With so many varieties of rice in the world to choose from, it would seem ridiculous for me to pick a favorite. And yet, jasmine rice is it.
Not its aromatic sister, basmati, or its chubby Italian cousin, arborio. California’s medium-grain Calrose has a lovely name and used to be my house rice, but that was BJ, Before Jasmine.
Even those popular long grain Southern Belles from Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas — so widely appreciated throughout the world for their firm, non-sticky character — simply can’t speak to my spirit in the way that this exotic Thai beauty does.
It brings so much to the kitchen. First, there’s that aromatic character. Open the bag and inhale. Even before you add water and heat, jasmine rice has an exquisite, almost floral smell that tells you you’re about to prepare something delicious, that these grains harbor a pureness in quality that makes your time in the kitchen worthwhile. Aroma therapy for cooks.
Then there’s its complex personality. Oh sure, jasmine rice is a long grain variety, just like the previously mentioned Southern Belles. But jasmine comes across fluffy-yet-chewy, thanks to a higher amylose content.
Not as sticky as the medium-grained Calrose or the glutinous and sweet California Mochi rice. Just fluffy and resilient enough to be interesting all on its own.
If I keep a bowl of cooked jasmine rice in the fridge my spontaneous side has more to work with during the week. Unlike most long-grain rice, jasmine’s outer surface remains tender and fluffy at cold temperatures instead of turning hard and brittle. So it’s a great base for last-minute salads and sautes.
And then there’s Yumm Sauce, the creation of Cafe Yumm founders Mark and Mary Ann Beauchamp.
The Beauchamps’ Eugene, Ore.-based chain of Cafe Yumm restaurants has built a menu around this amazing sauce.
For those who can’t get their hands on a bottle of Yumm Sauce, I’ve provided a recipe that’s pretty close in flavor and texture.
I call it Heavenly Sauce, and it does taste heavenly with a lovely steamy-hot bowl of jasmine rice.
Jan’s basic jasmine rice
1/2cup chopped yellow onion
1-1/2cups jasmine rice
In medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, saute the onion in the butter until the onion is soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the rice and saute to evenly coat the grains. Add the water and the salt, increase the temperature to medium-high and bring the water to a boil, stirring occasionally with a flat-bottomed utensil so the rice won’t scorch. Once the water has boiled, reduce the temperature to low, cover, and cook the rice at a very slow simmer for 20 minutes without uncovering the pot.
After 20 minutes, check the rice. If all the water has been absorbed, the rice is done. Gently fluff the rice with a fork. If not serving immediately, place a paper towel over the top of the pot and put the lid back on to keep the rice hot (the paper towel absorbs condensation from dripping back down on the rice and making it soggy).
Heavenly Sauce for jasmine rice
1/2cup canola oil
1/2cup toasted slivered almonds or toasted whole hazelnuts
1/3cup cooked and drained garbanzo beans (canned is fine)
1/4cup cooked and drained soybeans (canned is fine)
1/2cup fresh lemon juice
1/3cup nutritional yeast (this is not the same as “active dry yeast”)
2teaspoons ponzu seasoning (it’s sold near the soy sauce) or soy sauce
1/2teaspoon dried basil
1/4teaspoon curry powder
1/4teaspoon cumin powder
1/8teaspoon ascorbic acid (for zing)
In a blender jar, combine the oil, nuts, garbanzo beans, soy beans and garlic. Run the motor, stopping several times to scrape the sides of the jar and push the mixture into the blades. Once the mixture is a rough puree, add the water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, ponzu seasoning (or soy sauce), salt, basil, curry powder, cumin powder and ascorbic acid. Continue blending until the mixture is relatively smooth (it will remain grainy because of the nuts). Scrape it into a container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or so.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.
How to use your Heavenly Sauce: First make a big pot of Jan’s jasmine rice. Place a serving of the rice (hot, warm or cooled) in a bowl, then top with some heavenly ingredients, sort of like you would a tostada or a taco. I like shredded cheese, diced avocado, chopped tomatoes, chopped green onions, sliced olives and black beans.
Spoon on some of the Heavenly Sauce. At this point, for an extra whang, spoon on a bit of your favorite salsa.
Jasmine rice with coconut shrimp and mango salsa
2fresh jalapenos, seeded and sliced
4cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
About 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root
3tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
3tablespoons soy sauce
Juice and lime zest from half a fresh lime
1/4cup unsweetened coconut milk (commercially canned; available in the Asian food section of most supermarkets)
About 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
2tablespoons canola oil
1/2teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp
Recipe for jasmine rice with lime (recipe follows)
Recipe for mango salsa (recipe follows)
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the jalapenos, garlic, ginger root, brown sugar, soy sauce, lime juice and lime zest, coconut milk, fresh basil, canola oil, salt, and pepper. Add the shrimp and stir to coat them evenly. Marinate the shrimp in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or up to 4 hours).
Meanwhile, prepare the jasmine rice recipe and the mango salsa.
When ready to serve, heat a large nonstick skillet or wok over high heat. Drain the shrimp from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and place them in a single layer in the pan. Stir-fry the shrimp until they are nicely browned, taking care not to over-cook them. This will only take about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner then spoon the shrimp onto a warm serving platter.
Pour the reserved marinade in the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, simmering gently for about 5 minutes so it can be thoroughly heated (for safety reasons) and slightly thickened. Pour this sauce over the cooked shrimp and serve immediately alongside the jasmine rice and mango salsa
Jasmine rice with lime: In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup of jasmine rice with 3/4 cup of unsweetened canned coconut milk, 3/4 cup water, a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and gently simmer without opening the lid for 15 minutes. Check the pot and if all of the liuqid has been absorbed the rice is done. If not, then cover and continue cooking another 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and stir in the zest from half a fresh lime.
Mango salsa: In a small bowl, combine 1 peeled and chopped fresh mango, 3 chopped green onions (white and pale green portions), 5 chopped basil leaves, the juice of 1 fresh lime, and about 1/4teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Makes 4 servings.
Jasmine coconut rice
1cup canned coconut milk (unsweetened canned is fine)
1cup jasmine rice, unrinsed
About 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh gingerroot
1/2cup flaked or shredded unsweetened dried coconut
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
Bring the coconut milk, water, rice, gingerroot and salt to a boil in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot, stirring with a flat-bottomed utensil several times to keep the rice from scorching.
Reduce the heat, cover and cook on low for 20 minutes without lifting the lid. At this point, you can check on the rice to see if it has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat when done (place a paper towel on top of the pot before putting the lid back on so the condensed steam won’t drip back down onto the rice and make it sticky).
Meanwhile, lightly toast the coconut in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat. Sprinkle this over the coconut and toss as you fluff the rice with a fork.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis, Ore., food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by email at email@example.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.