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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Microwave brown rice cooks faster

By Carol Devenot

Every night, my Chinese mom would say, "Go cook rice." I got tired of white rice every night and would have really enjoyed basmati rice, which I now have discovered. It has a popcorn taste, and I usually have it at Indian restaurants.

Its Indian name means "queen of fragrance" and it is known in India as the "king of rice." It is found here more often in its white, polished version rather than the natural brown rice version, which is the way it grows in the fields.

Both have great flavor and fragrance, but the brown basmati has more vitamins like other brown rice because the bran fiber kernel is still attached.

Brown basmati rice can be purchased at most large grocery stores, health-food stores or Indian grocery stores. It is so flavorful you can just put your favorite sauce on it and eat it on its own.

It makes a good brown rice to try when you're attempting to transition to whole foods from more refined foods. It's been said that switching to brown rice is the No. 1 thing Islanders could do to improve their nutrition.

One complaint people have about brown rice is the length of time it takes to cook by the conventional method (40 minutes or more). But with the help of simple microwave rice "pots" you can cut the time in half.

You can find these at Wal-Mart, Daiei, Longs Drugs, Shirokiya or Marukai, and at Ross. They vary in price from $10 to as much as $30 but are well worth the investment because you will be more inclined to eat healthier grains when they are cooked in this fast and convenient manner.

You could try a different grain a week or every month. Turn someone else on to the rice by buying them a rice cooker and different grains from the health food store.

The simplest cookers consist of a bowl with a twist-on lid that is perforated so steam can escape. Better-quality cookers have an inner and outer lid and a little tray beneath to catch any spills. If you use the little plastic measuring beaker that comes with your Japanese rice cooker, remember that it measures 3/4 of a cup.

Look over the manufacturer's instructions and note that there are instructions for different wattage microwaves.

Generally, I still follow the rule of one cup white rice to one cup of water or one cup of brown rice to two cups of water. I like to soak the basmati rice the overnight or before I start my day so I don't have to think about when I started.

For additional flavor, add some salt and olive oil. One friend suggested that I put konbu or wakame (a kind of dried seaweed) in the rice, which adds extra calcium and iron to the dish.

Lucky we live in Hawai'i, where your good friends love to share local food information to make the dish more interesting and 'ono.

Microwaved Brown Basmati or Long-Grain Brown Rice

  • 2 1/2 cups (2 beakers) brown basmati or long grain brown rice
  • 3 cups (4 beakers) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1-2 inches konbu or wakame (optional)

Immerse the basmati rice in water to soften, 2 to 8 hours. Place the rice, water, salt, olive oil, and konbu or wakame in the microwave rice cooker. Microwave on HIGH for 22 minutes. Serve.

Serves 8.

• Per serving: 136 calories, 3 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 90 milligrams sodium.

Want a local recipe lightened up? Write Light & Local, Taste Section, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; or taste@honoluluadvertiser.com. Carol Devenot is a Kaimuki-raised kama'aina, teacher and recipe consultant, and author of "Island Light Cuisine" (Blue Sea Publishing, paper, 2003). Learn more at www.islandlightcuisine.com.