Plain brown rice

Plain brown rice

Cao mi fan

By
From
Every Grain of Rice
Serves
4
Photographer
Chris Terry

The word used to describe brown rice in Chinese, cao, means rough, coarse, crude, or even inferior. The unpolished grain is almost never eaten in modern China, even in restaurants that make a point of offering other coarse staples such as sweetcorn and sweet potatoes. I can’t actually remember a single occasion on which I’ve been offered brown rice to eat in China. Nonetheless, as most people know, it is far healthier than its refined white equivalent, in which most of the nutrients have been polished away to leave just a starchy kernel.

When it comes to entertaining, I have to admit that I’m still a rice snob and serve plain white rice as an elegant background to the flavours of other dishes. For simple home meals, however, I find I’m increasingly cooking brown rice to serve with Chinese dishes. Quite apart from its superior nutritional value, I love its juicy chewiness and taste and find it keeps me full and satisfied for longer. Here, then, is what I find the best method for cooking it. The pre-soaking really helps to give a perfect texture.

If you don’t have time to pre-soak your rice, or forget to, as I often do, you can also cover the rice in plenty of water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. I find it more difficult to achieve a perfect texture this way: you need more water for the longer cooking time if you are to avoid boiling the pan dry and, in my experience, the rice can end up a little soggy. In this case, I make a virtue of necessity, deliberately using more water than I need, then, when the rice is tender, straining off the silky liquid to be served as a ‘soup’ at the end of the meal. I then cover the rice pan and heat it very gently until the remnants of water are absorbed. This quantity of rice serves about four people.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
600g short-grain brown rice

Method

  1. Soak the rice in cold water for at least two hours.
  2. Drain the rice and place it in a saucepan with 1.2 litres of water. Bring to a boil, then half-cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it does not boil dry.
  3. Remove from the heat, fluff up with a fork, cover and leave for 10 minutes before serving.
Tags:
Chinese
Sichuanese
Asian
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