Monday, March 26, 2007

Perfect Sticky Rice

In my last post I mentioned that I make pretty killer rice. What I mean is that I've learned a way to make rice that is perfect for Asian dishes and stir-fries - anytime you need a sticky rice, really. It's dirt simple, and works every time. I combined a couple of different techniques, one from chef and restaurateur Ming Tsai, and the other from a guest chef working with Julia Child. I wish I could remember her name.

Before I used this technique, cooking rice was hit or miss. Usually, I'd check it and there would still be too much water left, so I'd let it sit longer and end up burning the rice. Now I get perfect rice every time.

Let me warn you that this recipe doesn't work well for other dishes. This is sticky rice, so it's easy to eat with chopsticks, unlike the non-sticky variety for rice pilaf or other kinds of rice dishes.

This technique works for every variety of rice I've ever tried it on, as long as you don't mix varieties. Some strains of rice absorb water at different rates and I've gotten unpleasant results when mixing two different kinds. It also requires no real measuring on your part, so leave your measuring cups in the cupboard. The one thing this does require is a bit of time, and a marginally watchful eye and nose.

First, get your favorite pot and put in as much rice as you need for the next meal. I make a lot of rice at a time. Keep in mind that rice expands to about three times its normal size, so don't fill the pot more than 1/4 of the way up. You want to leave a little room at the top.

Rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs mostly clear, at least three times. This gets rid of any dirt and excess rice gluten. That way you get rice kernels, instead of a glob of rice mush.

Next, put in enough fresh water to cover the rice and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then clean the rice as above one more time.

After you've drained the water off the rice, put the pot in the sink under the tap. Put one of your hands, palm side down, into the pot on top of the rice. Put in enough water to just cover the base of your middle knuckle. This is what Ming Tsai refers to as the "Mount Fuji method." You're bringing the water to the base of Mount Fuji. (Thanks Ming!)

Add about a 1/4 tsp of salt, depending on how much rice you're cooking. The reason to add salt now is not so much to help it boil, but so you don't have flat tasting rice.

Cover the pot and put it on the stove over high heat, just bringing it to a boil. It amazed me how many people do not cover their pots when heating. It helps keep the heat in so it will come to a boil faster.

Turn the heat down to medium low. Keep your eye (and nose) on the pot. A glass lid can really help. If it starts to boil over a bit, just pull the lid off and let some of the heat escape. Check it every so often. When you just start smelling rice, use a spoon to pull a bit of rice to the side and check the bottom. If there's no excess water (and there probably won't be), take it off the heat and let it sit, covered, for five minutes.

Now you have perfect rice for Asian dishes!

I always make more rice than I'll need. Leftover rice is always welcome in my house for quick meals. If the rice gets a little dry, just put a tablespoon of water in with the cooked rice and reheat it in the microwave. It really does bring it back to life.


Mark said...

I wonder if this method (then mixed with the sugar vinegar) would work for sushi...

John Newman said...

You can absolutely use this method for sushi!

If you're having problems with your rice not being sticky enough, you may want to try sweet mochi rice. It's very glutenous, and very sticky.