Plain Old Jasmine Rice, Herbed.

Rice Cooker

A leaving home conversation, Chinese style:

“Mom, I’m moving out.”


“OK? Is that are you’re gonna say?”

“Hm, no. Do get a good rice cooker before you go.” 


Being Chinese, I probably learned how to operate a rice cooker before a toaster: Add rice, add water, press the button, go take a shower, and come back to perfectly cooked rice. The whole boiling water, standing by a pot, stirring and fluffing rice thing, I never got. I also can’t understand why you would eat rice that comes out of Uncle Ben’s bag, either. I never believed that was real rice.

While flipping through a dinner menu one night, I had a discussion with my best friend on how restaurants like to make dishes sound special by specifying that Jasmine rice was used. We both agreed that is stupid, as Jasmine rice is just “plain old rice” to us, being the only rice Chinese families grow up on. We don’t consider it fancy, and we most certainly don’t call it “aromatic”. To us, that is just how “plain old rice” is supposed to taste and smell. However, I pointed out that I myself often make that very distinction but for a different purpose: I don’t want to impart that I am eating another type of long grain rice, particularly basmati, which I don’t like. In fact, it wasn’t until I tried basmati rice that I realize just how tasty Jasmine rice is. Basmati pales in comparison in flavor and aroma, and is rather bland to my palate. It is no wonder that Chinese people eat plain rice, cooked in water, day after day for all their lives – because Jasmine rice is actually tasty. I guess what is also true is that in Asian cuisine, rice is the backdrop that carries all the main dishes. It is meant to bring an equillibrium to the meal, since all the various dishes can be strongly flavored, and each differently so. Which is why we enjoy rice so … “undressed”.

As a child my favorite thing to do (the only “dressing up” of rice I ever did) was to take a big pat of butter and mix it into my bowl of hot rice. None of this browning in a skillet thing – my butter rice is dead simple, probably not the healthiest, and delicious. When I saw a recipe of herbed rice in The Best of Cooking Light, I decided to do something with a few of the staples I have in the kitchen.  



Herbed Rice

Herbed “Plain Old” Rice

I use Thai brown Jasmine rice, which I love because it has a nice chewiness to it. Instead of cooking it in water as I always do, I used dashi broth. I then chopped Chinese Trinity (cilantro, green onions, and fresh ginger) into very fine bits. You could use a blender for this, but I just knifed through it because I like to cut things up. I used about a 4:4:1 ratio of cilantro: green onion: ginger. I mixed this into the rice once it has finished cooking (in the rice cooker, of course), using about 2 tablespoons of herb mixture to 1 cup of cooked rice. That’s it.  

It was nice – not too salty but not bland – and I liked the look of the greenish specks. Next time, though, I would use much less ginger, or just omit it. I love ginger, but it was a little too much zing for this rice, and I had wanted to taste more of the cilantro and green onions instead. (It’s probably fine if ginger-rice was what you were after though.) Definitely worth a second try and some further experimentation with different ingredients. I have a few ideas brewing in my head…


The Center of Gravity: An “Eggs-periment”

I am currently reading Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. This is an excellent book (textbook, perhaps) – very comprehensive, covering everything from meat to veggies to bread, from the chemical structure of cinnamon to how Chinese preserved duck eggs are made. There are sections devoted to things I have always been curious about but have never been able to find on the internet.

While reading through the “Eggs” section, I came across an interesting tidbit about storage position: Apparently when eggs are stored on their sides (instead of the natural blunt-end up in the box), the yolks become better-centered when hard-cooked. Perhaps this is a well-known fact, but it is not something I have ever given any thought about. (Why would you store an egg on its side anyway, neither the box it comes in nor the tiny space in the fridge would allow for that!)

Nevertheless, the nerd in me was piqued. Every morning I have a HBE (hard-boiled egg) for breakfast. Yesterday’s HBE (type: large, organic, brown) had a very “skewed” yolk. So I decided to remove an egg (same batch) from its box last night, and preincubate it on its side for this morning’s HBE. Side-incubation time: overnight (<12 hr).

Result: Almost perfectly centered – though with a slight deviation towards the narrow end (perhaps expected, as egg has been stored narrow-end-down for days prior to side-incubation). Note also a slight “latitudinal” skewing, such that it is quite obvious which “side” the egg has been resting on overnight:


I thought this was pretty cool. This would be great for devilled eggs – no more cutting open an HBE to find a yolk sitting at an extreme pole, and making a terrible lop-sided devilled egg!

The Best of Cooking Light

CL Desserts

My copy of The Best of Cooking Light arrived in the mail today! It is heavy like a giant textbook. For me, the one thing about cookbooks is that they must have beautiful pictures. Colored ones. I can’t bring myself to buy a cookbook without a good amount of pictures in it. This one is beautiful. There are so many recipes and although not every one has a picture, there is photography on every single page. Some of the recipes are pretty straight forward with simple ingredients, but with over 500 recipes there really should be something that involves some degree of challenge. I can’t wait to try out some of this stuff, especially in the breads and desserts sections. (You can see that despite the urge to cook light I do so love my carbs!)