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Around The World With Rice

By:
Joanna Hall
 

Once of the most enjoyable things about travel, we’ve discovered over the years, is delving into a new type of cuisine, and if possible bringing the inspiration back home to enjoy in your own kitchen. And when it comes to rice, and rice dishes, the possibilities are endless. Rice is the second highest worldwide production after maize (corn), but it’s the most important grain for human consumption, and there are literally thousands of varieties grown around the world on every continent except Antarctica. Some of the most popular types people are familiar with include long grain white rice, which is refined with a neutral flavour, arborio rice, which is a short grain and cooks up sticky, jasmine, a long grained rice which is slightly fragranced, and whole grain brown, which has the bran part of the grain intact. And then there’s basmati, a special type of long and slender rice, which is known for its distinctive aroma as well as being native to the Indian subcontinent. 

Rice In Asia

Rice is the staple food of Asia and parts of the Pacific, with over 90 percent of the world’s rice produced and consumed in the Asia-Pacific Region. In Japan, short grain “sushi” rice is the staple of the Japanese diet; when cooked, it has a sticky texture, although using it to make sushi is just one of its many uses. In Korea, Bibimbap is a hearty dish consisting of rice topped with sautéed vegetables, chilli paste, and beef or other meat, sometimes with the addition of a raw or fried egg. In China, rice is associated with fertility, luck, wealth, and it symbolises a link between heaven and the gods, with earth and man. Sticky rice cake, called “nian gao”, is a Chinese New Year cake, and it is considered good luck to eat it to encourage increased prosperity. And every visitor to India will have encountered the popular dish, biryani; it’s a rice dish based traditionally based around goat meat and fragrant basmati rice, cooked with onions, lemon, saffron and coriander.  

Rice In The Mediterranean 

Many other cultures around the world use rice, and have rice dishes, however, as it’s a flexible grain which can be used for many culinary purposes. Two of the most common would be Spain and Italy. On the Iberian Peninsula, paella is originally a dish from Valencia, cooked with white rice which must be of the round grain variety, olive oil, and ingredients which can include seafood, meat, beans or peas, and other vegetables. Also in the Mediterranean region, Italy has risotto, a northern Italian rice dish, and one of the most common ways of cooking rice in the country. Risotto is cooked slowly in broth to maintain the starch content of the rice and make the dish creamy, using a medium grain, high starch rice, and a variety of other ingredients including butter, onion, white wine, and parmesan cheese. 

Using Rice At Home 

Just a few of the recipes we’ve brought home from our travels, and some of our favourite dishes to make at home on a regular basis, include a hearty seafood paella from Spain, a spicy chicken biryani from India, special fried rice with BBQ pork from China, chicken pumpkin tagine with almond pilaf from Morocco, spicy prawn nasi goreng from Indonesia, and from the Americas, Cuban rice with black beans served with beef skewers, and gallo pinto from Costa Rica, another rice and beans dish served with scrambled eggs. Our preferred choice of rice for most rice dishes, even if straying from tradition, is basmati, because of its flavour, aroma and numerous health benefits. Basmati contains vitamins and minerals, fibre, carbs, protein and it has less fat that most rice. It’s also a low GI rice compared with other types, making it suitable for anyone watching their weight, or with health issues such as diabetes. Basmati rice comes in brown and white varieties; white basmati is produced by removing the outer husk or covering of each grain from the brown version, as well as the germ, while brown basmati rice remains intact, and has a firmer texture and more nutty flavour. 

Basmati Made Easy

One way to introduce more rice into your diet, and experiment with flavours from around the world, is with the help of Tilda. Founded in London in the early 1970s, the company introduced  basmati rice to rice-loving communities from around the world who couldn’t find it in the UK at the time; today, the brand has a lineup of rice and grains designed to make to make cooking not only more flavoursome, but also easy, without needing to slave over the stovetop. Tilda’s ready-to-heat basmati rice comes in eight different flavours including Coconut, Chili & Lemongrass, Lime & Coriander, and Sweet Chili & Lime, enabling you to travel the world of different cuisines in minutes, and for simplicity there’s also Brown, the classic, untouched grain, and Pure, which has a lovely aroma and delicate, fluffy texture. There’s also a new and limited edition Peri Peri variety, which is vegan and gluten free, and combines birds eye chilli heat with green peppers, sweet tomato, garlic, smokey paprika, oregano and zesty lemon. All you have to do is get inspired, then pop a pouch into the microwave, and cook for two minutes (Tilda ready-to-heat basmati rice is available from all good supermarkets, costing rrp $3.40, www.tilda.com).

 

 

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