Black rice is a rare food item that, according to Chinese legend, only emperors and their chosen favorites were allowed to eat. The taste and nutrition value of this food item made it regal enough for only royalty.
While black rice today still does not lend itself to frequent dinner parties, it is by no means limited to one group of people. In fact, new studies that reveal the antioxidant properties of black rice may push it directly into the spotlight.
What is Black Rice?
By definition, black rice is an “heirloom variety of rice cultivated in Asia.” It is commonly sold with the husks still in-tact. One popular way to serve black rice is with exotic desserts, particularly because of its dramatic color. When paired with fresh fruit like mangoes, black rice achieves culinary stardom. It is often sold in stores under such labels as “Forbidden Rice” or “Indonesian Black Rice.”
Historians speculate the name forbidden rice originated in the royal court of China. Other Asian nations also enjoy the grain, and each calls it by a distinct name. Today, black rice is largely served with sweet dishes. While it can be included as part of an entre, this is much more rare. Black rice is noted for several distinguishing qualities:
It is less glutinous than other grains but is occasionally treated to make it stickier
The strong and nutty flavor of black rice is sweet and rich, especially compared to traditional white rice
The dense color of black rice is owed to its high iron content, and it is also a viable source of fiber, vitamins and minerals
In addition the above-mentioned nutrients, researchers have also released a new study that determined the antioxidants contained in black rice are greater than those of blueberries.
Presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the study revealed that one spoonful of black rice bran contains more anthocyanins (antioxidants) than the same serving of blueberries. Health professionals prefer black rice, however, because it also contains more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants without the sugar.
In previous health studies, anthocyanin antioxidants have demonstrated favorable cardiovascular profiles. What this means is a decreased risk for heart disease. Anthocyanin is also linked with reduced chances of developing cancer, improved memory and a host of other health benefits.
Researchers with Louisiana State University found that lipid soluble antioxidants in black rice contain greater amounts of water soluble anthocyanin antioxidants. According to Joe Vinson, Ph.D., this means different areas of the body can therefore be reached. That is more beneficial than the antioxidants found in brown rice or blueberries, but each of those foods holds its own nutritional merit as well.
Black rice is not commercially grown in the United States, but many supermarkets and health food stores offer it. The health benefits of black rice lie in the bran, so consumers need to choose whole-grain varieties when shopping. Health professionals recommend looking for the words “whole black rice” at the top of the ingredients list.
How to Prepare and Serve Black Rice for Dinner
Black rice is actually classified as brown rice because it is unhulled. For cooking purposes, this means the technique differs slightly from white rice. First, black rice requires more water to help tenderize it. Soaking the grain for about an hour before cooking it will help with this. Also, a quarter cup more water than is recommended should be used for cooking black rice. When using a rice cooker, take care that it does not become overloaded and boil over.
A sweet recipe, Black Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds, is provided below for an easy way to try this healthful grain.
1 cup black rice
1-1/2 cups freshly grated coconut
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Dark brown sugar
Wash the rice well, place in a bowl and soak for at least three hours in cold water.
When ready to cook, drain the rice and save all water.
Place rice in a heat-proof bowl and add cup of the soaking water and teaspoon of salt.
Please the bowl on a trivet in a large pan with lid and steam over boiling water for 45 minutes to one hour, until rice is tender and water is absorbed.
Add more boiling water if necessary.
When cooked, toss with coconut, sesame seeds, teaspoon of salt and brown sugar. BOLA TANGKAS