Rice Rice Baby

Posted on April 10, 2008 by psu

In the past few weeks the Tivo appears to have exhausted the current stock of Good Eats shows that are in heavy rotation. Rather than three or four a night, we are down to just a few per week. My original impressions of the show still stand, but I have one relatively minor complaint. He really doesn’t know anything about rice.

Maybe it’s his upbringing. Maybe it’s because there are no Chinese restaurants of any quality in The South. Whatever the reason, one is forced to this conclusion after watching his show about rice. The show begins with a loving tribute to risotto, a tribute which is well-deserved. Risotto is one of the few European rice dishes that is actually worth eating. He then takes a bizarre tangent into brown rice salad. Why I don’t know. Why eat brown rice? More importantly, why eat it cold? The only discussion of proper white rice comes when he dismisses the rice that you would get at a Chinese takeout joint as “tasteless long grain white rice.”

Now, I don’t know what passes for Chinese food in Atlanta, but if you get long grain white rice at a Chinese restaurant I suggest you find another Chinese restaurant. Such a thing is unthinkable. That’s like getting Olive Garden pasta and declaring that the Italians don’t know much about noodles. Good rice is short (or medium short) grain and cooked so it sticks together but is not mushy.

The pinnacle of good rice, in my not so humble opinion, is sushi rice, which gets no mention at all in this show. Note, I don’t mean the gluey crap that you get at most places in the U.S. I mean, in the U.S. people make sushi with brown rice. We are not to be trusted. I mean the ethereal little balls of perfectly cooked rice, seasoned with whatever they season it with and rolled lightly under a perfect piece of fish to add just that little bit of zing and texture. You bite into it, it’s there, and then it just disappears at the same time as the fish.

Good sushi rice is so important that you have to apprentice for years in sushi restaurants in Japan before you are even allowed to touch the rice. This, my friends, is the most important ingredient on the plate. Not just some “tasteless” white side dish of limited character. It is the main attraction!

So, I’m tired of the abuse that white rice gets from the food industry at large. I’m tired of “alternative grains”. And most of all, I’m tired of being served really bad rice. I think Alton and the rest of the U.S. food industry could stand to do a little more studying on this subject. I’m hoping he has covered these issues in a show that I haven’t managed to see yet. After all, if we can’t spread a true understanding of good rice to the public at large, the Italians might take over with their fancy pasta, in all those strange awkward shapes. And we can’t have that.