A Humble Grain
words & photography by Amy Truong of Little Sundays
'If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.'
- William Shakespeare
Though small and seemingly insignificant at the best of times, rice has been the staple food of millions worldwide for well over two thousand years. The cultivation of this great grain has progressively evolved over time and with a multitude of varieties and cooking methods, rice has undoubtedly become an intrinsic link to one’s culture and identity including mine.
Eating rice other than the white variety has only been an endeavour of mine during the past few years. In part, the onslaught of information about white rice and the lack of nutritional value to one’s health influenced me to walk on the dark side yet I can not deny that my curiosity of taste and texture also plays a role. Nevertheless, my flirtations last only a mere few months before I rekindle my love for the humble white.
It represents a part of me; my heritage all boiled down to a single grain. It reminds me of times at the table with family, friends and of the delicious occasions celebrated. It reminds me of who I am, where my family come from and why we are here today. Perhaps it seems all too melodramatic but it is that emotional tie that prevents me from giving up on white rice, even with the nutritional discourse often presented to me.
Though hardly a rice connoisseur, cooking the perfect bowl of rice to me is ritual and imperative. Having discovered the methods used by some around me confounding at the best of times, only very few know the tricks that are usually passed down from generation to generation for cooking rice to perfection.
Here are a few suggestions shared from my grandmother to me:
- Always wash the grain. It releases the starch so that the rice binds closer together and cleanses the grain of any impurities when cooking. Wash in a clockwise direction, occasionally rubbing the grains between your hands. Repeat this at least twice, emptying the liquid after each round.
- Perfect your water level. It is customary to be taught to use your index finger to measure the water required for your rice. For two cups, fill water to the first joint on your index finger. Each time you double the volume of cups of rice, you move to the next joint.
- When rice is cooked, always use a rice spatula to break up the rice and allow the rice to cool slightly before serving. This helps relax the grain for softer, fluffier rice.