Monday, December 14, 2009


Come on, you know Korea has some good rice. Tell me you know this and we can get along.
Quick review! So we have "밥" as a rice but primarily as a meal (which could entail any type of food). There's also the rice itself, "쌀".

Moving on, let's get a country bumpkin's perspective on rice, shall we?

Growing up in central Texas meant that rice took on a bit of a different form that what is the norm in Korea. We're talking Tex-Mex rice - Spanish rice - the yellow-redish with tomato goodness that isn't quite Mexican but certainly not Texan. I also enjoyed (and still do) Dirty rice - a Cajun staple from our border-neighbor Louisiana (or as some Texans say "that one state to the right"). Now there was also two other kinds of rice in our cupboard - and it is here that I am most embarrassed.

For the longest time, I called white rice "white people rice" because boil-in-the-bag rice that is white in color isn't the same as Asian-style rice; also, I noticed my "white" family eating it. How awful! I couldn't help but propagate a misnomer, but I know I put it together when I noticed that my family ate different white rice from my friends who ate Korean rice. For example, our boil-in-bag rice was prepackaged, not sticky, and usually had a dollop of butter on the top of it with a sprinkle of black pepper. Sorry guys, I couldn't make this up even if I wanted to. Also, the other boil-in-the-bag rice, brown rice, was usually the bed for a diced chicken dish, but essentially they served the same purpose in the kitchen. So, basically I called Korean rice "sticky rice" pretty much just because it was sticky.

Now that I have moved on from kitchen-based ethnocentrism, I can say with confidence that I don't discriminate. However, I do eat Korean-style rice almost exclusively now (too many bad memories with that racist rice from before, you know). However, I am not content with the vanilla-variety rice that stares at me with its plainness. Oh no. I'm all about the 전라도 rice. It comes in many different varieties, styles, and names but I have been calling it 오곡밥 (five grain rice) for good measure. I've seen it called 오곡미, 칠곡미, and something else that slips my mind but they're all forms of a mixed grain with rice. Essentially, if you're ever in 전주 and you notice the rice has a purple/red color to it with a bunch of crazy beans invading the bowl - you've found solid goodness. I love this rice. It's the only rice that when served, I usually ask for seconds. The mixture was likely introduced way back when when rice was more expensive than other grains.

However, to make due with the food that was available, grains were introduced to the mix and were eaten together as a kind of "poor-man's rice". That would make 오곡밥 or any other mixed grain rice a sort of food for those who couldn't afford normal white rice from a long time ago, wouldn't it? Nuts to that! The mixed rice has a fuller flavor, more nutrients, more purpleness (you need purple in your diet, right?). I've also seen it with more of a red tint to it - either way, I get pretty passionate about that rice. We're BFF.

Korean Rice 밥 오곡밥
The only real difference in cooking is that you have to soak the portion that is to be cooked overnight in a bowl of water (to soften the grains prior to cooking) but other than that, it cooks the same in a rice pot. I also try not to over-rinse the rice mix as much. Normally, a good four-five rinse is all that I need with normal rice but usually, I only do three or four good rinses - so as not to lose the rocket-sauceness of it.

Without getting into a "my rice is better than yours" contest, I would like to extend this apology to other sources of good rice - you'll never get the gold but that doesn't mean that you can't be silver :) Man, those are fightin words...Anyways, what types of rice do you all like? Am i alone in eating the red-headed stepchild of Korean rice? Any ex-pats taken to 오곡밥?