I was chatting with a gym friend in the locker room the other day and I was telling her about the importance of rice. If you have a pot of rice made, you have a meal. Now ideally you will have a rice cooker and you will have hot rice always. But that isn’t always the case. But rice is one of those truly versatile things that tastes good in a variety of ways.
There is nothing better than a freshly cooked pot of rice. You open the lid, the steam comes pouring out and it smells wonderful. The Japanese prize white rice. Even though I know that brown rice is better for you and I actually like the way it tastes, it’s not the same. For people of my parents’ age who grew up in a period when there was no white rice because of the war, brown rice just brings back those memories. So in my house growing up, there was always a pot of white rice. When the rice is fresh, it is an anchor to your meal. Whether it’s a bit of grilled fish, a little stewed veg, some pickles, or even umeboshi, the pickled plum, they are all wonderful accompaniments to the rice. If you’re ever had umeboshi, you know it is very sour and makes you salivate. Just writing this, the thought of the umeboshi is making me salivate. There is a story in rakugo, a classic form of comic storytelling in Japan, about a man who was so tight that he would eat a bowl of rice just looking at the umeboshi. In addition, Japanese curry and hayashi rice are stew like things that can be poured over freshly cooked rice and are a big hit with kids.
So, pretty much a no brainer on enjoying freshly cooked rice. But what about rice that gets a little older or if you don’t have a rice cooker that keeps it warm? I do not like the microwave and try never to use one, but rice is one of those things that warms up beautifully in the microwave. Just remember to put a lid on it and if it’s really old and crunchy, sprinkle a bit of water, zap in on high for about 20-30 seconds and it revives beautifully. If you are one of those very organised people, you can freeze leftover rice in portions that make sense for later and zap when you need. It freezes very well too.
You can fry rice that is no longer fluffy and warm. In addition to the classic fried rice, you can put chopped onion and whatever else is lying around your fridge and season with ketchup for a western style fried rice. Or season with a little curry powder and add raisins for curry pilaf. But when it’s beyond even fried rice, put it in a pot with lots of water and cook it into congee. You can start from stock, dashi or just plain water. Swirl some egg, throw in some green leafy thing and whatever else strikes your fancy, it’s the perfect one person dish in front of the TV. A thin rice gruel just made on water with umeboshi is what you eat for an upset stomach or when you have a fever and have lost your appetite. My kids still associate it with being sick and being taken care of.
So remember, if you start with a pot of rice, you can eat for days without getting bored.