transfered over to the American table and the American cookbook, but for the wrong reason.

Americans wanting light, fluffy rice find themselves unable to make anything but sticky glops of rice, because the directions tell them to wash the rice before cooking. So they end up buying this stuff:

because converted, parboiled rice is the only commercial rice that comes out light and fluffy. You certainly don't buy it for the speed. Cooking this stuff takes almost as long to cook as regular white rice, and the quality is less than desirable.

So next time you buy a bag of rice, first make sure it's grown in America (support the local farmer), then follow the cooking directions except for that whole washing part.

And as an added bonus, rice cooked in this manner makes excellent stir-fried rice.


jehlo said...

Erm, it's entirely possible that I've never actually read the instructions on a bag of rice, because I haven't ever washed my rice before cooking it. In fact, this is the first time I've even heard of such practice. Roughly two parts water to one part rice, a pinch of salt, and boil until done is the way I always saw my mom cook it, and I suppose I never questioned the method since it's always worked. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, my rice is typically light and fluffy-just the way I like it. Now I don't make sushi at home, and my Chinese culinary ventures are limited to the occasional stir-fry, but even then, I prefer good ol' light, fluffy white rice. Coming from Arkansas, which is perennially the leading state in rice production, the idea of buying rice from another country is simply unfathomable. Also, being poor white trash makes the bag an easy choice over the box in our household. Since you've piqued my curiosity, however, I'll have to poll my friends and family regarding their rice cooking techniques.

Jeff said...

Every cooking show I've ever seen, plus all my cookbooks, say to wash the rice. I've even seen recommendations to wash the rice in 2-3 changes of cold water untl the water runs clear.