Perfect Bolivian Rice
"What do Bolivians do to make such perfect rice? When I eat rice in Bolivian restaurants it's ALWAYS perfect and delicious but when I cook rice at home it's sticky."Bolivian Main Courses    Bolivian Recipes Home Page
There are several things about Bolivian rice and the way it's cooked that could be causing you to notice a big difference, and it's not the first time we've been asked this. Foreigners often comment that Bolivian rice is very flavorful while in the US and elsewhere, it is very bland. Consider this:
1. Rice in the US and some other countries tends to be highly processed, extremely well cleaned, and even bleached or whitened for aesthetics.
You may notice that Bolivian rice is not quite as white as you are accustomed to. That's because it isn't bleached and is not processed as much. This doesn't mean it's dirty. It means not all of the hull has been removed.
2. While several varieties of rice are grown in Bolivia, by the far the most commonly eaten variety is short-grained rice called "arroz perla" or (pearl rice). In the US, white rice is typically long-grain rice. But it doesn't really matter too much. If you follow the suggestions below, the result will be a loose, fluffy rice.
3. Bolivians typically toast their rice prior to boiling it. This removes much of the moisture contained in the grains of rice, which in turn means that it won't get as sticky when you cook it. When you boil rice, you are adding moisture to it. Additionally, toasting the rice seems to give it a stronger, more nutty flavor.
4. Bolivians usually boil their water before adding the rice to it. This means the rice will begin to cook immediately, rather than sitting in the water while the water heats up. Rice contains starch. Once it comes into contact with water, it begins to release its starch into the water. The longer it sits in water, the more starch it will release, which causes the water to become sticky. In addition, cool water isn't moving. Rice should be added once the water is boiling and bubbling in a lively way.
5. Bolivians cook their rice in 3 parts water, because they must allow the rice to cook for a longer time. Since it isn't as fully bleached and processed as American rice is, it takes longer to cook. It's more like brown rice and wild rice, which also take longer to cook for the same reasons.
This means that however much rice you want to cook, you will add triple the quantity of water. For example, 1 cup of rice with 3 cups of water... 3 cups of rice with 9 cups of water, and so on.
Let's get right to the recipe, which for the sake of responding to your question, will be for 1 cup of uncooked rice. You can double or triple this recipe as needed:
1 cup uncooked short-grain rice
3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon of oil
1 small grated white onion
1 green onion chopped finely
1-2 teaspoons of finely chopped garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon of saffron powder
Salt to taste
* (If you make are following this recipe with long-grain white rice you have purchased in the U.S. please use 2 cups of water to 1 cup of uncooked rice).
Boil your water. While you are waiting for it to boil, continue to the next step:
Grate your white onion. Normally we use the very tiny teeth on the grater. We don't want large strings of onion that look like grated coconut or grated cheese. When using the small teeth of the grater, your onion will basically grate into a wet and mushy mound of onion, and that's what you want.
Chop or smash your garlic cloves.
Chop your green onion. The resulting pieces of green onion should be very small and fine.
Pour 1 teaspoon of oil into a pot. Once the oil is hot, lower your heat to medium and add the rice. Immediately begin to stir the rice until all grains of rice are coated. Stir the rice constantly, being sure to scrape the bottom and edges of your pot. You will eventually notice that your rice will lose its translucent quality and turn a solid white. It is now ready for the water. If you continue to toast the rice until it turns brown or black, you are burning it.
Once your rice is white, add to it the boiling hot water. DO THIS CAREFULLY as hot water mixing with hot rice will bubble and produce a lot of steam that can burn you. Add it to the water SLOWLY and CAREFULLY, facing the pot slightly away from yourself as you do so.
Add an appropriate measure of salt according to your personal taste preferences. You don't have to add any salt if you don't want to. You can always add salt later after the rice is cooked if you prefer to.
Add the saffron.
Stir the rice for about 30 seconds, just to be sure all of the ingredients are mixed in the water.
Turn your stove down to the lowest temperature possible. Cover your pot of rice. Allow it to cook slowly until the rice is soft and fully cooked. This should take about 20-30 minutes, but will depend on the amount of rice you are cooking. Very large amounts of rice may take longer.
DO NOT STIR YOUR RICE WHILE IT COOKS. This will make it sticky. You shouldn't have to worry about it burning if you are cooking it on the lowest temp on your stove (some US stoves have "simmer" or "warm up" settings, others simply say "high" or "low". Use "low or simmer").
You CAN check your rice occasionally, but don't remove the cover from your pot too often as doing so allows all the steam inside to escape. Simply lift the cover off the pot and insert a wooden spoon down the middle of your rice (without stirring the rice) until it touches the bottom of the pot. Push the rice over just a little bit until you can see if there is still any water in the bottom of the pot. Your rice should be fully cooked when there is no water left at the bottom of the pot.
DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR RICE. If you cook your rice too long, the grains of rice will split and open. You will notice that your grains of rice aren't smooth anymore. They'll maybe have a split down the middle and "flare" open or break apart.
Remove your rice from the pot into a large bowl. Fluff with a fork to be sure all of the rice is mixed with the onion and garlic. Serve hot immediately.
Once you've perfected the art of making perfect white rice, you can begin to experiment by adding other ingredients and/or spices, or move on to more advanced rice dishes like fried rice.