Hey guys! I just wanted to quickly say hello and to let you know that we’re having a great time. So far I’ve managed to stay out of trouble and haven’t been arrested for indecent language or deported for eating more than my fair share of Hairy Mitten Crabs. I have so much to tell you about, but maybe a little bite at a time….
Steamed Rice Recipe
I’m writing this post after climbing a portion of the Great Wall of China earlier this afternoon, where I had one of the most humbling moments in my life. But let me back up for just a sec and explain why I’m China in the first place…..
I was born on the island of Hong Kong during its British colonization, however, this is my first journey to mainland China. When China lost the Opium War it was forced to lease out Hong Kong for 99 years to the British. In 1997, the lease was over. But, like a child given up by its parents, I never felt any allegiance to the motherland, which is why I never had any interest to visit China in my earlier years. I was from Hong Kong, not from China and had always made that distinction very clear when people asked where I was from.
I’m older now and a mother of 2 Chinese-American boys born in Florida. I felt a strong need visit China and explore my ancestral roots. I couldn’t bear to hold the grudge any longer, it wouldn’t be fair to my sons. When my Mom suggested that we take a family trip with my parents, brother and my husband, I agreed.
The first step to reconciliation was to start with an easy subject, one in which we could establish good will and common ground – food. Only after a full stomach and happy heart could we ease into more controversial subjects like politics, personal freedoms and bad karaoke.
Prior to leaving for my trip, I dreamt of writing and photographing elaborate, exotic delicacies from each region on our 14-day tour across the country. I fantasized of showcasing the authentic versions of Kung Pao Chicken and Sweet and Sour Pork that resembled nothing like its overly sweet, calorie-laden Americanized version.
But my plan never blossomed beyond my imagination. For several days now, I’ve trekked through Beijing’s major tourist attractions – such as Tienanmen Square, Forbidden City, The Summer Palace and the Ming Dynasty Tombs. While I’ve enjoyed the historical relics immensely, after the second day I forced myself to look past the country’s trademarks and instead study its people. Not the tour guide nor the souvenir hawkers, but the commoners on the fringe, those normally never appearing within a camera’s viewfinder.
It was a steep climb up hundreds of uneven stone steps of the Great Wall, but I had barely scratched the surface of the dragon’s back that went on for another 4,500 miles. This was the work of over 1 million Chinese that took a decade to hand-construct, over 2,000 years ago. I listened to stories of bone chilling winters and extreme hunger that the Chinese laborers endured in order to build this structure.
At a local restaurant minutes near the base of the Great Wall, a 7-ish year old girl with a plum shaped face, simple clothing and crooked pigtails that looked like the tips ancient calligraphy brushes sat with her parents. She probably had no cares of Hanna Montana, High School Musical or Brangelina as she waited eagerly for her supper. Her mama scooped a mountain of snowy steamed rice with the bamboo spatula into the little girl’s bowl. Her baba carefully balanced a spoonful of preserved vegetables with slivers of pork on top of the rice. With a wide-eyed “waaaahhh!” which is Chinese slang for “wow!” she hungrily lifted the bowl just to the tip of her lips and grasped her chopsticks to shovel it all in.
I just knew I could no longer write about Peking Duck with Scallion Pancakes or about the Steamed Mitten Crabs. In order to fully appreciate authentic dishes from China, I first had to pay respect to the foundation of the Chinese and the most humble food of all, rice. And this begins my journey to reconnect with my country.
p.s. I LOVE Chinese math.
The price of 1 Coke = 2 beers
How can you not fall in love with this country????
Perfect Steamed Rice Recipe
- 2 cups (380 g) raw rice (long grain, jasmine or short grain rice)
- 2 1/2 cups (700 ml) cool water
- Place rice grains in pot. Wash the rice and swish with your hands. Drain and repeat 3 more times until the water is no longer milky. This helps remove excess starch and clean the grains.
- Fill the pot with the cool water and the washed rice. Turn the heat to high. When the water near the edge of pot starts bubbling, cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn off heat and keep covered! Just let it sit with lid on for 5 minutes to finish the steaming process. Fluff with fork after done.
Hello Steamy kithen,
Firstly I love the recipes. I am a big fan of chinese food.
I am still wondering if I am cooking my rice correctly, as the recipe foes not call for salt. Is there a reason for leaving the salt out ?
I was brought up to cook rice with salt. But I am only learning to cook steamed chinese rice now.
Hi Paul – we don’t use salt while making plain, white rice in Asian cooking. But you are welcome to add salt to your rice if you wish. Another option is to cook the rice with vegetable or chicken stock.
Pardon, I used this recipe before but it’s been a while so I wanted to check before using it again… and the recipe is nowhere to be seen on the post. I reloaded it – same problem. Is it my computer or is it the post? Either way, I love this method and I want it back! 🙁 Please and thank you!
Aahh! Didn’t realize, thanks so much for the heads up — fixed now!
You may need to add more water, especially if you live at a higher altitude. I live in Arizona (about 30 miles SE of Phoenix) and because the altitude here is higher than in other places in the country due to local geography, I find that I need to have a 1.5 – 1 ratio of water to rice so there is sufficient water for the rice to cook. (1.5 cups water for each cup of raw rice being cooked). Try adding more water, 1/4 cup at a time, until you find a ratio that works.
I followed your directions and my rice turned out severely under done. Should I add more water or let it cook longer? any help is great!
I’m pleased that, for once, attention is being paid to the quality of the rice. Considering that rice is such an integral part of most Chinese meals, it surprises me that we do not focus much on perfecting our rice technique (or do most Chinese cooks take for granted that their rice technique is already perfect, I wonder?) I have been cooking for a very long time, and I still feel that my rice is sometimes lacking. My criteria for perfect rice? If I am happy to eat it plain and simple, with no accompaniment or even a drop of soy sauce! I like to use Basmati, (ideally, soaked overnight and then very gently rinsed), and cook using the absorption method in quite well-salted water, with a towel under the lid. When cooked, I let it rest for 15 minutes, then fluff it up with a fork (a spoon might break the grains). I know that this does not give the ‘sticky’ texture that some people appreciate, however.
In order to succeed this recipe you have to use Diamond Pearl Basmati Rice. This is a Pure Indian Basmati rice. If you want more informations go on the website http://www.sonaimpex.net or send a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Jaden! Can you please post chicken teriyaki recipe!:)
Whats the best rice brand! My rice still turns out sticky and does not go with the orange chicken i made! i washed it but still stuck on other rice help plez Jaden!
Hi Jojo, try using less water next time. I get my rice from the Asian markets (but the brands change all the time). I love getting jasmine rice.
I still cook white rice like my Grandma. She put her finger in the pot resting on the top of the rice and filled the water to the first knuckle. No measuring cups needed. It works every time. I don’t know why, but it does. No matter how much rice I cook, 1 knuckle above. DONE.
It doesn’t hurt to throw two lap chong sausages on top to add great flavor to the rice. Just sayin’.
oh. Excuse me. The company he works for is Geckos not Gecko. (he’ll still do tours)
Thanks for the recipe. Hahah that sounds like a knockoff of a Fallout Boy song: Thnks Fr Th Rcpe. (allusion to Thnks Fr Th Mmrs, and yes, the song’s actually spelled like that)
Aaaanyway… I’ve just come back from China and I agree, Chinese food is nothing like American Un-Chinese food. (making it very clear of the difference). I was there for 2 weeks and I loved it. I’m still trying to wean myself off of rice, and seeing as how this is my first breakfast back in America (or Meguo in Chinese) I would still like rice, because frankly, I’m still addicted haha. I love the sweet and sour pork, the peking duck, everything but the chicken heads and feet. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat something that looked back at me when I looked at it. Or something that I could shake as a greeting. My friend, however, had no qualms in trying it, and he loved it. I must say, everybody, If you ever have the chance to go to China, go ahead. China has gotten such a bad rap in America because we’re capitalist and they’re communist, but if I were to say which population was more friendly, I would have to say Chinese. In America, if you say hi to someone that you’ve never seen in your life, you’d be lucky to get a polite nod. In China, you do the same, and they very clearly say hi back and beam at you (you’d have to say it in Chinese, though. Not many understand English). They’re also not as conservatively styled as people make them out to be. True, you’re not going to see a girl walking down the street topless, or a guy bottomless, but they’re not as conservative as you think. Once again, if you ever have the chance, go. Let me give you the info of my guide, seeing as how he is now my good friend, and I wish to give him some business.
Long (or Dragon, or Dragon-Long)
He currently is no longer working for Gecko full time, but if you ask for Dragon, or just email him, then you can get hooked up with him with no extra trouble and expense. Tell him Payne sent you and said hi.
i’m trying this tonight with steamed tilapia and veggies. i can’t wait!
Dear Jaden, That is quite a well expressed write-up about touching your roots again. That wave of nostalgia is what makes life beautiful. We visited China just this year for the Gourmand World Cookbook awards held at Beijing. Its awe-inspiring – the city, the scenic beauty, the magnificent great wall.
Thanks for coming by my site! I’m so jealous- I’ve (lived in) Japan and been to Singapore and India but I still haven’t made it to China, Hong Kong or Taiwan. I’d love to go! Maybe next year… Loved the write up. I’m addicted to my rice cooker- is that bad? lol.
Wow, China! Although there is something a little ironic that it’s this journey that allowed you to stop, drop & simplify. 😉
This was a lovely piece, and thanks for the tips on how to properly prepare rice. I always learn something utter useful when I visit your blog. I’m glad you’re rediscovering your roots.
Promise that you will write more about your trip to China. Go on….Promise.
You’re so right, Jaden. It all comes down to the basics.
The reason why I know I’m partly Asian at heart (blue eyes and blond hair not withstanding) is the fact that a bowl of freshly steamed white rice can nearly make me cry. There is nothing in the world so pure and perfect.
Glad to hear you’re doing well exploring our roots. The new design is looking good, btw.
What a beautiful life story you shared with us and the way you are showing your kids your roots, they are going to cherish these moments forever.
We are looking forward to read more of your China trip.
Got a question, have you seen a warm milk dish that will curd once mixed with ginger syrup in China?
hey Jaden, sounds like a heart warming and deserving trip for the whole family. Can’t wait for more of your posts and insights.
Sounds like you are having a well deserved, wonderful trip…I can’t wait to hear more stories!! Enjoy!
Sounds like you’re having a ball, Jaden! Can’t wait to see your travel pics. Did I ever tell you that I feel literally ill if I don’t have rice for more than 2 days?HA!HA!
Sounds like an exciting trip. Can’t wait to read more!
What a lovely post…that’s why I’m appreciative of all that I have and what has been given to me. My cup runneth over …. with steamed rice :o)
That was a very touching and poignant post. I totally could envision the little girl delighted with her bowl of rice. Thank you for sharing this post about going back to your roots. However, this is not the first step you have taken. You have already brought so much to your readers by sharing your culture through your past posts… you have started your journey and taken us with you by the hand by showing us what I feel is the most welcoming part of our culture… the food.
I recently took a trip back to my roots in Taiwan. This time bringing my Vietnamese fiance. The best part of showing him around was sharing my culture with him through food. We both had a wonderful time eating to our hearts content… and like you, even though we ventured to many normal touristy places, just studying the individuals that share our same skin color but yet have grown up in an entirely different country was truly a cultural experience we will treasure forever.
My favorite part of our culture is how we show our love of people through food. Relatives are always showing their love for you by taking you to more and more places to eat. I could always tell how much my parents liked a particular boyfriend of mine in the past by how many times the tell him to “eat more ear more!” 🙂
Here’s a link to my post on some foods we ate in Taiwan, if you’re interested. http://www.xanga.com/mimmie29/619711910/item.html
Enjoy your trip!
Fantabulous post. I’m not shocked that you found the people most interesting as opposed to the places and tourist attractions. Any time I travel, it’s the people who live where I’m at who tell the best stories – either in words or just by watching them. I look forward to everything you’ve discovered! =)
Funny- I’m in China this month too!
I just left Macao and am in Hong Kong and ShenZhen for the week, then I’m off to ShangHai until Thanksgiving.
Sounds like you went to Badaling… Great site- better than Mutianyu and Simatai. Those tours to the Great Wall are a killer… The Wall is good, the Ming Tombs are so-so: Emperor Zhu De is interesting if you get the backstory- (Find a copy of “1421- the Year the Chinese Discovered America- interesting reading) but the mandatory visit to the Chinese Medicine Institute, the Cloisonnes factory and Jade factory are outright tourist traps to separate tourists from their money and their valuable time.
I hope you make it to QuanJuDe for Peking Duck- I’ve had it several places, but QuanJuDe is the best-
It’s on Qianmen St., Just south of Tian’anman Square…
I’m going to Spring Deer restaurant in Kowloon for dinner-
My daughter and I went there about 6 years ago…the best duck in Hong Kong.
Hopefully you’ll get to a market during your travels-
I went wandering through a fresh market in Macao a couple days ago… The guys I was with ran from the building since the first sight we saw was a chicken getting wrung and dressed.
I spent a hour inside, looking at the displays of fresh vegetables, the bins, tubs and trays of live fish, shrimp, clams and lobster… then all the dried offerings…mushrooms, meats and sausages, preserved eggs…
It was painful to see all this great stuff and be stuck in a hotel with no access to a kitchen!
See some pics from my travels on my website-
Listen to Uncle Jay…
Enjoy your trip- Safe Travels!
(The Big Guy)
What a beautiful composition, J. That moment in the restaurant — with the girl you so charmingly describe — is why we travel, no? It’s for those blink-of-an-eye moments that jolt us and change our lives, or at the very least our perspective of it, forever.
Yay now I know how to cook rice on the stovetop! 🙂 Enjoy your trip!
The dish looks delicious.
Thoughtful post on your view of China as well — I think it’s only as we get older that we begin to think about where we came from.
i’m dreaming of going to China too…can’t wait to read more of your traveling notes.
Not everyone is as fortunate as you to be able to go back to the land of your roots. Can’t wait to hear about the little boys’ adventures 🙂
With due respect to David above—not knowing Brangelina doesn’t make anyone culturally-deprived, just different.
They don’t know who Brangelina is??
I didn’t realize how culturally-deprived they are over there…
Jaden dear, I spent years in Beijing in the 1990s and if I had known you were going I’d have broken out my notes – many of the places I used to go probably no longer exist but still… It’s a great time of year to be there!
Jaden, have fun and enjoy your trip with your family in China. It could get tiring at the end of the day, so try to get as much sleep and rest as you can.
Take care and we’ll still be here when you get back.
What a wonderful post – and a trip of a lifetime! I went on a similar trip with my parents before I went to university, so I wasn’t quite as appreciative. I’d like to go back again with my husband and kids and hopefully parents again too.
Your recipe brings me right back to when I was a little girl when my mom first taught me how to make rice in a pot. Now I just swish it around in my rice cooker, put a couple of cups of water in (so the level reaches the middle of the tip of my third finger) and push a button. So boring but efficient.
I found you through blogher and I’ll be following your great blog – I need to get more in touch with my roots too, so hopefully I’ll get some great ideas to do more Asian cooking in my own kitchen.
It is so nice to know that your journey back to your “native country” is going well. I love how you described the little girl eating her rice. I could swear I was there with you. Enjoy every second Jaden and don’t forget to bring us a lot of pictures.
Jaden, you are on the right path with the proper perspective. Like Lynn, I look forward to seeing and hearing more about China through your eyes.
Wonderful! I look forward to seeing more of China through your eyes.
i know this sounds really silly, but i’m kind of new to cooking, and i’m wondering what kind of pot you’re using. i don’t own a rice cooker yet, and am wondering if you can use a sauce pan instead. Or is that heretical for jasmine rice? 🙂
I love this post, and it reminds me so much of my trip to Hong Kong and Southern China in 1990, a year after the Tiananmen Square protests. Seems like eons ago, but the memories are priceless and I would dearly love to go back and see more and go to Bejing and the Wall. Thanks for sharing your experiences and for bringing back some wonderful memories for me!
What a novel idea to keep it so simple…plain rice! I won’t ever part with my rice cooker! Have fun, eat lots! And check out some of the local spices. Bought a couple of ounces of “local saffron” there for abt USD1. Works as great as the pricier stuff!
OK I am so thrilled that I have to show my man this, because he always calls me a dirty rice rinser….
I think it is so cool that you are re-connecting with your roots and culture, enjoy your trip! I’m eager to hear more about your adventures!
This was a wonderful read. It’s important to get back to your roots. Someday I’d like to do it myself. Thank you for the recipe on great rice. I would have never thought to rinse it first. I’m glad you’re having a wonderful experience in China.
Jaden – Isn’t it funny how life comes full circle? I had a golden opportunity in 1984 to visit my mother’s homeland of Korea for one month and I’ll never forget the experience. I so desperately wanted to stay but as life would have it, I returned to the US. Now over 20 years later, we are planning a trip back and this time, like you, I will take my family along to visit the roots of our ancestors. Have a great time!!!
I loved reading this post. Thank you for sharing the experience of reconnecting with China — I can’t even imagine how it feels to be there. Looking forward to reading more about this trip.
The calling to trace back one’s home roots. I think every immigrant descendants should go back to their native country for a visit sometimes.
I want to go to Kunming, Yunan where my ancestor’s originally from before they moved to Malaysia. My dad is in the process of planning such a trip for all of us to take a trip there someday. I hope you have a nice visit in China, Jaden. And rice, once the rice is cooked right – all is right hehe 🙂
Hi Jaden – Yes, rice is to be respected…at least in the household I grew up in, you can’t get more basic than that, unless you’re from Northern China. Love that photo of coke, to this day, when a sip of coca-cola(the diet version nowadays) “hits the spot”, the Missus will smile and say “taste the rainbow……..” I guess that used to be the slogan for Coke in China.
Glad to hear from you and that you are open to all new and old things. I feel fortunate to have you share them with us.
It’s funny what visiting our roots can do to you…it takes you places you weren’t expecting emotionally. I think your rice tribute is fitting.
This is a really great post, as always…I will try your method to cook Jasmine rice as I have not been as successful with this rice as I have been with others 😀
To stand on the Great Wall – I am in awe. Someday, maybe….
And thanks for the rice primer!
My mom taught me to rinse the jasmine 3 times in the rice cooker insert itself, then pour enough water so that the water level (over the rice) officially registers to the cuticle of your pinkie finger when you insert it.
Works every time with simple jasmine rice. Brown and wild rice – not so much.
i have always wanted to go to china and haven’t yet had the opportunity. i did “travel” to china on paper recently, though, through reading “the last chinese chef” – a great account of and insight into chinese cuisine, especially banquet cooking and the whole culture around it, like seating arrangements etc. the descriptions of the food made my mouth water!
so did you have coke or the beers ;). Also, how different is the food there form the Americanized chinese food we get here?
That’s how I cook my rice. Comes good every time :).
I wish I could feel what you felt when you ascended the Great Wall. I wish I could feel what you felt when you saw that little girl and her bowl of rice. You’re insights are honest and simple enough that they at least make me WANT to try to experience these things the way you do. I’m cool with that until it’s my turn to go out and discover these things in all their purity myself 🙂 You’re a great mediator though Jaden! Can’t wait to hear more anecdotes! They bring us all closer to things we might otherwise never experience on our own!
mMmMM, beer & rice. What’s next?
Nice write up Jaden! I love my rice cooker and I actually do wash the rice the way your recipe states. I don’t like dirty rice 🙂
I totally regret not finding my roots when I was younger and traveled with my parents to China. I loathed the entire trip and spent the whole time complaining about how dirty everything was. My mom took me to her grandma’s shack where there were no toilets. Just a hole in the ground. It was a nightmare to me back then, but I think now I’m beginning to understand and appreciate what she had to go through. One thing I did appreciate and remember is this grass worm soup my grandma made me. Even though I knew they were worms, it had a delicious and deep flavor to it. I think what made it even better was that it was made with love. Man.. I’m tearing up. Gahhh…
One Coke will satisfy more than two Chinese beers can.
PS the tour guide and the hawkers are regular people too; they just speak slightly better English.
Oh Jaden I so like the humanity and family that shines through in this post. Basic simple things are sometimes the hardest to let ourselves reach peace with. I love the mystery and mystic of bread making, this has the mystery and mystic elements of cooking rice.
Jaden, What a lovely post. You are giving your sons a wonderful gift by teaching them about their roots- one they can pass on to their own children someday.
Two cups of rice to three cups of water is traditional, but in the company of Chinese professors and students in Xiamen, Fujian, who didn’t have measuring cups at hand, this was the method:
After rinsing the rice, place it in the bottom of the rice cooker spread out flat. Then place your left hand flat on top of the rice, and pour in water with your right until it reaches the top of the middle knuckle. Chinese college kids call this knuckle Mt. Fuji–and why Chinese college kids should introduce a Japanese mountain into cooking rice in China is a mystery to me !!! And I never had bad rice cooked this way…………..
Jden what a wonderfull write up, roamntic tale of your trip to find your roots.
I love chinese culture, I have studied at university oriental language, chinese language and literature for 3 years, then I abandon university 15 years ago, now I have forgotten just about all.
Thank you for your writeup
Wonderful post Jaden. It’s great to see you reconnecting with your roots and wanting to pass that on to your kids.
If you want the rice to be fluffier, once the water has evaporated, place a paper towel over the the pot and cover the pot to finish steaming. The paper towel absorbs the condensation and stops the water droplets from dripping back into the pot.
Lovely writeup Jaden. Have a great and safe trip.:)
Lovely story-telling — lucky us, we get to tag along. Let’s hope you stay a long while! : )
I’ve been to Hong Kong for 2 days in my twenties but still have yet to visit China. I hope one day to bring my 2 girls and visit the country of their heritage.
hi, jaden!!! glad to know you’re having a great time.
you are now living my biggest dream – to visit the orient….i find since reading ur blog i am cooking more asian dishes and visit the nearby asian grocery store so much they know my name….
Do you place rice in cool water?
My mom always tells me to go back to China to visit our relatives that are living over there. Can’t wait to see your pictures. I was in Hong Kong in 1996 and had the best Peking Duck ever at Spring Deer restaurant. I’m still planning to make PD at home…but I don’t think the hubby will like seeing a duck hanging and being air-dried by an electric fan.
Maybe one day , my aunt and I can plan a trip to the mainland after a stop-over in HK.
I miss u SO SO MUCH!! …don’t worry I’m NOT a lesbian!! teehehehehehehe!!!! 🙂 Wow…. I sooooo hope that you can give us a recipe of the sweet and sour pork you ate in China … *I drooled profusely when you mentioned that!*
Ah and thanks for the rice recipe … Now i know how to cook a perfect bowl of rice!!! heheheh ….
p.s.: WOW.. i didn’t know that coke was THAT pricey in China ..lol
I had a similar experience living in Japan, realizing that all the Hibachi cookery and other fancy dishes were irrelevant to the daily staples of rice, vegetables, and fish. Glad to finally have a recipe for something so essential!
what a wonderful post jaden. i am all ears to hear ur stories of trip. gr8 tribute to humble food, rice 🙂 do post some pictures when u get time.
hugs to u 🙂
Its sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to see your photos, even if they arent of food but of the local populations. I am interested to see what a market looks like take some pics of that if you happen to pass one. 🙂
i really enjoyed this post. it is insightful and rice is really what the common folk eat.
when you see the abundance of wealth in the minority (as compared to the rest of the Chinese population) and how they eat, indulge and at the end, waste, you feel for the people who are surviving on steamed rice and preserved vegetables.
you can see what hardworking folks eat for lunch or dinner right at their shopfronts, squatting or sitting on stools over a small low table – rice with vegetables mostly. this is the real China!
What a lovely write up, u have a lovely blog about which I have heard so much but visiting the first time, seems like whatever good things I have read in the blogosphere is all true 🙂
Sounds wonderful, I can’t wait to make the rice and your journey sounds fantastic! I hope you are enjoying it, taking pictures and reconnecting with your roots. Btw, I got the julienne peeler and it’s so awesome, it deserves a blog entry all its own and just might get it! 🙂
Great tips about steaming rice! It’s always the seemingly most “simple” tasks in the kitchen that give us the most trouble. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip to China.