Since I was born and raised in Asia, it should be no surprise that I like rice. I eat rice with most meals because…I grew up eating rice with most meals. I also believe that rice is a good accompaniment to most food. Chicken? Rice! Pork? Rice! Fish? Rice! Green mango with salt? Most definitely rice!
I’m a “traditionalist” when it comes to rice. I eat white rice. Not brown rice, which I’ve had and don’t care for regardless of it’s “healthier” aspects. And not fried rice, which is an abomination. White rice…
Of course, there are varieties of white rice. There’s the “basic” budget rice you buy in the grocery. That’s what I grew up eating. My mother’s family, which then owned the largest rice plantation in her home province, would send us about 100 pounds (50 kilos) each year as her token share of the harvest.
Then, there are the exotic Asian varieties, such as Jasmine. If I see an “exotic” on sale at the local Asian store then I splurge. Basmati is my favorite of the exotics.
I remember that when I first came to the U.S. and ate fish at a restaurant, I was shocked to learn that rice was not an option as a side. The idea of eating some form of potato (baked, mashed, fried) with fish seemed to be a culinary faux pas. And since I wasn’t about to eat fish “naked,” I rarely ate fish in a restaurant. So I’m pleased that culinary standards in the U.S. have finally risen to the level where I can get rice pilaf (which I had never seen in the Philippines) with my fish.
In Manila, our servants cooked the rice (and everything else for that matter). It never occurred to me to have them teach me. How hard can it be to cook rice?
But when I had to do it myself after college (where all meals were part of the dorm plan), I learned that cooking rice (like planting it) isn’t as simple as it seemed. My first efforts went astray because I let the water boil at high heat for the entire cooking period. Then I learned that the heat needs to be reduced at least twice during the cooking.
When Susie and I got married, our office gave us a microwave as a present. (Yes, at 44 I did not own a microwave because it seemed to me to be primarily an expensive “warming up” device, not a true “cooking” appliance.) And at first, I did use that microwave primarily for warming things up, although I quickly grasped it’s usefulness for oil-free popcorn and quickly cooking corn or sweet potatoes.
But then one day, in a kitchen store, I came upon the cooking find of a lifetime: a microwave rice cooker. I was initially skeptical that it could produce good rice. It did not seem to provide for the “reduced heat” stages of rice cooking on a stove. But, it was only $10, so…
Since then, all my rice cooking has been only in that microwave cooker. The rice comes out great every time. And there’s no “starch” to have to scrub off as with a metal pot. Also, cooking time is fairly fast.
But last week, after years of use, I had to send the rice cooker to the great rice plantation in the sky. A plastic film liner inside the cooker (and previously not even visible) had begun peeling off. This allowed some sort of “growth” under the remaining liner near where the film had peeled off.
But the rice gods were with me. I had a $5 coupon for Bed, Bath and Beyond. Surely, a microwave rice cooker was part of “Beyond.” I checked out their website and found a replacement that had a few more gizmos (such as a steamer insert) than the one that served me so well for all these years. And, it was just $15.
Unfortunately, the website couldn’t tell me whether the cooker was in stock at a local store. But I figured it would be; after all, how many rice eaters are there in this “meat and potatoes” part of the country? Apparently, more than I assumed because when I went to the store Saturday of last week they were out of stock. It was “on order” but they weren’t sure when it would arrive.
So last week, I had to cook rice the old fashioned way: on the stove. The rice wasn’t as good as the microwave cooker’s but it was good enough. (It was a bit too “damp” for my liking, probably because I didn’t let it sit long enough.)
Yesterday, I called the store and was told the rice cooker was in stock. So I made the trip to the other side of town and bought my second microwave rice cooker. Balance in the Force of the Rice Continuum has been restored!
My new “Asian Fusion” microwave rice cooker: