I am Southeast Asian, so yes #riceislife. As it is still January, the start of the year, that time of the year when we clean the slate and start a new, it is the perfect time to learn how to cook jasmine rice. (Though dare I say, jasmine rice is for ANYTIME)
To us, jasmine rice is the perfect blank slate, a perfect for everything. A blank canvass for any culinary masterpiece. It would never take away from the main dish, but complement and elevate it into the perfect bite. I eat it with soup, which adds heft to clear broths. I eat it with braises and stews, which sops up all the thick sauces. I eat it with grilled fried vegetables and meats, which absorbs all the flavors of the oils at the same time providing balance to the richness. I unabashedly eat it with lasagna even. Not that the carbs from the lasagna noodles were not enough.
Jasmine rice is also added to sweet (coconut) milk, hot chocolate, coffee or, strangely, Pepsi.
If France, Egypt and other parts of the world bread is the measure stick of the cost of living. In my part of the world, it is jasmine rice. It is a staple in the pantry.
WHERE DO I BUY JASMINE RICE?
If you live outside Southeast Asia, it might be a little challenging. Depending really where you are.
If you are in USA, you could actually buy a bag in super stores like WalMart or Korger or any counter part in the Asian food aisle. If you are luckier, living in a more diverse city / town, you could easily get this in the Asian supermarket. You’d have a large variety of it.
HOW DO I KNOW IT IS JASMINE RICE? HOW DIFFERENT IT IS FROM OTHER KINDS OF RICE?
Because items are already labelled properly in the States, you can easily read it on the package. It would include the translations of the “jasmine rice” name in Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino and other languages.
You could call it a medium grain rice. Neither short grain nor long grain. It is different from the short grain rice, which is shorter, stouter. It is not the same as arborio rice or bomba rice used for risottos or paellas. It is definitely not the same as sushi rice. It is also different from long grain or Basmati rice.
They are all rice grains, but behave differently and will give you different results.
I find that jasmine rice, when cooked well, stradles the fine line of sticky and fluffy. You can get it stickier if you know the specific variety of jasmine rice that will yield the same results. Or if you add a tad bit more water. It can sometimes run on the dry side, when each grain easily separated from each other. This makes it the perfect kind of rice for any fried rice. You can easily get these by using days old rice, leaving it uncovered in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Or just leaving it on the counter in the pot overnight.
What is distinct is how aromatic it gets as it cooks. Hence, the name: “jasmine” after the flower.
HOW DO I PREPARE JASMINE RICE BEFORE COOKING?
This is an important step. A very important one.
Always wash your jasmine rice grains. Wash with water until the water runs clear. It makes it easier when your fingers move the grains around.
Or you can fill a deep bowl with water, dunk the strainer with the jasmine rice grains and then move your fingers to disturb the rice grains. Dump the water, then fill the bowl with water and repeat until the water runs clear. What this does is it removes the excess starch.
So what if I forget to rinse the jasmine rice grains?
Well, if you are cooking jasmine rice in a pot, expect a boil over. It is more likely that your pot will foam at the mouth like a rabid dog. A little messy, but it will still come out alive.
No need to panic. No need to throw it in the bin. Please do not waste perfectly good food.
WHAT DO I USE TO COOK JASMINE RICE WITH?
But what if jasmine rice is not part of your diet and you just want to try it some time? You might say: “But I don’t have a rice cooker! How can I cook the jasmine rice that I don’t eat often? I don’t want to buy a rice cooker just for that.”
There, there. Remember that our ancestors did not have rice cookers either.
You can easily cook jasmine rice in any pot you have. You don’t need fancy ones. I remember we had aluminum pots and those did fine. Traditionally, they were cooked in clay pots. They did fine too. Whatever pot you have will do the trick.
If you do have a rice cooker or one of those multi-cookers like the Instant Pot, good for you. It should make cooking jasmine rice a little bit easier.
But, again, you don’t need it.
HOW MUCH WATER DO I NEED?
And yes, do add water to the rinsed jasmine rice grains. Or if you’d like, you could always use broth. But how much?
I’m old fashioned. This is a time and tested method I was taught – the “finger” method. I only learned about the ratios on the Internets (which is 1 part rice: 2 parts water), but the “finger” method has never failed me.
Place the tip of your middle finger, perpendicular to the rinsed jasmine rice grains. The tip should just sit on top of the rinsed jasmine rice. Then start pouring water. Once the water level reaches the first ridge / line on your middle finger, stop.
That’s the only water you need.
The “finger” method applies even if you will be using a rice cooker or an Instant Pot.
HOW TO COOK?
Now to the actual cooking!
Bring the water to a rapid boil using medium-high heat. It should get nice big bubbles. The water will get a little murky from the starch, but that’s fine. Once it boils, lower the heat to the lowest possible setting and leave it be.
For how long? The rice will tell you.
Remember, cooking is an all sensory experience. Remember how aromatic this type of rice gets? Yes, once you smell the rice, it should be done.
You can also mix the rice to get the grains on the bottom to the top. This is important if you do not want any dried out jasmine rice grains. Be careful as the steam is HOT. It can burn your skin. Consider yourself warned.
Cooking time will change depending on how much jasmine rice you are cooking. A small pot of jasmine rice for two will definitely cook faster than cooking a huge pot of jasmine rice for ten. Turn off the heat and then leave it be to steam for a few minutes.
HOW DO I KNOW IT IS READY?
Apart from the delicious aroma, another indication of doneness is the color. Each grain should have a singular bright white color.
It also does not hurt to taste a few grains. Remember, cooking is a sensory experience! It should be al dente, not crunchy nor mushy.
Then it is ready to serve! Voila!
HOW TO STORE COOKED JASMINE RICE?
If there are any leftovers, just place your jasmine rice in an airtight container in the fridge. It should keep for around five days at most, or until before your jasmine rice smells sour.
Reheat easily in your microwave. Or if you don’t have one, just make sure to eat it with very, very hot main dishes.
If you want to upcycle or breathe new life to your jasmine rice, you can easily use this as fried rice after 2 to 3 days in the fridge. How to do that will be another post at another time!
I’m not sure if I can convince you to agree that #Riceislife, but, maybe you can give this one a try.