10- The Basics: Rice

Serves: 5
Total Calories: 5,773


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Basic Boiled Rice I
Basic Boiled Rice II
Steamed Rice I
Steamed Rice II
Steamed Rice III


Plain rice is prepared by either boiling or steaming. When properly cooked, it is dry and milky-white, with its grains standing firm and separate from each other. It is also flaky on top with natural steam holes in its dull, dry surface. Rice should always have body. It should never be lumpy, sticky, mushy, wet or shiny. It may vary in hardness or softness, according to personal preference, but must not be too hard or too soft. Even when soft, it should be quite dry, with the moisture absorbed into each grain, not lingering on the surface. (Plain rice is usually eaten as is, but a drop or two of peanut oil and soy sauce can be added for flavor. However, soy sauce in quantity should never be added: it diminishes both the color and taste of plain rice.)

Variations in hardness or softness depend in part on the type of rice used. Long-grain rice, the most commonly used variety, is absorbent and calls for a greater amount of water. It makes for a harder, firmer rice. Oval or short-grain rice is less absorbent and makes for a softer, moister rice.

Another factor affecting hardness or softness (particularly in the long-grain variety) is the quantity of water used. The less water, the harder the rice will be the more water, the more it must absorb and the softer it will be.

NOTE: Interesting variations can be achieved by combining the two varieties in such proportions as 3/4 long-grain rice to 1/4 oval-grain. These work out well together because the long-grain has better texture but less flavor, while the oval-grain has better flavor but a stickier texture. The precooked varieties of rice, however, are never used.

Since rice more than doubles in quantity when cooked, 1/2 cup of raw rice per person is usually sufficient. The following are rule-of-thumb ratios which can be modified according to personal preference:

Long-grain rice (boiled): 1 cup raw rice to 1 1/2 cups water
(steamed): 1 cup raw rice to 3 cups water
Oval-grain rice (boiled): 1 cup raw rice to 1 cup water
(steamed): 1 cup raw rice to 2 cups water

The secret of flaky rice is in the washing. Rice must always be washed thoroughly before it is cooked to remove the excess starch. This keeps it from becoming sticky.

To wash rice:
1. Rinse under cold running water, rubbing the grains together between the palms of the hands. Or place the rice in a fine sieve or colander (set in a saucepan or bowl) and stir with spoon or chopstick to rub the grains together.

2. Continue this rinsing and rubbing action until the rinse water runs fairly clear.

Plain rice may be either boiled or steamed. There are several ways of doing each. Steamed rice is looser in texture and takes longer to cook. It also cannot burn.

A crust may form at the bottom of the pan, but will not burn if the heat is kept to a minimum. (Washing the pan is no problem, either, if you fill it with cold water and let it soak for a few minutes.) These crusts may be saved and refrigerated, then used in a number of ways: simmered with water to make congee or rice gruel or broken into bite-size pieces and deep-fried, a few at a time, until golden brown, nut-like and crunchy. When used-hot from the oil-to garnish soups or stir-fried dishes, the crusts are called Sizzling Rice because they actually sizzle on contact with other ingredients. Deep-fried crusts can also be eaten as a cracker-like hors d'oeuvre. (Crusts from glutinous rice can be prepared in the same manner.)


Steamed rice cooked in advance can be kept warm over barely boiling water. Boiled rice can be kept warm in the following ways:

1. When cooking is done, place the tightly closed pan over the lowest possible flame. (An asbestos pad is helpful here.) Do not lift the lid. The rice should keep warm for more than an hour without drying out.
2. When cooking is done, place the closed pan in a slow oven. Do not lift the lid until ready to serve.
3. Transfer rice to the top of a regular double boiler. Keep the water in the bottom heated to a slow boil.

NOTE: Never let rice get cold in its cooking pan. It will become hard and unpalatable. If you don't plan to use it within a few hours, store it as described in "Leftover Rice" (see below).

Rice will burn if the heat is too high or if there isn't enough liquid in the pot. The odor of scorching will signal trouble. When this happens, do the following:

1. Remove the lid at once. Let the odor disperse for a minute or so.
2. Place a slice of bread on top of the rice to absorb the burned, smoky flavor. Cover the pan again for a few minutes.
3. Transfer the unburned portion of the rice to another pan.
4. Add several tablespoons cold water. Cover the pan and cook over very low heat until done.
NOTE: Serving burned or improperly cooked rice to a guest is not only unattractive but considered poor etiquette as well.

Leftover rice has many uses. When reheated and eaten plain, it tastes as good as freshly cooked rice. It can also be used in soups, chowders, casseroles, congees, egg dishes or fried rice. (Recipes for these appear in the chapter on "Noodle and Rice Dishes." ) The Chinese consider leftover rice an asset rather than a liability and cook enough at once to last for several meals.

1. While the rice is still hot, separate and loosen the grains with a fork or chopstick.
2. Let cool completely.
3. Place in covered container and refrigerate. (It should keep about a week.)

1. Separate grains of rice so they will reheat evenly. (Either add 1 tablespoon cold water for every 3 cups of cooked rice and separate the grains with fork or chopstick, or dampen the hands and separate the lumps that way.)
2. Place in a saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon cold water for each cup of cooked rice.
3. Cover pan tightly. Heat 15 to 20 minutes over low flame. Do not lift lid or stir, until rice is ready to serve.
NOTE: If you have a metal or bamboo steamer, line it with a dampened layer of cheesecloth, then add the rice and steam for 5 to 10 minutes to reheat.

1. Follow steps 1, 2, and 3 under Basic Boiled Rice I.
2. Meanwhile separate the leftover rice so there are no lumps. At the end of step 3, spread it evenly over the fresh rice. Do not stir.
3. Follow steps 4 and 5. (The steam that cooks the fresh rice will reheat the leftover rice.)

The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. ©1994 by Gloria Bley Miller.

Nutritional Facts:

Serves: 5
Total Calories: 5,773
Calories from Fat: 152

This 10- The Basics: Rice recipe is from the Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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