When the lockdown first started in March, last year, there’s a big rush to buy rice. I thought it’s a little ridiculous, but I still went out and came back with more supply of rice that could be consumed in one year–I didn’t want to see myself left out from the madness. And the Asian grocery stores in the area were very soon out of rice, and eager shoppers went to the regular stores and cleaned the rice shelves there too. By the way, here in Central Jersey, Asian grocery stores are ethnic stores, which have Asian food items but with no milk or cheese for sale. The regular stores are mainstream stores, with milk and cheese, with chips and organic meat etc. Two weeks later, the shelves are replenished and the panic rumor started to die down.
I’ve met a lot of rice fanatics over the years, who would complain endlessly if they don’t eat rice for a day or two. Sometimes when you take a trip somewhere, for example central or western Pennsylvania or upstate New York, rice dishes are not readily available. These rice fanatics would start to voice their discomfort and whine about their stomach not happy without rice. Later somebody from Taiwan told me that he always brings a bag of rice and a rice cooker on his business trip–he had to travel to many different states for business, but I can’t even remember what his job was. His solution sounds good. Problem solved. For those rice fanatics, just bring your own rice and rice cooker everywhere you go.
Every rice region has its own rice legends, but one legendary story exists everywhere–“rice and the chessboard”. In East Asia, it is the story of “rice and the Go board”–the game of Go is played by putting white or black stones on a board of 19X19. Since more people are familiar with chessboard, I will tell this story using chessboard. A very poor beggar is talking with a very rich king. The king says condescendingly, “I like to offer you a bag of rice.” He’s playing a game of chess with the queen, and has no time to deal with the beggar. The poor beggar says, “Just give me one grain of rice on the first square of your chessboard today. Two grains tomorrow on the second square. Each succeeding day, double the rice of the previous day to put in the next square.” The king says, “We have a deal. Are you sure you only want one grain of rice for today? You will go hungry.” The poor beggar is adamant about his position and the deal is sealed. Soon the king finds that he is indebted to the beggar and he could exhaust all the grains in his kingdom, still incapable of fulfilling his part of the bargain.
I made Jollof Rice yesterday and it is delicious. I didn’t even put much oil in it. It would taste even better if I added two more tablespoons of oil, but I resisted the temptation.
2 medium tomatoes, skinned in boiling water
1 medium green pepper (a mistake, should be red pepper)
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
3 small red bell peppers –I don’t have this
1 tbs olive oil
½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon curry powder–I don’t have this
½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
½ teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 cup medium grain rice
Combine tomatoes, pepper and onions; purée in a blender. You can do batches. I find that I need to add liquid in order to make it blend well.
Heat olive oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the mixture along with all the spices. Bring it to a boil.
Add the pre-soaked rice to the mixture. When boil, lower the heat to slow simmering.
Cover and cook for 40 minutes, but if you use a wok, you have to stir it every five minutes so that the rice won’t stick to the bottom. until rice is al dente, I didn’t allow the bottom rice to char, but probably I should. It’s already quite delicious.