We lived in Asia for a total of fifteen years in two separate cycles. First in Singapore for three years, followed by an interim three years in the Mediterranean, followed by twelve years in Taiwan. Throughout Asia the daily carbohydrate staple is obviously, rice.
As a child who grew up in the American Midwest our daily carbohydrate was the potato. When my mother tried to spiff up meals by serving rice, we shunned the bland pile of grain. She resorted to sprinkling sugar over it, which made things worse.
Fast forward to life in Singapore where rice and noodles became a regular part of the family diet. It was presented in many delicious ways as a base to vegetables or meat. Our son and daughter learned the dexterity of handling chopsticks at tender ages.
For me, making rice was always a guessing game–ratios of water to rice, cooking time, lid or no lid, rice cooker or no rice cooker. Finally, it was our Taiwanese helper, Alon, who showed me that preparing perfect rice requires only one thing–an index finger.
The index finger method works for any kind of rice–white, brown, red, black or multi-grain. It works in any size pot. It works over gas, electricity or induction heat. It is the best way to prepare fluffy, un-sticky rice.
PERFECT RICE HACK
- 1 cooking pot and lid, any size
- rice of choice, optional to rinse first
- Place any amount of rice into cooking pot.
- Add water to cover and stir gently until floating rice grains settle on bottom.
- Gently touch the tip of your index finger on the top layer of rice.
- Continue adding water until water level reaches the line of the first joint.
- Place uncovered pot over high heat. [Sometimes I add a drizzle of olive oil or vegetable bouillon cube for flavor.]
- When water begins to boil, adjust heat to continue boiling gently at lower setting.
- When there is no water visible and the surface of the rice shows craters, immediately turn heat to lowest setting and cover with a lid.
- Set timer for exactly 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat when timer buzzes.
No fussy measurements. Just a finger joint level of cooking water. And a timer. Rice is ready immediately or will stay warm under cover until ready to serve.
For heavier rice grains like black, red or multigrain, I measure water to just above the line of my index joint. Somehow it always seems to work.
Because I don’t measure the amount of rice there is always more for another meal. I found a new recipe for leftover rice called Torta di Riso. Cut into squares, it’s a terrific snack, picnic food, or meal on the go. Credit to Sasha Martin from her memoir Life from Scratch.
TORTA DI RISO
- 6 slices bacon, chopped [can be omitted for vegetarian]
- 1 T. olive oil, plus more for baking dish
- 1 chopped onion
- 3 C. leftover cooked rice, any kind
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ C. grated parmesan cheese, or more
- ¼ C. chopped parsley, or more
- salt & pepper
- Red pepper flakes, optional
- Sauté bacon in olive oil until fat begins to render. Add onion. Sauté until it turns light brown. Set aside.
- In large bowl, place rice, cheese, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Can add chopped up raw spinach for more green.
- Stir in slightly cooled onion mixture.
- Pour into lightly oiled 8×8 inch casserole.
- Bake 400 F. [or 205 C.] for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Cool 15 minutes.
- Cut into squares or diamonds.
- Serve room temperature or cold.