Across Asia, rice is life. The average person in the region consumes the ancient grain two or three times a day. In fact, a typical Hongkonger eats nearly 50 kilograms of rice each year – 16 times more than Europeans.
But rice is so much more than a pantry staple. It’s deeply ingrained in local cultures, customs and even languages. In Thailand, families and friends greet one another by asking, “Have you eaten rice yet?” In Chinese languages, the word for rice, “fan,” means food, meal and rice.
Every Lunar New Year, Chinese families eat rice cakes as symbols of prosperity for the year ahead. In Japan, friends and family spend the day before New Year’s making mochi from glutinous rice. Meanwhile, in Thailand, rice plowing ceremonies officially usher in the rainy season.
No one knows exactly when the rice plant was first cultivated, but researchers believe that all types in Asia evolved from Oryza sativa, a domesticated grass species. In addition, archeological evidence suggests that rice cultivation in central and eastern China dates to at least 8,000 BC.
Fast forward thousands of years later, and rice is still predominantly grown in Asia. In fact, the region accounts for more than 90% of rice production worldwide. What’s more, there are at least 40,000 types of rice to choose from. Thanks to the sheer variety, the type consumed and how it’s prepared will change from place to place, community to community.
A world of variety
Even though rice is universally adored in Asia, people definitely don’t see eye to eye on which type is the best – or how to prepare it. Seemingly every family has a different method they swear by.
Many in China say rice can only be cooked in a heavy-bottomed pot over an open flame rather than in a rice cooker. Others believe you must wash the rice before putting it into the pot. In Southeast Asia, people generally don’t measure the water but rather stick their index finger into the pot. If it reaches the first joint, it’s the perfect amount.
But it really all boils down to the type of rice you’re making. In Asia, you’re most likely to come across long-grain varieties like basmati or jasmine; short grains such as sushi or pearl rice; and sticky rice. In addition to these well-known types, you can also discover many regional gems in Asia, like the nutty red rice of Bhutan, the vibrant purple rice of Northeast India, and the heirloom black rice of the Philippines.
We’ve shared a recipe for how we like to cook one of our favorite varieties – short-grain – and a couple of recipes that use rice as their base for a more hearty and flavourful dish. Enjoy!
Short-grain rice from the japonica family is usually associated with Taiwan and Japan – especially sushi rice. In Hong Kong, this type of rice is known as “pearl” for its lustrous sheen and round shape.
To make it:
- Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes
- Cook it with a little more than a 1:1 water-to-rice ratio
- After simmering it for 10 minutes, let the rice steam off the heat for 10 minutes
Poached chicken and rice come together in this delectable dish, which is named after the Chinese tropical Hainan but was actually created in (and is the national dish of) Singapore.
- 1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg)
- 2 cups rice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 slices ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks green onions
- Sesame oil
To make it:
- Prepare the chicken by rubbing it with salt. Fill a large pot with water, add ginger and green onions, and bring to boil. Submerge chicken, reduce heat, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove chicken, cool, and chop. Reserve broth.
- In a pan, sauté minced garlic until fragrant. Add rice and stir-fry briefly. Transfer rice to a rice cooker. Add 4 cups of the reserved chicken broth and cook.
- Drizzle chicken with sesame oil. Serve with rice and remaining broth as soup. Optionally, serve with chili sauce and ginger paste.
Taking inspiration from a classic and universally beloved staple, this egg-fried rice recipe offers an effortless way to transform leftover rice from your fridge into a delightful dish.
- 2 cups cooked rice (preferably cooled or leftover)
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- A pinch of white pepper (optional)
To make it:
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok over medium heat. Pour in beaten eggs and scramble lightly. When they’re just set but still runny, remove from wok and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the wok. Sauté garlic until fragrant. Add rice, stirring and tossing until heated through and slightly crispy.
- Return the scrambled eggs to the wok. Add green onions, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper. Stir everything together well then transfer to a serving dish.
Whether you prefer to serve your rice in a bowl or on a plate, BOMSHBEE has an array of modern, minimalist tableware to help you set your table in style. Shop new arrivals now!