So – I recently came to a conclusion about rice. It is all about your sense of confidence. Much like raising children, cooking rice requires that the rice realize that you are in charge. That means that you leave the rice to cook without panicking and opening the pot. It also means that if the rice is hard, you just add some water and keep cooking. If the rice is mushy – put the top back on and keep cooking. (seriously, weird, huh?) But I have found that rice will only listen to you if you insist that it is easy and it cannot go bad.
That being said – I have found that some pretty general rules apply to the rice that is sold here in Egypt.
So – if you are struggling with rice and you have Cairo supermarkets available to you…
Doha Short Grain Rice
This is like the regular Doha rice. It is what is used for ‘traditional Egyptian rice’ which had little vermicelli (shaareya) in it.
Things you will need:
1 shayata (a metal circle with a wooden handle that covers the flame to dissapate the heat)
1 slightly heavy bottomed pot with a lid and steam-hole (preferably a transparent lid so you aren’t tempted to take the lid off to see the rice and potentially ruin it)
1 cup El-Doha white short-grain rice (the regular, everyday Egyptian rice)
2 handfuls vermicelli (shaareya)
2 tablespoons butter
a sprinkle of salt
2 cups water
1. Put 1 tablespoon butter and two handfuls vermicelli into the pot and fry them until the vermicelli browns to your liking. It is advisable to move the vermicelli and butter around with a wooden spatula while it fries so that it colors itself evenly.
2. Once the vermicelli is ready, toss in the cup of rice and the other tablespoon of butter.
3. Sprinkle all with salt and stir about so that the vermicelli is mixed in with the rice and the butter is evenly distributed.
4. Pour in two cups water and allow them to heat up to almost a boil (still uncovered at this point).
5. Light up the smallest flame on your stove and set it to its lowest possible setting.
6. Cover the flame with the shayata.
7. Put the lid on the rice pot and move your pot to the lower flame, placing it on the shayata.
8. Set your timer for 30 minutes and walk away from the pot.
9. Come back and check the status of the rice by smelling the steam coming out of the steam-hole–but don’t take the lid off.
10. When 30 minutes are up, turn off the heat, take off the lid and taste the rice. If it’s still very hard, add another 1/4 cup of water and turn on the heat on low again. Leave for 10 minutes.
Nahrain Basmati Rice
Things you will need:
1 slightly heavy bottomed pot with a lid and a steam-hole
1 cup Nahrain golden basmati rice
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon butter (optional)
1 cube chicken stock (optional) or a sprinkle of salt
1. Pour 2 1/4 cups water into the pot and heat to a boil.
2. Add in whatever you have chosen from the optional items–salt, chicken stock, butter or oil–and make sure the chicken stock is no longer in cube form by crushing it with wooden spatula.
3. Add in 1 cup basmati rice (this combination works for Nahrain, but not for El-Doha basmati)
4. Allow water to boil again while you set up your smallest flame, on low, with the shayata on top.
5. Move the pot to the low flame and set the timer for 30 minutes.
6. Walk away from the rice and come back in 30 minutes to turn off the flame.
7. Open the pot, move the rice around with a fork to give it some air, and… enjoy!
Doha Basmati Rice
Follow the same directions as Nahrain Basmati rice but to 1 cup of rice, boil 1 3/4 cups of water and cook it for 40 minutes!