Have you ever seen an Asian person and wondered? DO THEY EAT RICE EVERY DAY?
Think again…and I don’t recommend asking someone—especially me—THAT question!
That way I won’t have to find where you are and go there just to smack you in the head!
Of course, I do know how to cook rice really really well, without having to eat it every day. I haven’t shared how to cook many different kinds of rice because I thought everyone knew already. Sorry for that (racial!) assumption. I thought you all had the rice cookers, steamers and such that you can use to cook rice. Don’t you?
Well, this post isn’t going to be about how to cook rice in a rice cooker. For THAT you should just read the manual, if that’s what you want to know. I didn’t own a rice cooker for the longest time and the one I own now was given to me by an American friend who thought it was such a necessity for an Asian to have a rice cooker. I didn’t care to use it because rice cooked with an automatic rice cooker isn’t as good as the rice cooked with my method.
To talk about cooking the perfect rice and not talk about the many different types of rice is like talking generically about pasta. Each pasta needs its own different cooking time, and rice does too.
Let’s start with the basics:
1) There are many different types of rice
1.1) If you divide it by the size and shape of the grains, there will be short grain and long grain.
Some might add medium grain as a category, but I normally consider them the same as short grain.
I’m not going to tell you how to identify them. The width to the length ratio isn’t my interest. What matters to me is how to cook each type perfectly.
1.2) Other than dividing them by shape, rice also can be divided by the type of starch. In this case you will have plain or regular rice that contains more Amylose (the straight chain polymer of glucose units) and sticky rice that contains more Amylopectin (the branched chain polymer of glucose units).
Sticky rice has many different names: sticky, glutinous or sweet rice. The differences between the two are in the molecular level as I briefly described above. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but ask me if you really want to know.
1.3) There is another way to divide the rice, by how the rice kernels were milled. This way you will have brown rice, the rice grains that only got the hull removed but the rest still intact.
“Brown” rice also comes in many different colors—purple rice, black rice, red rice—and maybe some more that I don’t know.
2) The basic method of rice cooking (for steamed plain rice only, not including risotto, paella, or any rice that’s cooked with some other liquid other than plain water). There are many ways of cooking rice, but the principle is always the same: Rice grains need to absorb water until they’re fully cooked.
2.1) Steaming Done all the way until the rice is finished. This is actually not a bad method. If you have steamer at home, all you have to do is just put rice in a cup or a bowl, add water, then put the bowl in the steamer and set the timer. For white Jasmine riceI usually steam it for 20 minutes from the minute I turn the steamer on, or 15 minutes form the minute the water in the steamer reaches a boil and releases steam. You will need longer time for brown rice. I use to steam purple Thai sticky rice for one hour and it still wouldn’t be done, so the cooking time varies depending on many factors, such as:
– Amount of water in the rice grains
– Amount of water in the bowl
– The type of the rice grains
– Amount of water used in the steamer
– Amount of heat
Steaming is the easiest method, and ensures perfect rice every time. You can check if the rice is cooked by opening the steamer and pick a rice grain from the top of the cup or bowl and taste it. If it soft all the way through, you are done. The idea is to let the rice grains absorb the water from the cup. The water isn’t going to reach the boiling temperature but will be very close.
With this method the amount of water used in cooking and the time used for cooking needs to be adjusted according to each type of rice. You need to try on your own.
There is another way to steam rice. I mentioned in the Mango Sticky Rice post that I steamed the sticky rice without water in the bowl. That method requires the soaking of the rice grains overnight so each grain absorbs the water to the max before the steaming time. You can also bypass that if you put the rice in water and put the whole bowl in a microwave and heat it at high until the water is bubbling, then you can drain the water and steam the rice in the steamer without the water. However, keep in mind that by throwing out the water that you used to soak the rice grain in the microwave, you are losing some of the nutrients in the rice too. That’s why I personally don’t use that method. I only use the steaming without water with sticky rice that has been soak overnight only.
2.2) Cooking rice in a pot. This is the most popular method, and this is the theory that the rice cooker is using to cook the rice. If you know the principal, you don’t even need the rice cooker.
All you have to do is putting the right amount of water in the pot with the rice, CLOSE THE LID (very important) and cook at high heat until the water reach the full boil, then simmer it until the rice is cooked. It sounds very easy and it is easy. But (of course there is always “but”) the trick is to know what is the right amount of water to the rice you use. This is something you have to try it with your rice. I can only give you guideline but it’s not going to be the perfect amount.
This is the approximate ratio of rice : water
White Jasmine rice 1:1 (New Jasmine rice 1 : 0.9, Old Jasmine rice 1 : 1.15)
Brown Jasmine rice 1:1.8
White Calrose rice 1:1.25 (This ratio can be used with most Japanese rice such as Koshihikari and Nishiki)
Brown Calrose rice 1: 1.65
What California rice 1:1.15
Brown California rice 1:1.65
Thai Sticky rice 1:1.25-1.5 depending on the age of the rice after harvest.
Thai Purple rice 1:2
Chinese Black rice 1:2
Basmati rice 1:1.5
Thai red rice or Himalayan rice 1:1.5
Bomba rice 1:2.5 (Yes, believe it or not. This is the rice that makes paella so delicious. I recommend trying it at least once for paella. If you are using soup stock, you can’t use 1:2.5 ratio because the stock has more than just water. The ratio or rice:stock will end up around 1:3-3.5. If you are substitute Bomba rice with another short grain rice like Calrose, you need to reduce the amount of soup stock accordingly.)
Arborio rice 1:1.5
Every time you buy a new batch of rice, you normally have to adjust the amount of water a little. If you keep your rice grain for a long time because “You don’t eat rice every day”, after 4-5 months of storage, you have to start adding slightly more water to the pot before cooking the rice.
2.3) Cooking rice in a pot, but with the old method of pouring water out after the rice grains are cooked. This is the ancient method that the Thai used before the automatic rice cookers invaded and conquered our country. And this method is still good for cooking brown rice.
First you put rice in the pot. Then you add water. You need to use a large pot because we will be adding a lot more water and once the water reaches a boil, it will really foam up. So the rice shouldn’t fill more than 1/3 of the pot and the water might go up really high, almost all the way to the brim. Set the stove to high. Then wait until the water reaches a boil, then lower the heat to medium high. The water should still be bubbling but not foaming out of the pot. Stir so the rice grains are separated, flipping the bottom up onto the top so it won’t be burn.
Cook until the rice grains are cooked through. You can tell by biting into a grain, and if it’s soft all the way through, then it’s cooked. You can just look at the grain, too. If the grains look fluffy and expanded, it’s normally fully cooked. The next step is to pour the excess water that is left in the pot out. This water is delicious and full of nutrient so, don’t throw it away. You can drink it. My grandmother liked to add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar before she drank it.
After the water is all drained, put the pot back on the stove over low heat, cover the pot and dry excess water from the rice. Make sure that the heat touches every part of the pot so the rice grains are all dry, not by stirring the rice but by moving the pot around over the heat.
2.4) Cooking rice in a microwave oven. This is not my favorite method, even though the result isn’t so bad at all, I have to admit, and less messy too. The idea is to heat the water until it reaches a boil and let it rest, COVERING it, of course. Then keep heating the water and resting for just two rounds, and you will get the perfectly cooked rice. This is the method that I use when I want to cook just enough rice for myself (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of dry rice grains).
– White rice Heat at high 2 minutes, rest 5 minutes, stir, then heat at high again another 2 minutes, then rest 5 minutes. Most of the time if you check the rice grains, they should be all cooked, but if they aren’t, you can heat it at high again for another 1 minute and rest another 3 minutes, then you should be done.
– Brown rice Heat at high 2 minutes, rest 5 minutes, stir, then repeat the whole process 3 – 4 times depending on the type of brown rice.
– Sticky rice Heat at high 2 minutes, rest 5 minutes, stir, then repeat the whole process one more time. Sticky rice is different; you have to heat at high for another one full minute and take the extremely hot bowl out to stir while you spray cool water on the cooked rice grains to stop the cooking process or else the sticky rice will become mushy.
I never use this method to cook more than a cup of rice, so i don’t know if this is good for cooking a large batch.
Congratulations…Now you are done with the lecture. We’re ready for your laboratory time.
3) Let’s cook the rice
3.1) Steaming the short grain rice:
3.2) Cooking mixed brown rice and white rice together in a pot:
If you want to cook only white rice, you don’t have to par-boil the brown rice. You just add the white rice and water, boil at high heat until the water reach a boil and reduce the heat to the lowest and simmer for 12-15 minutes.
3.3) Cooking brown rice with the old method:
3.4) Cooking sticky rice in microwave:
Thanks to my aunt Chutarat Borwornsin for teaching me how to cook rice without a rice cooker at age 15. So since then I’ve been a freedom rice cooker. Love you Auntie Paew!