May The Rice Be With You

By Martin Musialczyk
Illustration by Coral Nafziger

As the Ebbtide staff debated on where to get some good Chinese food for a staff dinner, Din Tai Fung was quickly dismissed, deemed too expensive for the college-minded budget. Royal Unicorn was chosen, boasting a menu with a slew of options for just under $10. Researching the price point between the two places, $2 dollars was the bottom line difference.

As with some Asian restaurants, a $2 upcharge is implemented just for rice. Which with most college students, can determine whether it’s a go or no-go. This got me thinking about all the amazing restaurants college students could put back on their radar as a viable destination if perhaps they cooked the rice themselves.

The humble side dish that is rice is not as simple as one would think. One quick search on the interwebs will bring up countless ways one would go about performing the task of cooking it. But thinking about the amount of money one can save by simply cooking the rice at home, while your roommate goes out to the restaurant to pick up the main dish component, opens so many doors as to what places are suited for the budget of a college student.

Having experienced 22 years in the fire, culinarily speaking, as a cook as well as a chef, I would really like to share some industry secrets that could ultimately save you some money and possibly open up places that, up to now, have been off limits.

As there are countless books devoted to the history of rice, the countless varieties, and recipes, I would like to focus more on ways a college student could save money if only they…Here are some tips:

Purchase some jasmine or basmati rice, as these are the most ideal to use for this side. The one thing to make sure you know is how starchy the rice is. With the higher-end rice brands like Tilda, a basmati rice, there is very little starch. The less expensive rice can have quite a bit of processed starch and talc, which means you will need to wash the rice. If you use a slightly more expensive rice, you can forego the initial rinsing step.

Measure out how much rice you are going to need. One cup of uncooked rice will yield about three cups of cooked rice. If two people are eating take-out, one cup of uncooked rice sounds about right.

Place the measured amount of rice in a small pot that’s large enough for the finished volume of the cooked rice. As rice absorbs most of the water, it will increase in volume two-fold.

Next, rinse with running water until the water in the pot runs clear. You can do this by filling the pot up slowly while tilting it slightly to allow excess water to spill out, leaving the rice behind. Drain the water out as much as you can without spilling any rice out. You can use your hand to aid in this process.

After the rice has been rinsed, add one and a half cups of water to the pot. The ratio of dry long grain rice to water is 1-to-1-to-5 or, simply put, for every cup of uncooked rice bring 1 1/2 cups of water to the pool party.

Bring the small pot of rice and water to the stovetop and turn the burner ON to a medium-high heat setting. Put a small dash of salt into the mixture and allow the rice to come up to a slight boil. While it is heating up, do not stir the rice, do not look at it funny, and don’t show it any fear. Just let it do its thing.

Once the rice is at a slight boil, take a fork and give it a gentle stir; turn down the heat on the stove to low (one notch above OFF), cover the pot, set the timer to 18 minutes and… I dunno, do some homework. Once the timer goes off, do not, I repeat, do not take the top off. Simply turn the heat off and move the pot over to a spot on the stove free of heat. Set your timer for five minutes. Continue on with some more homework.

Once the timer goes off, uncover and, with that same fork, delicately fluff the rice by using the prongs of the fork to gently unstick the grains of rice by, ever so slightly, lifting some of them bit by bit until they are nice and loose. The rice is ready to be eaten. Enjoy.

Preparing rice at home can be a simple way of saving money while allowing the college budget to enjoy a restaurant-prepared meal that would otherwise be considered off-limits due to the rice upcharge.

Look forward to seeing you next issue.