[Sca-cooks] White Rice
lilinah at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 8 19:06:06 PDT 2008
Re Stefan's recent query:
I always assumed that the rice eaten by the gourmets in the Middle
East was white rice. Somehow tough brown rice seemed completely
incompatible with that otherwise refined cuisine.
Just the other night, i came across recipes and poems in ibn Sayyar
al-Warraq's compendium of 9th and 10th C. recipes (Nawal Nasrallah's
translation) that clearly specify white rice.
In a poem on the dish Aruzziya by Ibrahim bin al-Mahdi, by the
"Aruzza with milk of any blemishes free.
Made simple with one kind of grain, drowned in fat [sheep tail fat
and olive oil in the recipe]
How marvelous is the meat in it, with fat almost as much as the meat.
The meat slices like fresh dates, moist and tender. How pretty in the
huge bowl it looks.
A closer regard will make you think it is the full moon but blemish-free."
The ingredients are:
lean rump meat thinly sliced and smoked, sheep tail fat, olive oil,
salt, and water (avoid murri as it will discolor the dish).
And milk, galangal, cinnamon, and rice
The meat is prepared separately from the rice and milk. It's not
entirely clear if they are mixed before serving, or if the meat
garnishes the rice...
A recipe for faludthaj made with rice
"Choose Levantine rice or Yemenite. These are the best and whitest
rice varieties available..."
(the recipe is an entire modern page long, so i won't include it)
I recall some other poems in the book that indicate how white a rice
dish is, but can't find them at the moment
On the other hand, on p. 446, in chapter 108 - Making Grain Stews for
the Sick - the first two recipes call for toasted brown rice.
In fact, in her Glossary, Nasrallah says, p. 557:
"Husked white rice is the variety generally used. Unhusked rice is
I wonder if even this "coarser" rice was really like our modern brown
rice. I ate red rice in Indonesia - it had been husked, and
apparently partially polished, but not fully polished. The outer
layer was a deep rich warm red-brown, kind of brick-red. When it was
cooked the outer "skin", split open and the originally white inner
part became pink. Not only was it really pretty, but it tasted
wonderful, too, like rice with an almost nutty flavor. I'm sorry it's
so expensive here, or i'd eat it more often because it tastes
This is probably what i ate in Indonesia
This is now sold in US markets
This is a type of sticky red rice
I also ate black rice in Indonesia - i have to laugh when i see it
sold so expensively in the US as "Forbidden Rice", which is a crock
of horsepucky and a load of manur... marketing hype. I know of two
kinds of black rice. The kind i had in Indonesia is a medium grain
that is husked but not polished, that cooks up more or less like
regular rice, except that the black-purple skin splits open during
cooking and the normally white inner part becomes a lovely lavender.
I don't quite recall the flavor because it was used for kolak, a
sweet snack food, and cooked with plenty of rich coconut milk, yummy
palm sugar, thick slices of fresh ginger. The other kind is black
sticky rice, which is used in parts of mainland Southeast Asia for
sweets. There certainly is nothing "forbidden" about it anywhere in
These two entries are pretty much for the same rice. The second had a
couple good photos and includes info on both kinds of black rice.
Next, i've read in several books on Ottoman cuisine that certain
European scholars think that rice did not reach the Middle East until
brought by the Mongols, when they invaded in the mid-13th C. Clearly
those scholars don't read cookbooks! Not only is rice called for in
the early 13th C. cookbook of al-Baghdadi, written several decades
before the invasions, but in the mid-13th C. Andalusian cookbook -
and rice production couldn't have gotten there in just a decade or
two. In fact, as is clear, rice is called for in 'Abbasid 9th and
10th century recipes, for 3 and 4 centuries prior to the Mongol
invasion, as it is called for in 32 recipes.
Back in the late 60s and early 70s when i was a vegetarian (and for a
short time even macrobiotic, because of some house mates), i was at
times compelled to eat brown rice, which i considered truly
unpleasant. Compelled only some of the time, because it was served in
some restaurants i frequented, and by friends. I did cook it myself
for a some months, but never liked it and switched to various kinds
of white rice.
Many cuisines that feature rice are cooked in such a way as to create
a fair amount of sauce. The dishes are meant to be served on or next
to white rice, which will absorb most of the liquid and made the
whole thing easier to eat. Brown rice, in my experience, doesn't soak
up the sauce and just sits there, while the delicious liquids pool
Current methods of processing brown rice make it more palatable (and
cook faster), and i eat it when i'm in a "healthy" restaurant that
serves nothing but. However it's still not on my list of things to
buy for home. I'll get my fiber and my B-vitamins in other foods.
the person sometimes known as Urtatim
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