The Perfect Pot Of Rice ~ Demystified

In North America, northern and eastern Europe the potato is king. The staple food at the centre of some tumultuous events in history. Notably, the Irish Potato Famine which mentions the root vegetable by name. Yeeess, potato is a vegetable. For the large majority of the rest of the world a meal without rice is no meal at all. It’s only recently that rice has become a regular at the Canadian dinner table as Thai, Japanese and Latin dishes gain popularity. Walking along Bloor street in Toronto, you wonder whether there are more burger joints or sushi restaurants in the city. Show me a university student without a sushi habit and I will show you a French kitchen with no bread.

Sushi habit doesn't have to put you in the poor house...make your own!

Sushi habit doesn’t have to put you in the poor house…make your own!

If you are from a background other than the aforementioned, rice was probably one of the first things you learned how to prepare. It’s not to say that every person from a non-European background loves rice but you would be pretty hard pressed to find them. I was given a rice cooker once and I was scratching my head what I was going to do with it. I know that sounds ridiculous since the point of the rice cooker is to make cooking rice quick and easy. Well, cooking rice is already quick and easy???

Chatting with girlfriends of mine, some of them are just plain intimidated by cooking a pot from a plain bag of rice. They need Uncle Ben to walk them through it. Their Somali and Caribbean mothers are shaking their heads, I know.

A Rice Diaspora

To list all the different varieties of rice here would take a blog in and of itself and we don’t want to get off track. Here’s a short list to familiarise you with the common types of rice you may encounter. Rice varieties can be grouped into four major categories: Indica, japonica, aromatic and glutinous.

Clockwise from left: Black (or forbidden) rice, Basmati,  Brown Long  Grain, Sushi Rice

Clockwise from left: Black (or forbidden) rice, Basmati, Brown Long Grain, Sushi Rice

Let the Demystification Process Begin

For these purposes, we are going to be using white Basmati rice since it is the fastest to cook and a good starting point. This is the hallmark of Indian cuisine but has been assimilated into many cultures where parboiled long grain is the common variety.

To begin, soak the rice for 15-30 minutes. If you are in a rush then 10 minutes minimum but no more than a half hour unless you have a super fancy type of basmati that require soaking for a few hours. We have taken two cups of rice here. It is hard to say how many that will serve. It may be good for two or four. It depends how much you love rice.

Tilda is an exquisite brand. Grace also makes a much less expensive but very nice aromatic basmati as well.

Tilda is an exquisite brand. Grace also makes a much less expensive but very nice aromatic basmati as well.

Once finished soaking, pour the rice into a bowl and wash the rice by massaging it in your hands. Not too rough but a bit briskly. You want to take out the excess starch but you don’t want to break the rice either. Some are of the school of washing rice after cooking. You can see that the water is cloudy.


Pour it into a sieve or colander with small holes and run cold water over it. Keep the bowl under it so you can see that the water coming out of the colander has run clear. Then you know its ready. Place the rice and colander over a bowl so that it can drain and dry out. If you were making seasoned rice, ideally you would leave it for an hour so. For plain rice, let it sit until you see that there is no water dripping out and it feels damp. Transfer to a saucepan and scrape any residual grains into the pot. Give it a bit of a shake to make the rice level and ensure there are no grains sticking to the side of the pot. They will burn.

This is the important part: Measure the water. Start at double the amount of rice in water to pour over. This is the trick that will make the rice perfect. You want the rice to be covered by the water by only a half an inch. This is where a lot of people screw up and get rocks, to little water, or mush, too much water. It should be one knuckle length deep.

There should only be 0.5 in or 2cm of water covering the rice.

There should only be 0.5 in or 2cm of water covering the rice.

Turn the stove on max and add about 1 tsp of olive oil or butter along with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of the salt of your choice. If you use pink himalayan or kosher salt half the salt as they are quite potent. Wait until the rice boils up completely and give it a stir for it to be well mixed. Once stirred, lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cover and let steam for about 10 minutes.

Fluffy basmati rice

The rice should be pillowy

The rice is done when you can press a fork on it and it feels like a pillow. Fluff the rice with a fork. DO NOT use a spoon except to scoop out the rice. Once it is finished cooking remove from heat and let it sit for another 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and spoon out onto plates with the other sides or main of your choice. We did an off the cuff tomato, spinach and okra toss up seasoned with Alima’s in Medley. Don’t forget the hot sauce. Hot sauce on freshly cooked rice is one of those simple pleasures in life you should not pass up.

Perfectly cooked rice

The grains are defined and separated. This is the desired result.


A quick sautee of veggies in a ginger onion base with Alima’s Medley sauce.

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Mama FlavourFull


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