Forbidden rice is more common in Asia and many parts of Europe; however, it is also gaining popularity in the United States. Due to this, it may be easier to find depending on where you are located. The rice appears black when it is uncooked and turns a deep vibrant purple after cooking. This can be attributed to a heavy black bran layer on the outside of the rice grains. While this coloring adds visual appeal to the rice, it enhances the nutrition levels of the rice as well. In addition to the usual benefits of various types of rice, including a healthy dose of iron, dietary fiber, magnesium and B vitamins, forbidden rice is full of antioxidants. These are found in the pigment that provides the rice its violet hue.
Because of the increased nutrition levels in the rice, there have been stories of the rice being cultivated exclusively for Chinese emperors of the past. This has given the rice the nickname of emperor’s rice. These stories are supported by the heirloom status of the rice and the areas in which it is cultivated and popular today. Black rice varieties are very popular in Asian cooking, especially Chinese and Thai cooking. One of the most popular uses of forbidden rice is in Thai mango sticky rice. This dish combines the nutty flavors of the rice with the sweetness of mango and coconut milk to create a rich and flavorful rice pudding.
Do not let the appearance of black rice varieties intimidate you. If you have cooked wild rice or sticky rice, you already know how to cook forbidden rice. This rice cooks well with both boiling and steaming methods. Just be sure to give the rice a good soak before cooking. This will help to soften the bran layer on the outside and clean the rice of any potential contaminants that were introduced in the harvesting and milling processes. For boiling, add 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups of water per cup of rice to a large heavy-bottomed pot with a well-fitted lid. Place the pot on high heat and bring the water to a boil. After reaching a boil, reduce the heat and allow the rice to simmer. Because of the heavy bran coating on forbidden rice, you will need to cook it longer than some rice varieties. Begin checking the rice around the 30-minute mark. Rice should be thoroughly cooked and chewy within 45 minutes at the most. At this time, replace the lid, pull the rice off the heat and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. This will allow the moisture in the rice to redistribute and provide an even chewy texture throughout. If you already know how to make rice, learning the variances regarding forbidden rice won’t be terribly difficult for you.
Black rice varieties lend themselves well towards deserts and require little seasoning. They have a subtle nutty flavor and a mild sweetness. This flavor profile, along with its vibrant purple hue makes forbidden rice a great addition to neutral colored dishes as well. This creates an attractive contrast and adds a unique element to the plate.