Vietnam and Vietnamese Culture

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Cooking Rice

How to cook rice - varieties, proportions and using a rice cooker.

Along with noodles, fresh herbs, and vegetables, rice is often one of the most important parts of a Vietnamese meal. Many Asian families keep rice on hand all day long, with a effective rice cooker in the kitchen.

A rice cooker opens up a whole new world of recipes. They are easy to use, and almost fool proof. The texture and taste is quite different from "Uncle Ben's"! Once you have used a rice cooker, you will never want to go back to the more difficult and less satistifying methods.

Noted Vietnamese cook and cookbook author Mai Pham recommends using a rice cooker to get the best rice. "It is so simple and it is perfect. You are usually so busy and time is of the essence so why waste it on the rice? Instead use your time on menu planning or on the entrees. Plus rice re-eats really well. You can make a stew dish on Monday and add a salad and re-heat the rice the next day. This is what I do at home."

Rice cookers range in price from cheap to very expensive, like most cooking appliances. You can get a decent one for around $35-100. If you can't find one at your local Asian grocer (or prefer a different brand), you can search for rice cookers at Amazon. Cooking.com also carries a large selection of quality rice cookers.

Asian rice varies by type, from long to short grain and depending on when it is harvested, how old it is and where it is from. Different varieties may be used for different types of dishes, but most people have their favorites.

How to cook rice is a highly personal, and often intensely defended, matter. Usually rice is washed before cooking, as in the past rice was less refined and clean than now. Most Asians still wash rice ahead of time.

The amount of water and rice is carefully measured. Often you can find the amount listed on the rice package. Ratios seem to vary. For new rice, I use 3/4 cup water to 1 cup rice, which is on the sticky side. Often the ratio may be 1 to 1 for older rice. In our interview with author Mai Pham, she suggests that you "cook one part rice and one and half parts water, adding only 2-3 tablespoons more or less."

For more information, read about rice cookers at Amazon or see our recommendations for books on Vietnamese cooking.


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