Rice, oh, rice. You're a life saver. When I was a poor student living on my own, rice was an easy and cheap source of sustenance. When I was sick with IBS, I relied on rice porridge to get me through, sometimes for weeks in a row. A typical meal in many Southeast Asian cultures consists of a selection of flavorful communal dishes served with plain white rice. Rice is an Asian staple, so it should come as no surprise that it is on the list of this month's Asian Kitchen Project series, in which I share key ingredients that let me cook with a twist of Asian flavor no matter where I am in the world. And hopefully for you too.
Rice comes in different shapes and sizes, and while I enjoy all of them for different reasons, my go-to is jasmine rice, particularly brown jasmine rice for the nutritional benefits of whole grains. This long-grain aromatic variety is grown in Southeast Asia, primarily Thailand, and is loved for its subtle floral fragrance and soft texture when cooked. I always make a big pot of rice to store or freeze for later use, because I know I can always count on it to make any meal complete. Did you know stale or overnight rice makes better fried rice?
Last year, I came across an article about how "scientists have developed a new, simple way to cook rice that could cut the number of calories absorbed by the body by more than half", and they did so by adding coconut oil. It gave me an instant A-ha moment! In Malaysia, we have a popular way of eating rice known as nasi lemak (directly translated as "fat rice"), which is rice cooked in coconut milk.
Reading the article gave me the idea to make fat rice (grin) with unrefined, virgin coconut oil instead. The coconut oil imparts that familiar fragrant nutty flavor to the rice, and cooking this way keeps the rice moist and less likely to stick to the bottom of the pot. The scientists in the article also instruct us to chill the coconut oil rice in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours to get the calorie-reduction effect. That's what I do anyway with leftover rice. So many wins in this method!
Now, if you don't have a rice cooker, you can cook rice on the stove top. My cooking notes below cover both methods of preparing rice, and the trusty Index Finger Method my parents taught me to measure the water. Next week, I'm going to share an easy recipe for a vegetarian stew that goes well with rice. Oh, it can be made in the rice cooker too. Can't wait!
Coconut Oil Jasmine Rice
I find the biggest challenge in cooking perfect fluffy rice to be the amount of water required. What I do not want is mushy rice that turns into a mash nor hard undercooked rice. The Index Finger Method my parents taught me to measure the water has served me well, and I hope it will benefit you too. The addition of coconut oil gives the rice a fragrant nutty flavor and the potential calorie-reduction effect stated in this science article if you let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before serving. This recipe makes about 3 cups of cooked rice.
1 cup brown or white jasmine rice
2 teaspoons coconut oil
About 2 cups water
I always start with washing the rice by scrubbing them between my hands over 2 rinses. Then drain well and add water you are going to cook the rice in. Use the Index Finger Method to measure the water: Place your index finger on the surface of the rice and add enough water so that it comes up to the first joint of the finger. Add coconut oil.
If you are using a rice cooker, it should be as easy as a push of a button.
If you are cooking rice on the stove top, bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for about 30 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed by the rice, but not completely dry. I use a glass pot so I can judge by watching the side of the pot, and also to avoid having to lift the lid during the cooking process. Turn off the heat.
After the heat is off, whether it's the rice cooker or the glass pot, I don't immediately open the lid but allow the cooked rice to rest with the lid untouched for about 5 to 10 minutes while I go about my other business in the kitchen. After that, I fluff the rice up with a rice scoop or a fork, return the lid and let the rice rest for another 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy warm. Leftover rice can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.