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Rice 101

March 18, 2011

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved rice. If my mom was making a dish, I would always ask her to make a pot of rice on the side for me. If I was home alone and there was nothing in the fridge to eat, I’d make some rice and accompany it with eggs and hot dogs. Hey, don’t hate on the food. It might sound disgusting now, but that’s all that I could crank out when I was younger. Not to worry, I’m capable of doing a lot more; hopefully evident by this blog. But sometimes I find myself reverting back to my old ways when I get REALLY desperate and just am not in my creative zone or when I’m just plain old lazy.

Here in Colombia rice is like water.  It’s a necessity. You just have to have it. Just like water is basically in everything around us, rice is found accompanying every dish. I am convinced that Colombians can eat a ton of rice a day and not even be bothered by it. I promise. In our house, we eat rice almost everyday. So much that for a wedding gift we were given a rice maker. When we first had to use it, I told my husband he wouldn’t catch me using it because I had no idea how to use it. I was accustomed  to using a regular pot and stove to cook my rice. But now I had to use this foreign machine to cook rice. I was lost. So for the first few weeks Rafael had to make rice, while I watched with a pen and pencil how to calculate the measurements and figure out which button to push. Result? Puff…it’s a walk in the park. I mean, after a few watery, dry, semi-cooked batches, I finally got it. Piece of cake.

This brings me to the reason we decided to make a post on rice. Normally, the standard American rice consists of water, salt, butter and rice. Maybe not in that exact order, but close enough. After tasting the rice here, I’ve come to realize that I could never eat any other rice again. This rice here is just so full of flavor. I mean an intense scrumptious flavor that you normally don’t find in your standard rice recipes. I don’t care if you cook rice in chicken stock, sorry, this still tops them all.

I was in Atlanta last May and a group of friends and I were staying together at our friend’s house for the week while we took a certification class. One of my friends who was there for the class came all the way from Belgium. So one day, after coming from a food festival and being inspired by such wonderful varieties of culinary arts, we decided that we’d host an international food day. One would cook down-home southern food, I’d cook something Colombian and the Belgian would cook something from Belgium. Well, after class we were so pooped that we didn’t have energy to make anything extravagant, so when I was thinking of what to make, I decided to make something super easy: rice and patacones (also known as tostones in some countries). Needless to say the rice was a hit. Who knew rice would be a hit with people? My Belgian friend loved it. So the other day when we were talking via Skype, she told me that she had been making the rice and has fallen in love with it. So I told her I’d make a post about it so that everyone could have the same romantic experience as she did.

So here are the basic steps for turning out some awesome rice here in Colombia.

Ingredients:

1 chopped garlic clove

1 small chopped onion (you can also use a green onion/scallion as well)

1 cup rice

2 cups water

2 tbsp oil

1 tbsp salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized pot over medium-high heat pour in the oil and then add the chopped onions and garlic.
  2. Sauté for a few minutes until the onions and garlic start to give off a strong scent. Do not burn.
  3. Add the rice to the sautéed onions and garlic. Stirring to cover the rice with the oil. 2 minutes.
  4. Add the water to the pot and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste.
  5. Cover with a lid and let it simmer on low for 20 minutes or until water has been fully absorbed.
  6. Fluff with a fork and serve.

If using a rice cooker, just follow the same steps, starting by pressing the cook button first and then continuing with steps 1-6.

*Oh and the brown stuff you see on the rice, that’s the best! It’s called pega (peh-gah). In other countries it’s called concon (kon-kon). It’s the part of the rice that is stuck to the bottom of the pot. Normally in the States people throw that away, but in most Latin countries people save it and eat it. Especially if it’s super crunchy to the point where you almost break a tooth. Go figure!*

There are many other types of rice that you’ll find here in Colombia: arroz con coco (rice with coconut) and rice made with coca-cola. I’ll be posting some of these recipes later on.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Saundra Fierro permalink
    March 18, 2011 6:11 pm

    Hmmmm…I recently made rice and added the onions…it was good. But I have never been able to perfect the art of cooking good rice…my mom’s rice was ALSO fluffy and good.

    When I returned home from Colombia my goal was to buy a rice maker but of course your dad said ” you don’t need that” I can cook it. I’m still trying….Also you’re right the rice at the bottom of the pot, here in the states we consider it “a throw-away” but your dad loves it and one day stopped me in the motion of throwing it away…”hey I want that”…so I have learned that is a favorite part of the rice…I look forward to seeing other ways to cook rice…

    • March 19, 2011 2:48 pm

      Thanks mom. We know we can always count on your for a great comment. I’m glad you’re trying new things with dad so he can feel back at home in Colombia. We look forward to cooking different ways of rice.

  2. Alexis permalink
    March 19, 2011 12:10 am

    That sounds delicious! I want to try that recipe 🙂 Thank you!

  3. March 19, 2011 2:49 pm

    Making rice is definitely an art. It takes time and practice to get it right consistently, but that’s the great challenge. Yours turned out wonderfully!

    • March 19, 2011 2:55 pm

      You’re right, it is an art. But we are surely glad that you like it. You know, if you leave the rice covered after it’s cooked, the steam will open up the rice even more making it fluffier. Something else I’ve learned through trial and error.

  4. March 19, 2011 2:51 pm

    This sounds really good! I usually just cook it in a plain salted water or in the risotto like you did.. Delicious!!

    • March 19, 2011 2:52 pm

      Yeah…plain salted water was my old habit. But it’s so true, the garlic and onions just kick it up a notch. Plus the oil also adds a little twist to it that I love. Glad you like it.

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