Rice Soups Deluxe!

Congee, rice porridge, milk rice or milk rice soup. Last weekend, I participated in a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and yoga workshop and learned much about the healthy properties of rice and since then, I've cooked some type of rice dish every single day. Today, I would like to introduce to you a Thai breakfast soup called chokh and an Ayurvedic lemon and rice soup.

The range is wide: light to dark to black, long and short, wild, basmati, wholegrain, pearl, parboiled or polished. Exactly, it's all rice!

Rice is the most important staple diet for half of humankind: in Asia, around 120kg of rice are eaten per person per year. Interesting fact: 95% of the rice consumed in the world is eaten in the same country it is grown and only 5% are traded on the world market.

Botanically, rice is a seed of the grass species and belongs in the category of cereal grains. The most popular types are long-grain and short-grain rice. Rice originated in China, where it was cultivated for the first time 7000 years ago.

Rice isn't really a water plant. But years of agriculture combined with floods forced the plant to adapt. An advantage of being grown in water is the absence of vermin. Rice can only be cultivated in countries with a humid and warm climate, where 80% of the yield is water-grown. Per year, between one and three harvests are possible. In dry regions or mountainous areas with high humidity, rice can also be grown dry. But the most well-known images of rice cultivation are those of rice terraces in Bali. This type of cultivation is also practiced in Japan and China.

A healthy grain

Rice has the highest starch content of all the grains. Grains in general are rich in carbohydrates. Starch presents a nutritional advantage - it is released into the bloodstream very slowly and therefore only effects a slow, gradual rise in blood sugar. This makes you feel full for longer.

Rice contains a lot of fiber, which induces a longer chewing process. Fiber is essential for our bodies: it absorbs water and expands, reducing the time harmful substances are in contact with our intestine's mucus membrane and increases the muscular peristalsis.

Rice contains minerals - iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus as well as potassium, which has a dehydrating effect. The protein and fat content of rice is extremely low, but the proteins are made of essential amino acids, making rice a top energy provider for us.

Rice also has tons of vitamins: B1, B2, B6 and vitamin E. B vitamins fortify the nerves and are a good stress reducer. The niacin contained in rice strengthens your immune system and wards off allergies.

Rice is also gluten-free and therefore perfect for coeliacs and people with gluten intolerance. Many gluten-free products are made from rice meal or rice flakes.

How do you cook rice?

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Generally, you should be using two cups of water to each cup of rice. Add the rice, briefly bring to the boil and then reduce the heat. Cover with a lid and simmer over a low heat until the water has been completely absorbed. The cooking time of rice varies depending on the type. Parboiled rice (like basmati) usually requires a cooking time of around 15-20 minutes. Wholegrain rice takes much longer, sometimes up to 35 to 40 minutes, wild rice even up to 45 minutes.

Cooked rice keeps in the fridge, covered, for up to 4 days. And if you're interested in one of those amazing TCM and yoga weekends I mentioned, check out Nina Mandl  's site.

Photos (c) Julia Stix for Maxima Gourmet Extra, December 2016 issue.

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Chokh – Thai Breakfast Soup
5 Portions

Ingredients:

Ingredients for the chokh

Ingredients for the chicken soup: 

  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • 1-2 TBSP fish sauce
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms
  • 400g chicken breasts (or other bits of the chicken)
  • 20g fresh ginger
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 6 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 Bok Choy

Ingredients for the rice soup:

  • 200g Jasmine rice
  • 1 bunch coriander
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 chilli
  • 2 spring onions
  • 15g ginger, to taste

 

Ayurvedic Lemon and Rice Soup

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 6 strands saffron, steeped in a little warm water
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 leek
  • 5g fresh ginger
  • 1-2 TBSP ghee
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 star anise seeds
  • 50g Jasmine rice
  • 2 TBSP desiccated coconut
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • some star anise seeds for garnish
  • untreated lemons for garnish

Preparation:

Preparation for chokh:

  1. Wash and finaly chop the bok choy. Finely chop the lime leaves. Crush the lemongrass with the back of a knife and finely slice. Finely chop the ginger. Wash the chicken breasts, pat them dry and cut into strips. Put the chicken stock in a pot, add the mushrooms, fish sauce, soy sauce, lemongrass, ginger and chicken strips, bring to the boil and simmer for around 30 minutes over a medium heat. Add the bok choy after about 20 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, bring some salted water to the boil in another pot and add the rice. Generally, the rule is two cups water to one cup rice. Briefly bring to the boil, cover with a lid and let simmer over a low heat until the water has been absorbed completely (around 15 minutes).
  3. Wash and finely chop the celery and coriander. Peel and finely chop the ginger and finely slice the chilli. Cut the whites of the spring onions into long, thin strips.
  4. Pour the chicken soup through a sieve into a pot.
  5. Evenly distribute the finished rice into soup bowls. Add ginger, celery and coriander to each of them and then pour over the chicken soup. Garnish with spring onions, coriander and chilli and serve.

Preparation for the Ayurvedic lemon and rice soup: 

  1. Peel and finely chop the carrots. Halve the leek lengthwise and then finely slice both halves. Peel and finely chop the ginger. Heat the ghee (or margerine) in a medium pot over a medium heat. Add the cloves, bay leaf and star anise and fry until fragrant.
  2. Add the Jasmine rice, desiccated coconut, carrots, leek and saffron and boil briefly. Then add ginger and turmeric and pour over the vegetable stock. Let the soup simmer for around 20-30 minutes over a low heat and then season with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls, garnished with sliced lemon and star anise.