A few years ago, my husband attended a food budget and nutrition seminar and came home wanting to change to brown rice and wheat pasta. I have gradually given up the white rice of my youth and gone to the grainier brown rice with the wisdom of today’s culture.
But this year we have had an exchange student from Vietnam. She likes rice. She likes it for breakfast. She likes it for after school snacks. She likes it for dinner. She likes it white.
The first time I made rice she wondered what it was. It was brown. It wasn’t right. I asked what kind she liked. She didn’t know what to call it but it was white. So I tried Jasmine rice. And Basmati. And a variety from the bulk foods section.
Meanwhile my DH brought home a rice cooker. Our guest was thrilled; I was not. I am opposed to any appliance that can only do one thing and takes up space in the cupboard. A rice cooker can only do one thing and is either out on the counter (not at my house, you don’t) or taking up prime real estate in my pantry. I have always been just fine with making my rice in a saucepan; never had any problems with it that way.
As it turns out, our little guest nearly burned the house down twice, once with the microwave and once with beans on the stovetop, so the rice cooker was probably a good fire insurance measure.
When another daughter chimed in how much she loved her rice cooker, how wonderful those brown crispies in the bottom are, how it makes the best rice ever, I gave in with my usual good grace, unconvinced.
Well, our rice cooker did not make wonderful little crispies around the edges. It makes mushy glue on the bottom. The daughter who raved says her is non-stick and that must be the difference. Ours cooks the rice fine, but leaves a quarter inch of goo on the aluminum pan which is perennially in the sink waiting to be scoured for its next use. Guess who gets to brush it out and then clean the brush?
So, now we have white rice, and now we have the cooker. The first time I made it, she said suspiciously, did I put something in it? Yes, I proudly admitted, I had added a chicken bouillon cube to give it that nice chickeny flavor and color. Not a good thing to do with rice, apparently. It is supposed to be plain.
My Grandma used to saute chopped carrots and celery in butter and steam them with her rice, giving it the most wonderful flavor. I love that. But this was not the year for those tricks.
So the rice was white and unseasoned in the cooker. Then our little Miss acknowledged that it still wasn’t right: it wasn’t sticky. Well, I didn’t know how to make rice sticky except for leaving it in the pan in the sink for a few days…So I Googled it. I learned that sticky rice has a number of names, none of which appear on my grocery shelf.
Glutinous rice (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa or Oryza glutinosa; also called sticky rice, sweet rice, waxy rice, botan rice, biroin chal, mochi rice, and pearl rice) is a type of short-grained Asian rice that is especially sticky when cooked. It is called glutinous (< Latin glūtinōsus) in the sense of being glue-like or sticky and not in the sense of containing gluten; on the other hand, it is called sticky but should not be confused with the other varieties of Asian rice that become sticky to one degree or another when cooked.
Pearl rice: now that I recognize. I went off to the store for pearl rice. And I brought home a lot of it. A lot. Then we went away for the weekend. When we came home our Miss said she was never eating rice again, it was all she had had for two days and she was sick of it.
The only problem with buying food in the bulk foods section is that you don’t get a neat little chart on your plastic packaging telling you what proportion of water to rice to use. I like those charts.
So I substituted the chart in the manual that came with the rice cooker which said one portion of rice for 3 lines of water. Little Miss knew this was all wrong but I stood by my chart. It is the only time I can truly say we had sticky rice. Really sticky, like wheat paste. My DH, trying to soothe ruffled feathers, said it wasn’t unlike morning oatmeal. Not helpful. Little Miss muttered in Vietnamese all the way through her meal and left the rice behind.
This will not conquer me!
We finally found the right proportion of rice to water, hold the salt, hold the butter, and made good pearl sticky rice in a rice cooker, no crunchies.
And right after that Miss graduated and left our city leaving me with a huge tub of rice that I never want to eat again. And I mean it!