November 21, 2010
A friend gave me some beautifully inky "Fobidden Rice" earlier this year, and I was quite thrilled, because I had been wanting to try it (thanks, Lisa!). It's quite different from Thai black rice, which is a fairly long grain and appears to be primarily used for sweet snacks and desserts. Chinese Forbidden Rice is a short grain, and is rather small overall. A grain of the black rice next to a grain of basmati, for example, is an almost comical contrast.
Having never made Forbidden Rice before, I did a little research online before I started cooking. Most of the advice that I encountered suggested that the the rice needs less in the way of cooking water than most rices, but we found it quite firm and a little dry in texture, so a little more water would not have hurt, I think. The actual packaging (Cote D'Azur™ Chinese Forbidden Rice) called for equal parts water and rice, plus a pinch of sea salt. Next time, I think I would add another quarter-cup of water per cup of rice.
The flavour was very interesting. Definitely falling on the "nutty" side of unpolished rices, there was an almost woodsy undertone that I found very appealing, especially against a simple, brightly flavoured counterpoint such as the basic gingered chicken and broccoli stir fry that we paired it with.
I was really amazed by how black the rice stayed, once cooked. I was expecting it to go rather purplish, like many of the "red" rices do (although perhaps darker), but those little rice grains stayed black.
After poking around the internet for further suggestions for the remaining rice, and eyeing various recipes for puddings, salads, and, intriguingly, mixed rice types, I decided to take up a suggestion that I found in a few places: mixing about 20% of the black rice into 80% "regular" japonica rice (Japanese-style rice). I cooked it in the rice cooker, using the same amount of water as I would if I were making 100% japonica. The result was quite striking (sorry, no picture), as the black rice turned everything a sort of gentle, royal purple colour, with darker purple grains of the black rice. I should have made some of it into onigiri, because that would have been adorable (especially using a cherry-blossom shaper). I don't have very much of the black rice left, however, so I may try the mixed rice again. If I do, I will be sure to take pictures to share with you, and maybe make those onigiri, if we have any leftovers.