Forbidden rice: Break the rules and enjoy what was once limited to royalty


Forbidden Rice With Eggs, Tofu and Mushrooms (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
Joe Yonan
Editor, Food and Travel March 4

Once you taste it, and especially when you learn about all its benefits, the biggest question about forbidden rice might be: Why on Earth forbid it?

Legend has it that this Chinese black rice got its name because it was so nutritionally beneficial that only the emperors were allowed to eat it. That was then, this is now, and you can find the stuff at your friendly neighborhood Whole Foods Market, among other places.

Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Washington Post. He got the cooking bug from his Indiana-born mother who let him use her stand mixer when he was 8 years old because it was cool. View Archive

It has all the good fiber of brown rice, but that black (really dark-purple) hue indicates the presence of so much more: the antioxidants known as anthocyanins that are also in blueberries, acai and grapes (but without the sugar).

Enough about nutrition. It’s also stunning on a plate and delicious on the palate — nutty, even a little fruity. And it cooks in a half-hour, a quarter to half the time it takes to wrestle brown rice to doneness.

How to use it? Well, it can do anything other rices can do, but it has a particularly nice, somewhat chewy texture, which to my mind makes it perfect for stir-frying, especially with other hearty ingredients. I spied a treatment for such in the new “Cooking With an Asian Accent” by Ying Chang Compestine (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) that combines the rice with egg, mushrooms, almonds and a little ham. I subbed tofu for the ham, naturally, but the dish didn’t shine until I sprinkled on the garnish: almonds, scallions and, surprisingly, dried cranberries.

You might not think they’d work, but they do. As does the rice. Nothing this good should be the sole province of royalty.

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