Rice, especially the fragrant Thai jasmine rice, is the essential staple of the Thai diet. Unlike other countries, Thailand is not a large producer of wheat or potatoes.
Rice is the center point of the meal and Thai food is especially designed to be eaten with rice – the neutral taste of rice serves as a counterpoint to the often piquant Thai dishes. To eat Thai food is to eat rice with other food.
Language lovers note that the Thai word for rice is a synonym for food. A common greeting among friends in Thai is “have you eaten rice/food yet?” I often answer in the negative in case the person greeting me has something delicious they want to share!
Rice is eaten with every meal, whether it be steamed jasmine rice (or sticky/glutinous rice in some parts of Thailand) or rice noodles or rice incorporated into desserts. Rice can be made into a homemade wine or a type of whiskey. Many folk sayings incorporate the word for rice (the expression “rice waiting for rain” means the speaker has waited a long time for something to happen). Rice is also used in religious ceremonies, whether as an offering to Buddhist monks on their daily alms rounds where they are offered rice and other foods by faithful followers, or rice is placed as an offering for animist spirit shrines to ask the spirits that protect the land to watch over the inhabitants.
Since rice is the foundation of Thai cooking, here is an outline on how to best prepare Thai jasmine rice. I most often use an electronic rice cooker. If you do not have such a machine, you can easily make Thai rice on top of the stove.
PREPARING THE JASMINE RICE FOR COOKING – THE HARDWARE YOU NEED
- measuring cup for the jasmine rice
- electric rice cooker or pot with a lid for cooking the rice
- colander or strainer for helping rinse the starch off the rice
MAKING RICE – INGREDIENTS
- 1.5 cups of raw dry jasmine rice (about 200 grams dry weight or enough to fill a metric measuring cup to 350 ml)
- 2 cups / 450 ml of water for cooking the rice
- more water for rinsing the starch off the rice
Step 1: Prepare the rice
Thai jasmine rice must be rinsed before cooking to get ride of any excess starch on the rice – failing to rinse the rice will result in the rice being too sticky. The cooked jasmine rice grains should be fully cooked with each rice grain separate but not sticking together.
For this recipe, the 1.5 cups of raw jasmine rice made almost four cups of cooked rice – it expands considerably when cooked.
Step 1: Rinsing the raw rice grains:
Wash jasmine rice thoroughly to get most of the rice starch off each rice grain. Place the amount of rice you wish to cook in the cooking pot and fill the cooking pot with water to a couple of inches (5 cm) above the water. Massage the rice grains in the water with your hand to loosen the starch and drain off the water in a colander or strainer. Repeat this between three and five times until the water being poured out of the bowl runs clear. The amount of starch on the rice can vary according to the brand, so use your own judgement on how many times you must rinse the rice. Strain the rinsed rice to get rid of the water and return the rinsed rice to the cooking pot.
Cooking the rinsed rice using an electronic rice cooker:
Place the 1.5 cups of rinsed rice in your cooking pot and add the two cups of water. Plug in the rice cooker and flip the switch to the “On” or “Cook” position – the machine does the rest. The rice cooker will keep the rice warm and ready for eating.
Cooking the rinsed rice in a pot on the stove:
The cooking pan you use to make rice on top of the stove will influence how long the rice must cook. I used a thin pan and the rice came to a boil rapidly. A thicker pan may absorb more of the heat and your cooking time may be longer. As always, experiment with the equipment you have at home so you can control the outcome.
If you are preparing the rice in a cooking pot on top of the stove, bring the rice and water to a soft boil over medium heat with the cover off. Cook for eight minutes or until the water has evaporated and the rice looks dry on top. Again, this time will vary according to how much heat your stove produces and the thickness of the cooking pit you are using.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the cooking pot and cook for fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes, lift off the cover of the cooking pot. If the rice looks like it has absorbed all the water, turn off the heat under the cooking pot, remove the cooking pot from the stove with the cover on so the cooked rice starts to cool. If the rice is still moist, cook for an additional couple of minutes, then remove from the stove to cool.
If you have excess rice after your meal, you can store the rice in the refrigerator and use it to make stirfried rice dishes or rice soup.