I got a whole lotta love for brown rice, but let’s face it – it is so 2010 (I joke, I joke). Moving into the now, let’s get a handle on the newest and hottest whole grain to hit the health food store shelves: black rice. Oh yeah.
Some of you may already be familiar with this powerhouse grain, sometimes referred to and sold as “forbidden rice”. Sounds sinful, doesn’t it? The reasons behind that could be hearsay, but according to legend, in ancient China consuming black rice without approval from the proper authorities could have life threatening consequences for those involved. I don’t know about you, but my taste buds are pretty stoked that the black rice prohibition has been lifted and we can all indulge in a little forbidden naughtiness.
Black Rice Boasts its Benefits!
Black rice is an heirloom variety of rice cultivated in Asia. It is typically sold unmilled with the fiber-rich black husks still intact. It is this outer layer of bran that sets black rice apart from other types of unpolished rice, as the deep, dark pigments that it contains boasts special phytonutrients, called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are responsible for the reds, blues, purples, and magenta colours also found in blueberries, grapes and açaí, all of which we know to be powerful antioxidant-rich foods. These compounds decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. They may also aid in the prevention of macular degeneration by protecting the eyes from free radical damage, increasing circulation and stabilizing collagen structures (which hold tissues together).
In addition to its high antioxidant content, black rice has also been shown to help prevent diseases associated with chronic inflammation, such as diabetes, and quell allergic reactions.
Rice in general is rich in complex carbohydrates, good quality, digestible protein, yet low in fat and calories. Whole grain rice varieties aid in digestion, as it is high in dietary fiber. Rice bran, the husk on the outside of unprocessed rice, helps to lower cholesterol, and some studies have shown it may help prevent bowel cancer.
Cookin’ it up
Like other unmilled, unprocessed rice, the black variety takes longer to cook than traditional white rice (yup, get over it). It should also ideally be stored in the fridge and used within three months, to prevent spoilage. Rinsing and soaking the rice before cooking will help to bring the cooking time down. As a general rule, black rice should be cooked with two cups of water to every one cup of rice, and it will need to cook for about 45 minutes after soaking, or up to 60 minutes if you cook un-soaked rice.
Although the grains appear to be black when uncooked, they are in fact a deep purple-burgundy, which will dye just about everything it comes into contact with. On one hand, this makes it perfect for combining with regular brown rice as it will turn all the grains a lovely colour, but be careful with ceramic or enamel cookware (I totally wrecked my white enamel saucepan!), as well as clothing and countertops. You’ve been warned 😉
I first tried black rice a few years ago when a good friend of mine gave me a bag for my birthday (my buddies know me so well). I instantly fell in love with its very rich taste, sweet nuttiness and chewy texture. It really is that delicious.
Here I’ve used it to make a delectable and satisfying cold salad, as picnic season is upon us! Black rice is also delicious, and most often used to make puddings and desserts. It is not entirely fluffy in nature, so be aware that you will not end up with a light, airy style of grain. For this reason, I think black rice would be ideal in other savory dishes such as paella or risotto. Give it a shot!
My Black Rice Sesame Salad is incredibly versatile, and with many of the recipes here at My New Roots, I encourage you to just use the vegetables you have on hand in the fridge, or whatever is in season. The dressing provides the background flavour, so mix up the produce to suit your tastes.
Black Rice Sesame Salad
1 cup uncooked black rice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 bell pepper, julienned
2 carrots, julienned
5 radishes, sliced into discs
4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed sesame oil (sub with olive oil)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 tsp. tamari
¼ tsp. ground cayenne, optional
1 tsp. maple syrup or liquid honey
1. Prepare the black rice; you can either soak it overnight for optimal digestion, or simply wash it well 2-3 times, and drain. Place rice in a pot with 2 cups water and the salt. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. If you are using soaked rice, check for doneness after 40 minutes, and drain any excess water. Otherwise leave it to cook for 50-60 minutes. The rice should be soft, yet chewy.
2. While the rice is cooking, prepare the dressing. Place all ingredients in a jar and shake well. When the rice is finished cooking, place in a large bowl and pour half of the dressing over while still warm.
3. Prepare the vegetables. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet until they pop. Remove from heat. Add vegetables and sesame seeds to the rice. Pour the remaining dressing over top, stir well to combine, and season to taste. Say thank you and enjoy. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to four days.