How To Cook Brown Rice

Unmilled rice which we currently find in the market under such labels as brown rice, black rice, red rice and other similar types of pigmented rice grains are wholefood. They are intermediate products that increasingly became more common apparently as a response to market demand.

Known as pinawà in Filipino, unmilled rice is the whole grain where only the inedible chaff or the husk (ipá) of the paddy grain (pálay) is removed.

The market names are determined by the color variations of the rice grain’s outer layer. Jasmine rice, for example, will have a brown outer color after the husk is removed so it will be labeled as brown rice. Sinandómeng will have a red outer color so it will be sold as red rice, and so on.

Almost every variety of rice, from basmati to the uncommon rice varieties with naturally low glycemic indices, can be produced or consumed as unmilled rice.

Brown rice, here used interchangably  with the term unmilled rice, retains the nutritious parts of the grain that are usually removed during the milling process. These include the fiber-rich bran—called darák in Filipino—which is also a good source of micronutients and minerals.

Another by-product of rice milling called binlíd in Filipino, the rice germ which is rich in polyunsaturated fats is also retained in brown rice.

Peripherally flanking the endosperm, the aleurone layer—host to a significant amount of the grain’s protein—is also intact in brown rice.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood  from Pexels

These healthful components being part of the nourishment that we get from eating brown rice should justify the recent public perception that gave rise to the increased popularity of the cereal.

Because of the presence of these layers that effectively seal the rice grain’s starchy endosperm, the cooking of brown rice by boiling is slightly different from boiling white rice or polished rice.

During boiling, the absorption of water is significantly inhibited by these part of the rice grain that are otherwise removed in the milling process.

The absorption of water by the grain is an important facet in boiling rice. When heated, the retained moisture causes the expansion of the grain to attain that desirable fluffy quality.

Excess water in improperly cooked brown rice settles at the bottom of the cooking pot. This results in mushy later plates of cooked rice. Excess water, combined with adverse keeping properties of the retained parts in brown rice, also causes easy spoilage especially during the warmer months.

When boiling brown rice, one needs to keep watch and alternately cover and uncover the lid of the rice cooker. This is to ensure that the cooking rice retains just the proper amount of water while also making sure there is sufficient heat to allow the rice grains to absorb the required amount of moisture to rise optimally.

Due to the same reason that it cannot absorb too much water, cooked brown rice also cannot take in too much oil nor salt when cooking it by toasting, This is why it cannot be fried as one would regular or polished rice.

Left-over brown rice is best toasted in a wok, which may be lightly lined with oil spray. Unlike starchy white rice, however, brown rice is not sticky and is easily stirred about on the wok. When stored in the refrigerator before toasting, the grains readily come apart when crumbled.

During toasting, heat should be kept high while the grains are continuously stirred around to make all sides of the grains touch the very hot surface of the wok. This way, the grains could form a crust quickly without drying up the inner part.

Following is a recipe for four servings of boiled or steamed brown rice:

In a wire sieve, rinse two standard cups of brown rice grains in running water and drain well. With a quick stir, combine the rice with four standard cups or a liter of water in the pot holder of the rice cooker, cover and turn the rice cooker on. Wait until the pot begins to boil briskly and for the steam to get heavy before lifting the lid off and letting the rice cook uncovered until no more liquid is visible on top. When the steam has settled at the level of the grains, put the lid back on to let the cooking rice absorb moisture and rise some more. Lift the lid off and leave the rice cooker uncovered for another five minutes when the rice cooker setting has shifted to WARM to let more steam escape. Put the lid back on and wait for another five minutes to make sure the rice is well-cooked through before turning off the rice cooker.

Brown rice can also be cooked in a heavy-set pot over low heat using the same rice-to-water proportion. If recipe instructions are followed, cooked brown rice will not retain any excess water and is guaranteed to be fluffy. It is best served warm-to-hot but let it rest for ten minutes before serving.

The preceding content is an excerpt from the book, Sustaining A Plant-Based Diet With Filipino Food by E Vargas Alberto.

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