Beate Baldry forages for exciting Asian ingredients readily available in Hong Kong, to discover their traditional uses, health benefits and ways to incorporate these local flavours into Western home cooking.
This month’s ingredient: Black Rice
(Aliases: forbidden rice, purple rice)
What is it?
Black rice is a type of short grain rice which is black in colour when harvested and turns a deep purple when cooked. There are a few varieties of black rice – some are glutinous. The name “forbidden rice” is understood to have come from the days of the Ching and Ming dynasties in China when, due to its rarity, it was eaten only by the emperor and royalty.
Similar to brown rice, black rice has a nutty taste and chewy texture because the bran layer is left on, unlike its polished counterpart, white rice.
Where do you find it?
In the rice section of larger supermarkets or at organic speciality stores.
- A popular Indonesian dessert is b ubur i njin, sticky black rice with thick coconut cream.
- In Thailand, sticky black rice is served with mango. Khao l am is made with glutinous black (or white) rice, coconut milk, sugar and grated coconut and is roasted in bamboo tubes.
- In China it is used to make rice cakes, rice bread and noodles.
- Black rice is definitely a healthy option as it contains more fibre and protein per serving than white rice as well as all nine essential amino acids. It is also a good source of vitamin B1, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphate.
- The purple colour is due to the pigment anthocyanin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (as do the similarly pigmented blueberries).
- With a low glycaemic index of 55 (white rice can be up to 89), black rice maintains more stable blood sugar levels and is a good choice for diabetics or anyone on a low carb diet.
Try it in town
If you have a sweet tooth, then it’s a good chance you’ll love the Thai Black Glutinous Rice with Mango available at all Honeymoon Dessert stores, from Sai Kung to Lantau. Most Thai and Cantonese restaurants around town also serve some variation of sweet pudding featuring black rice.
Recipe: Black Rice Bread Rolls
Adapted from Chef Chris Salans’ recipe
Makes 15 40g rolls
- 80g black rice
- 240g white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon cocoa
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 6 tablespoons chia seeds
- Soak rice in a bowl of cold water for two hours.
- Drain rice, put in a saucepan, cover with one litre of cold water and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring continuously. Once the water has been absorbed, add enough water to cover the rice by 1cm. Keep stirring and adding water as you would a risotto, until rice is al dente. Then stop adding water and continue cooking until rice is a porridgey-to-dry consistency but still has a bit of bite (overcooking will result in mush; undercooking will make the bread too hard). Leave to cool. This step can be done a day ahead.
- Preheat oven to 200° C. Mix the rice, flour, cocoa and salt in a mixer with a dough-hook attachment then slowly add yeast. Adjust consistency by adding more flour or water so it’s not too wet or too dry; the dough should not stick to sides of the bowl. Add 5 tablespoons of the chia seeds and mix for a further 6 to 7 minutes until dough becomes elastic.
- Place dough on a floured surface and flatten with hands until it’s 4cm high. Cut off small rounds (40g each) to form into balls. Place on a baking tray, allowing space between them for expansion. Sprinkle the remaining seeds over the tops of the rolls and leave them to prove until they have doubled in size.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm with good, semi-salted butter.
- Soaking the rice for a few hours in a lot of water allows any grit to rise to the surface. This also reduces cooking time.