Ever since a visit to the Asian market in Salt Lake City, I have been slightly obsessed with making Asian-inspired dishes. Because I went a little crazy while shopping, I was forced to store my goods in my spillover storage space downstairs in the basement.
On a shelf, just waiting to be opened, is a nice supply of condiments, a large selection of rice and rice noodles and a few other random finds, such as pickled hearts of palm. While the Asian market was nice — the selection was enormous, and the prices are dirt cheap — our local stores carry a fairly wide variety of items, too. I just tend to get inspired when I have a bunch of new ingredients that need to be used.
One of my favorite purchases was a bag of “purple” rice. I’ve seen a version of this whole-grain rice cooked at Kim’s Corner. Hers does truly come out purple, while mine has turned a darker shade closer to brown.
I don’t think I am alone here when I say that cooking more grainy (often brown varieties) of rice is harder in Jackson than in more humid and lower elevation areas. Where I come from (Charleston, S.C.), rice is easy. Dump 1 cup of rice into 2 cups of boiling water. Salt, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Let it sit for five more off the heat before you fluff it. Perfect every time.
While I don’t tend to have any problems cooking white rice in Jackson, brown or darker versions have proven tricky. This new purple variety was challenging as well. Since I like the option of using brown rice more often (it is higher in fiber, has a stronger, nuttier flavor and is better for you), I did some research.
Apparently, others have similar issues, and advice was readily available online. The basic trick seemed to be this: Boil your brown varieties in way more water than you would normally (or more than it calls for), cook it longer than normal, drain the excess water, and return it to the pot to steam.
So, having once already failed to produce perfect fluffy purple rice, I was determined on my second try to get it right. I wanted to prepare the rice and serve it with grilled chicken and sauteed spinach. I had an idea about how to make it a little more exciting by turning it into kind of a creamier risotto-style dish completed with coconut milk.
I followed the advice found online and finished off the dish my way, adding coconut milk, garlic and ginger. It worked well, and the dish turned out to be a lovely accompaniment to my chicken and spinach. I have included the recipe for the rice and hope the directions will allow much less frustration for other Jackson cooks.
If you want to make the rest of the meal, I rolled chicken in sesame oil, sesame seeds and fried garlic before grilling and sauteed the spinach in peanut oil, finishing it with a little soy sauce. Serve Sriracha on the side for those who like a kick of spice, and you are set to go!