18 June 2018Get to know Forbidden Rice
When it comes to black foods, our choices are slim. Black beans, black olives and licorice come to mind. Black raspberries are pretty close. Black coffee really isn't that black. Neither are black grapes. Black quinoa is sort of brown. One very black food that may be new to you is black rice. It's popular in Asian cuisine, but relatively new in Western countries. What is it exactly?
Unlike wild rice, which is dark colored but not a true rice, black rice is rice. It originated in China, where it was referred to as Forbidden Rice. The term "forbidden" reportedly stems from the fact that black rice is hard to cultivate and has a poor yield compared to other types of rice. As a result, only wealthy people could afford it, making it forbidden to the average person. It is expensive compared to more common white rice varieties, but is now affordable to many more people. It's also more widely available. Speciality food stores and many major grocery chains carry forbidden rice, so if you're curious, give it a try.
According to the Modern Farmer website, black rice gets its intense dark color from a high concentration of anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that give color to other foods like blueberries and grapes. Forbidden rice is especially high in anthocyanins, although the interior of the grain is white. It cooks more quickly than brown rice, and has a nutty flavor and chewy texture.
A nutritional comparison between 100 grams uncooked black and white rice shows the following:
|nutrient||Black rice||White rice|
In addition to the higher fiber and protein content, black rice has a significant amount of magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and manganese. It traditionally has a reputation as a health food, and considering the high anthocyanin content and higher amounts of many nutrients, that reputation is deserved.
So what do you do with black rice? I had never heard of it until I ran across a recipe a few years ago that used black rice in a salad. The result is delicious and also pretty, which is always a bonus when it comes to food. The green vegetables contrasted nicely with the black rice grains. I adapted the recipe for use with either black, brown or white rice in my book "Feed Your Vegetarian Teen". Here's a different adaptation of the original recipe:
Black Rice Springtime Salad
Yield = 6 servings (8 cups)
- 1-1/2 cups uncooked black rice
- 1 fresh jalapeno chili, chopped fine.
- 1/2 cup minced shallots
- 3 TB lime juice
- 2 TB rice vinegar (alternately you can substitute cider vinegar)
- 1 TB Asian fish sauce
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and sliced in half crosswise.
- 2 ripe (but not mushy!) avocados, diced into chunks.*
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- Salt to taste
- Peanut or olive oil as needed
Rinse the rice in a sieve. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a covered saucepan. Add the rice and simmer until cooked, according to package directions (25-30 minutes). Test for doneness - the rice should be chewy, not mushy or falling apart. Drain off any excess water and set aside to cool, stirring with a fork occasionally to prevent clumping.
Heat some oil in a skillet and cook the shallot for a couple of minutes. Add the minced pepper and cook for just another minute.
Briefly whisk the vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice and 1/2 tsp salt in a mixing bowl. Add the cooled rice and the shallots to the bowl and stir gently to combine everything. Let the rice mixture sit from 10 to 60 minutes.
Before serving, gently stir in the snap peas, avocado and 2 TB of the mint. Don't over mix to avoid mashing the avocados. Alternately you can save the avocado to spread around on top of the serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining mint. You can plate individual servings onto a bed of mild-flavored lettuce, such as Boston or Bibb.
Nutrition per Serving (1 1/3 cup prepared)
- Calories 275
- Total fat 15 g
- Saturated fat 2 g
- Total carbs 33 g
- Fiber 6 g
- Sugar 3 g
- Protein 5 g
- Sodium 480 mg
- Great source of vitamins C and K, and manganese
Because of the fish sauce, the recipe is technically not vegetarian. You could substitute soy sauce, but it's not quite the same flavor. If you do make that substitution, add a dash of toasted sesame oil to boost the flavor.
You can find plenty of other recipes using black rice on the internet or in magazines and cookbooks. The best ones will take advantage of the nutty flavor and dark color. I particularly like the look of cooked shrimp arranged on black rice.
Cooked black rice is a great base for lots of other salad and grain dish ideas. In addition to sugar snap peas and avocado, other colorful ingredients make a nice contrast with the black grains. I like kernel corn (especially if it's grilled and cut off the cob in chunks), cooked shrimp, minced cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and chunks of mango, sweet potato, zucchini, red radish or red pepper. You can also build a dramatic grain bowl around black rice with lettuce greens, vegetable chunks, chickpeas or sprouted lentils and a garnish of chopped peanuts and/or chopped hard boiled egg. If you like hearty grain-based dishes, Forbidden Rice should be part of your grain repertoire.
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