RICE DISHES AROUND THE WORLD
In the world of rice, there are countless dishes and variations. Some are similar to what you’re used to eating, while others seem like an entirely different cuisine altogether. If you want to experiment with your cooking repertoire or just get a little more adventurous with your diet, read on for some popular recipes from around the world.
In this blog post, we’re going to explore the many rice dishes around the world. From risotto in Italy and fried rice from China, there are a lot of different ways to enjoy this versatile grain.
In addition, we’ll examine how cooking styles vary across regions with some cultures using it as an ingredient while others use it solely as a dish base to make other foods on top of them. To conclude our culinary journey into the wonders of rice dishes from around the world, I will share some recipes you can try out at home!
1. Nasi goreng (Indonesia)
Nasi goreng is an Indonesian delicacy with roots in Malay and Chinese cuisine. It’s a fried rice dish that’s full of flavor, requires little preparation time and is perfect for a quick dinner.
The base of nasi goreng is rice that’s been stir-fried in a wok with vegetables, chicken or shrimp and sometimes served with an omelet.
It’s usually flavored with soy sauce, fried shallots, garlic, chili or a chili paste. Shrimp paste is another popular condiment and is probably responsible for the delicious aroma that goes along with this dish.
There are a few possible variations of nasi goreng depending on what you put in the wok, but for the purposes of this recipe I’m going to refer to it as nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice).
2. Sushi Rice and Sushi Boat (Japan)
At the heart of sushi is sushi rice (vinegared rice) and what you chose to serve with it. A good sushi meal is a balance of fish, vegetables, pickles and rice. Everything in Japan has its own season so depending on the time of year fresh local ingredients are used.
You may be surprised at how much thought and preparation goes into making sushi rice and the sushi boat as well as sourcing ingredients. As far as rice is concerned, in Japan there are a variety of different varieties although short grain white rice or Japanese brand rice is most commonly used for sushi.
Sushi Rice is prepared with rice, water and vinegar. Seasonings such as sugar and salt are not added. In Japan the rice that is used for sushi is freshly harvested and will go off very quickly if it’s not eaten straight away. Therefore, you may find in a restaurant that they make their own rice especially for use in sushi.
The sushi boat is an important part of sushi. There are 4 major components to most sushi boats, nigiri (hand pressed rice with a topping), maki (rolled sushi), sashimi (sliced fish) and temaki, or hand rolls. Each component has its own seasonality so what you see on the boat will depend on the time of year.
3. Bibimbap (Korea)
Bibimbap is one of those dishes which sound like they aren’t very exciting but, when done right, are magical.
The first element is the bowl itself. In Korea, bibimbap bowls (dolsot) are made from stoneware that’s been baked at a very high temperature; this is how it becomes non-porous and retains heat so well when cooking—something crucial to getting an even cook on each component of your dish.
The bowl is filled with rice, which is usually japgokbap (jasmine rice), although biryani rice can be used for a spicier dish. Then, there’s the banchan: a selection of small side dishes whose taste and texture contrast with what you’re about to put in your mouth.
The most common additions are kimchi, sautéed spinach or mushroom and cucumber kimchi. The meat of choice is bulgogi (marinated ribeye beef sirloin) but a variety of alternatives are available, including fermented yellowfin tuna and tofu.
Finally, there’s the ganjang gejang (soy-sauce marinated raw crab) and gochujang bokkeum (spicy stir-fried pork). Although banchan is where most of the flavour comes from, these two dishes are the ones which really make your dish. You’ll notice that there’s a lot of red, which is the colour of gochujang; this hot pepper paste is essential in bibimbap—note that any less and you might as well just be eating plain white rice with some side dishes… yuck.
Finally, all the components are mixed together before being served in your bowl. This is where the magic happens—first, you mix it up with your spoon, which gives each element some exposure to all the others. Then, as you tip the bowl onto a plate (or in Korean fashion, leave it on your table), everything mixes together into something beautiful and delicious.
Next time you’re eating bibimbap, watch as the rice, meat and veg cook while coming in close contact with each other. You’ll note how every component cooks evenly—the trick to this is that unlike a pot of biryani or jjigae (stew), your thick-lidded bowl retains heat incredibly well.
4. Hokkien fried rice (China)
Hokkien fried rice is a popular breakfast dish in China.
In general, it is made of rice (usually short grain or medium-grain types) with cubed meats (pork, shrimp, chicken, beef etc.), diced vegetables and egg. The meat is marinated in oyster sauce and other spices before cooking. It uses slightly longer grains than the Cantonese version.
In Taiwan it is usually served with pickled green chillies. Many variations of fried rice can be found throughout China, including Yangzhou fried rice and Fujian fried rice.
Fujianese-style boiled fish is eaten with cooked vegetables and rice. It is commonly eaten on special occasions, such as weddings and birthdays.
It was brought to Taiwan from Fujian via Hong Kong in the late 19th century during the Qing dynasty. The dish of rice cooked with ingredients of many colours is considered a symbol of wealth and prosperity in Chinese culture.
5. Biryani (India)
A dish with layers of spiced meat, basmati rice and fried onions. There are many different biryani recipes from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc. The most popular is Chicken Biryani which consists of the following ingredients:
The marinade for chicken takes around an hour to prepare. It is made by mixing yoghurt, ginger paste, coriander powder, garam masala and lemon juice together along with a small amount of milk. The chicken is then marinated for around 5 hours.
The preparation of the rice involves soaking it in water overnight and then washing it to remove impurities so that the taste is pure and the texture is fine. The rice is then mixed with a few saffron strands and fried onions which are added at the end of the cooking time so that they don’t lose their crunchiness.
When it comes to the actual cooking process it starts by frying off whole spices such as cumin seeds, cinnamon, green cardamoms and cloves in oil and then the onions are fried until they turn brown. The marinated chicken is then added to this along with cashew nuts and almonds which are also fried.
This mixture is then cooked for a few more minutes before being placed into the oven until it is cooked through, together with yoghurt, tomato purée, raisins and the rice. The end result is a lavish dish which looks and tastes amazing, served with mint sauce and either raita or salad.
6. Bamboo rice – Cơm lam (Vietnam)
Bamboo rice is a dish that combines all kinds of vegetables with meat or fish. It mainly includes onion, bell pepper, dried shrimp, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. The rice used in this dish is sticky with a yellow color.
A lot of people are not familiar with the ingredients used to make bamboo rice because it was born after the economic reform that took place in 1986 when traders from China came to Vietnam and started selling this food everywhere. This kind of rice is very convenient for the people because of its portability. It is not only cheap but also healthy to eat.
How bamboo rice is made: First, you have to cook the pork and chicken with spices like garlic powder, onion, salt and pepper in a small amount of water in your pot until it gets soft enough to cut them into small pieces. Next, you have to cook the rice in another pot and add a little bit of salt in it.
Then, wash the vegetables thoroughly and cut them into desired sizes. Heat up your skillet with oil on it before adding all the vegetables (including bamboo shoots) into it; stir fry until they are soft enough for you to season them with salt and pepper.
After a few minutes, add the pork and chicken into it. When you see that the vegetables are soft enough to be mixed with rice, top them all together with sticky rice in your plate and enjoy!
Bamboo shoots are not only delicious but also very healthy because of all the vitamins they contain. This is why this dish was famous all around the world.
7. Risotto (Italy)
Risotto is a dish which is cooked with rice, onions (or leeks), garlic, butter and chicken stock. The origin of risotto is Italy but it has become popular all over the world as a delicious, flavorful and healthy dish.
The most common type of risotto is made with rice, but it can also be made with other grains like quinoa or oatmeal. Risotto is easy to make but it does require patience. It’s a bit like cooking a stew because the liquid has to be added gradually in order for it to cook properly. It’s delicious, creamy and perfect to eat at any time of the day.
8. Risalamande (Denmark)
Risalamande is a traditional Danish sweet dish made of rice pudding, whipped cream, and almonds. For years ‘risalamanden’ has ranked up there with the country’s finest desserts.
Danish newspaper Politiken recently took it upon themselves to name the 100 best dishes in Denmark. The daily referred to Noma’s ‘controversial’ decision to not include risalamande as a traditional dish from Denmark’s past but decided to induct it in an own list.
These days the recipe is generally known for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it was made famous by none other than chef Bocuse, who placed a huge amount of the ingredients on top of each other, also including almonds from France and sugar cubes.
Following this risalamande has been transformed into something more splendid and also more fattening than the original dish. A risalamande is served in most Danish restaurants, taken along to parties, or eaten as a treat at home.
9. Rice Pudding (Norway/Sweden)
The reason why rice pudding is such a popular food in Scandinavia is because of its versatility and price. It’s not overly sugary and it tastes excellent hot or cold with an array of toppings to choose from. Rice Pudding is generally made with rice, milk and sugar with different toppings. It’s a dish that delivers flavour without substantial costs.
Generally rice pudding is made with white rice usually basmati rice but you can make it with brown rice as well. It is also common to add some alcohol when you cook the rice pudding, which can then make a unique dessert for parties.
In Sweden we have a famous rice pudding topping called ‘gubbröra’ (literally translated as Monkey Mash) which is made with potatoes, apples and cinnamon that gives the dish its unique taste; it always reminds me of winter. Cinnamon is often added to Scandinavian desserts like cakes because it’s believed that it burns calories!
So if you are tired of applesauce or yogurt for dessert I recommend making rice pudding instead. This recipe is great for any occasion and is especially good during the cold winter days.
10. Belgian Rice Pie (Rijsttaart) (Belgium)
Belgian Rice Pie, Rijsttaart, is popular and easy to make. This dessert uses the same basic recipe as a regular rice pudding (Rys Dessert).
Rice Pudding (Rys Dessert) is a tradition in Belgium and was originally from Germany. It’s made with milk, rice, sugar and raisins, but the local varieties include all types of fruits or nuts.
For this Belgian Rice Pie (Rijsttaart) I use raisins from my own garden. The word Rijsttaart derives from the Dutch word rys dessert and taart which means pie or tart . In Flanders, rice pudding was very popular and was served to celebrate birthdays. It has been said that the pie was invented by one of Belgium’s many Queen’s, Marie-Louise.
Rijsttaart is a perfect dessert for any occasion.
11. Jollof rice (West African)
Jollof rice is a West African dish that was probably named after the Wolof people, who are dominant in Senegal and Gambia (and also live in Mauritania). Jollof describes those delicious golden grains – these little fried balls of rice that add a wonderful texture to the dish. At its most basic level, jollof is a simple rice dish – seasoned with salt, pepper and chilli (the most basic of all seasoning trinity) – cooked in onions and tomatoes.
It’s also long been popular at weddings and is often cooked in a big outdoor pot and shared among guests. There are various versions of jollof rice, but it can be broadly broken down into two types: dry jollof and wet jollof. The difference being that one uses tomato sauce or paste, the other doesn’t.
While they’re both based on a similar concept – rice cooked in a tomato base, and flavored/seasoned with salt, pepper (and spices) – dry jolloff is essentially a longer cooking process than wet jollof.
12. Fish and Rice (Thieboudienne) (Senegal)
This traditional Senegalese dish is not spicy or exotic, but it’s definitely a favorite among its people.
The best part about it is that this dish can be made with any type of fish and any kind of rice. The hardest part about cooking this dish is making sure that the vegetables don’t over-boil and become mushy. This is a delicious meal that I find myself eating several times a week when in Senegal.
Judging by the ingredients list, it seems like this is a simple meal. However, African food is all about putting together simple ingredients to create delicious meals. Thieboudienne is Senegalese for rice with fish and tomatoes, but there are many varieties of cooking it is depending on how elaborate you want to be.
This dish can be served with other meats, fish or seafood. A type of thick sauce is usually poured over the rice, and it can be topped with a boiled egg. This dish defiantly has many variations to it but is still enjoyable by all.
13. Jambalaya (Louisiana, US)
Jambalaya is a traditional Louisiana dish, based on the Spanish arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), brought to America by the Spaniards. The dish was modified by adding tomatoes, andouille sausage, green bell peppers and celery.
The dish is similar to paella, and like the Spanish version, it usually has shrimp.
The name derived from a kind of rice prevalent in Louisiana in the 19th century called “jambalaya” (a mix of African words for rice, okra and onion), which became popular because of its use in Creole cooking. This jambalaya was actually a variety of short-grain white rice.
The dish was prepared by layering rice, meat and vegetables together, then cooking them without stirring at a high temperature. To complete the process, meat and seasonings were added to boiled rice, then simmered over a low-heat fire before serving.
14. Pabellón criollo (Venezuela)
It is a typical main meal of Venezuela, composed by rice (often cooked with coconut oil), black beans, tasajo or carne mechada , fried plantain slices and avocado. It can be accompanied with panelitas.
Almost all the ingredients are fried except for rice and plantains, which are boiled. The plate is accompanied by white onion rings, a side salad and corn oil-based mojito – like dressing called agrio. Pabellón can also be served without the beans.
Its name comes from the combination of “paella” and “pabellón”, a common Spanish word for the main dish. It can also be called “Mixto” (mixed).
The preparation is very simple but requires experience in frying and seasoning because it is important to correctly fry each ingredient.
15. Kedgeree (England)
Kedgeree is a famous Anglo-Indian breakfast made with rice, smoked haddock, peas and flaked boiled egg.
Kedgeree was first served to British troops stationed in India during the 19th century and has since become a popular traditional dish eaten at Christmas time in England. It was also often made for wives of officers who were working in India.
By the 1920s, kedgeree was considered a ‘high class’ dish to serve with ate at formal occasions and had become part of British cuisine at home.
Modern day kedgeree is made with rice, cooked lightly, flaked fish and peas or other vegetables. The mixture is then topped with a hardboiled egg that has been chopped into small pieces or crumbled. Kedgeree can be served hot or cold and is often eaten for breakfast, but it is also popularly served as a lunch or dinner dish.
RECIPES YOU CAN TRY OUT AT HOME
1. Bibimbap (Korea)
Ingredient (6 servings):
- 1 cup of white rice (180cc)
- 2 cups of water
- 3 sheets of dried seaweed chonpira (175g)
- 1 cup of sliced carrots (160cc)
- 4 sprigs of green onions chopped in sections (100cc)
- 150g of cooked beef
- 150g of boiled egg yolk, peeled and cut into 4 pieces each.
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tsp sugar, adjust to taste
- 1 tbsp mirin (optional) (15 cc)
- 1/4 tsp salt, adjust to taste
- Wash the rice well until water becomes clear
- Put the rice in a pot and add water
- Boil over medium heat for 10 mins
- Allow the water to drain away and place rice in bowl
- Place chonpira seaweed on top of rice
- Add carrots, beef, green onion, mayonnaise, sugar and mirin if using.
- Mix everything well with chopsticks or a spoon and season with salt
- Eat hot with a spoon and chopsticks.
2. Belgian Rice Pie (Rijsttaart) (Belgium)
- 1 cup of rice
- 1 liter milk
- 2 tablespoons of raisins per serving (optional, black or white)
- 2 small containers of vanilla ice cream – without sugar added – for 2 servings
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon schlagobers per serving (optional)
In boiling water leave the rice for about 20 minutes, until half cooked. Then drain and pour into a bowl with cold water. Start mixing in sugar little by little until well blended. Pour over milk and raisins (if desired), and cool in fridge for at least one hour.
For the second layer, place some vanilla ice cream into a bowl and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. When frozen, pour on top of rice pudding. Top with remaining vanilla ice cream, raisins (if desired) then drizzle schlagers around edge of pie plate or serve in separate sauce dish for guest to spread over pie.
Put in freezer for at least two hours to set.
Note: Rijsttaart is a perfect dessert for any occasion and very easy to make, but it does take some time so plan ahead. It’s also a nice dish to prepare the day before your party or gathering, as it will be easier the next day.
While there are many types of rice dishes around the world, they all have one thing in common deliciousness! The recipes we’ve shared will hopefully inspire you to try something new and broaden your palate. For more information about how other cultures cook their rice or to see some different variations on these delicious dishes, be sure to follow our blog for future posts. And don’t forget to enjoy the recipe as well!