Shopping for rice these days can be as complicated as shopping for clothes: there are so many different types and colors available, it’s hard to know what to choose. But if you’ve ever sampled the various types of rice on the market-from Chinese short grain to Indian Basmati, Italian Arborio (used for “Risotto”), or even the Native North American Wild Rice-you would have to agree that Thai Jasmine Rice is one of the best-tasting, not to mention one of the most nutritional of all types of rice.
Thai rice is often sold in our local grocery stores or Asian stores as “Fragrant Rice”, “Jasmine Rice”, or “Scented Rice”. In Thailand, Thai rice is known as “Kao Hom Mali” (Jasmine-scented Rice), because of its naturally fragrant properties. With jasmine rice’s good-taste and high-quality, it’s no wonder that Thailand is the number one rice exporter in the world. In fact, if you were to venture via river boat out of Bangkok toward the Central Plains, you would see nothing but rice paddies for miles and miles, and the vibrant bright green of rice shoots growing.
In Thailand there is a well-known saying: “A meal without rice leaves the stomach empty”. It’s hard for those of us in the West to understand how important rice is to Thai people-even more important than bread or potatoes are to us. For the average Thai cook, rice comes first before any other dish or food type, and every Thai household will have a pot of warm steamed rice available to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even in between.
thai food : jasmine rice
thai recipe : steamed jasmine rice with panaeng curry
One advantageous property of Thai rice over other types is its ability to retain its moisture content, nutrition, and taste long after it has been cooked. Even after several days in the refrigerator, Thai rice is still moist and flavorful, making it an excellent choice for dishes that call for “day-old” rice (or rice that is several days old), such as fried rice or rice soup. It also makes for good-tasting, everyday leftovers.
For those who prefer an even healthier variety of rice, another option is “Thai Brown Rice” or “Thai Whole-grain Rice”. This is the same jasmine-scented rice, except that the bran covering has been left on the rice kernel, giving it extra fiber plus valuable vitamins that are normally lost in the milling process. Sometimes this type of rice is also sold under the name, “Cargo Rice”.
Another popular type of Thai rice is “Thai Glutinous Rice”, also known as “Thai Sweet Rice”. Mostly used for desserts, this type of rice is sticky and as elastic as wheat gluten (hence the name “glutinous”). Before cooking this type of rice, be sure to soak it for several hours or overnight, otherwise the hard outer shell of the rice kernel may not soften and you’ll be left with crunchy bits of rice instead of that lovely soft and sticky texture that has made Thai desserts famous around the world.
Thai Rice: Cooking Tips : By far the easiest way to cook Thai rice is with a rice cooker. Just follow the instructions that come with the cooker to make perfect rice every time. Or go by the ratio of 2 cups water to every 1 cup of rice. Then simply turn the rice cooker on and wait until the rice is done.
If cooking rice in a pot on the stove: You will need a deep pot with a tight-fitting lid. First, measure 2 cups of rice into the pot (this will feed 2-4 people). Add 3 + 1/2 cups water. Adding a pinch of salt is optional. Bring rice-water to a boil (stirring occasionally to loosen grains from the bottom of the pot). Once rice-water has started to bubble, partially-cover with the lid (leaving just enough room for steam to escape) and reduce heat to medium-low. There is no more need for stirring. Allow the rice to cook for about 20 minutes, or until all the water is gone. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner and cover completely with the lid. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes or more (until the rest of your Thai dishes are ready). Then fluff with a fork, and serve.
thai food : sticky rice
thai recipe : sticky rice with grilled pork
To cook brown rice, double the amount of water you would normally use for white rice (also double the cooking time). Then follow the same instructions (as written above) for white rice.
To reheat day-old rice (or rice that is several days old), place in a covered glass container and heat in the oven for 10-20 minutes (at 350-375 degrees). You can also reheat using a microwave; however, reheating in the oven preserves the rice’s valuable nutrients. If the rice is more than 2 days old, add 2 Tbsp. water and stir before reheating in order to sufficiently soften it.
As mentioned above, to cook Thai Glutinous Rice, soak the rice for several hours first, then cook in a rice cooker, or boil the same way you same way would for regular white rice at the ratio of 2:1 (2 cups water for 1 cup rice). Be sure to leave the lid on tight for at least 10 minutes after all the water has disappeared (this will make it soft and sticky). If you want to “mold” the rice for special desserts or snacks, place the pot (covered) in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or until cold-this will make the rice even stickier and more pliable.