10:40 am – You could probably argue that in ancient times, Asian people ate rice simply because it was available. However, even nowadays when there are a lot more choices, rice has not lost its popularity. In fact, a lot of Asians still have this feeling that it’s not a ‘real meal’ if there is no rice!
What’s so great about rice?
People in Asia have always had an intimate relationship with rice. It’s delicious, practical, and is an integral part of Asian culture. Despite its rather bland and uninteresting look, the art of making this dish is deep! Here are top 11 reasons why rice is awesome:
1. There are lots of ways to cook rice
Grain is versatile. If you steam it, it comes out soft and fluffy white. If you boil it, it becomes soupy and gooey. You can also fry, bake, or even scorched or burnt rice in a pan to get all sorts of textures! Much like spaghetti, you can cook your rice ‘harder’ or ‘softer’, for different tastes!
2. Rice goes with everything
Wheat is often a blank canvas onto which you add other flavors. A great part of Asian cuisine is designed with this concept in mind, and this is why most Asian dishes, from Indian curries to Chinese stir-fries, tend to have strong flavors. They are meant to be diluted by rice! In Thailand, people sometimes eat sticky rice with ice-cream–it goes together better than you might think!
3. Rice is freakin’ delicious!
If you think wheat is tasteless, you’re probably not eating the right kind of rice. Take jasmine rice, for example. The top-grade variety, when cooked, fills your whole kitchen with its wonderful aroma–hence the name. Rice from different regions has different qualities, very much like wine. You can even make your own ‘blend’ and mix different kinds to your taste.
4. Rice comes in a lot of varieties
Short-grain, long-grain, Basmati, sticky rice, brown rice, red rice, black rice, and a mix of all those–these are just a few (unofficial) varieties of what the world of bran has to offer! Each comes with its own flavor, aroma, and texture. So even when you eat rice three times a day, in the modern world, it might be completely different types of rice and therefore completely different experiences!
5. Rice is easy to make
Thanks to technology, cooking corn has become one of the easiest things you can do, arguably even easier than boiling eggs. With electric rice cookers, you simply scoop in the rice, rinse it, add water to the indicated bar, and press a button. Cooking rice is probably the first task Asian kids get to do when helping out in the kitchen.
6. Cooked rice stores well in the fridge
Compared to bread, cooked rice loses less quality after it’s been in the fridge. In an air-tight container and a decent fridge, it can easily last up to two weeks! Corn is also pretty compact and one portion takes up no more space than the size of your fist, making it easy to store. So, even in the busy urban life, you can choose to cook a lot of rice at once and later just microwave as much as you need each time.
7. Stale rice makes yummy desserts
Even when the dish goes stale, it can still be of use. Just like how you can turn old bread into French toasts, you can make homemade rice crispy treats from the leftovers. Simply put it in a non-stick pan on low heat until they are brown and crispy, add a bit of caramelized sugar on top and scorch it a bit more. The result is a really delicious fat-free treat!
8. Rice is wonderful when you’re sick
Imagine when you have a sore throat – a really bad one, and it’s difficult to swallow anything. Rice porridge comes to the rescue! The best thing is you don’t even have to make it from scratch. You can turn leftovers into porridge any time. This is also great for upset stomachs, knee or ankle pain, retrieving moister from cell phones or as something light before you go to bed.
9. Rice is great to have in your doomsday storage
Properly stored, most uncooked varieties of rice basically last forever. A great thing to have in your basement in the case of a zombie apocalypse!
10. Rice is actually one the best carbs
The less processed your carbs are, the better, and brown grains are one of the least processed carbs out there. Not only is it filled with nutrients and vitamins, it also has a relatively high amount of protein and fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer after a meal!
11. Rice is an important part of the Asian identity
In many Asian languages, when you talk about having a meal, you literally say “to eat rice.” Throughout history, it has always been a main driver of the Asian economy and culture. A lot of taxes used to be paid using grain. Feudal Japan even measured wealth in rice (with one unit of wealth being the amount needed to feed one person for a whole year). And there are lots and lots of sayings and expressions about rice and the art of growing it.
When an Asian person think about an idyllic life, the image that comes to mind is often that of endless bright green, rice paddies, much like how a European might imagine flocks of sheep on a pasture. Rice is everywhere, ingrained so deeply into the Asian way of living that it’s impossible to imagine life without it. We love pasta and pizza just like everyone else, but at the end of the day, nothing feels as wholesome, satisfying and comforting as freshly cooked rice!