September 07, 2005

Polo, chelo, and Iranian rice cookers

Brigitte read the Iranian rice cooker entry and responded by email:

After reading your blog, it seems that you'll be my first guest in my renovated apt. for "polo" or "chelo" (various types of Iranian rice dishes). In the meantime, here's a little more info about Iranian recipes:
Here are some rice cookers: These are huge (10 cups), but there are smaller (and cheaper) ones. Excellent birthday present!

Posted by BKG at 11:01 PM | Comments (1)

Iranian rice cooker

Last year the big event and first entry on this blog was my high tech Japanese rice cooker. Rima turned me on to khichdi, so it was rice and lentils in the cooker (and sometimes in the cast iron pot) all through the winter, especially when there was no heat and the loft was freezing cold. This year I am working with Brigitte and she uses an Iranian rice cooker that she swears by. The presentation of the crusty rice, which she turns out in a perfect golden dome from the pan, is spectacular and delicious. I am totally ready to take the plunge.

I remember Persian rice from my year in Santa Monica and the Iranian restaurants there. I even made it from scratch--the long, fussy, hard way--with butter, fresh fenugreek, and other greens, washing the rice, parboiling and rinsing it, layering the ingredients, sealing it all with a wet towel and lid, and cooking it for hours over a very low flame. Then, one Thanksgiving Richard's Iranian colleage from Columbia University brought the rice in its pan and turned it out to dazzing effect. When I asked where he got the pan, he explained it was part of his Iranian rice cooker. What was that, I asked. He said that when Japan tried to address balance of trade issues--Iranians were not buying Japanese goods--they came up with the idea of adapting the Japanese rice cooker so it would cook Iranian rice, which means among other things, rice with a nice crispy bottom. At the time I checked out these cookers online but never pursued the matter. Now I will! As well as cooking all kinds of other Iranian dishes.

Posted by BKG at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2004

Fuzzy logic

Just ordered rice cookers for Pinki and Shawna. Lisa will get hers when she says the word. Best price ($150.00), plus $9.00 shipping (no tax) is from Comfort House. Same as mine. Also ordered for them and me The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook (used paperbacks are cheap). Eager to see what they do.

Posted by BKG at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2004



My most recent big discovery is gaba rice. Gaba stands for Gamma Aminobutyric Acid, which is released when brown rice is germinated. Here's the story:
"GBR [germinated brown rice] is rice, which has been soaked in 32 degree centrigrade water for up to a day, and will have a germ approximately 1mm long. During the process of germination, saccharification softens the endosperm, and dormant enzymes are activated, which increase the amount of digestible vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc." The Pioneer of Germinated Brown Rice, Domer Inc.

"During the process of being germinated, nutrients in the brown rice change drastically. Various types of analyses on germinated brown rice have been conducted in Japan. Those major nutrients that increase in content in the GBR are γ-amirobutyric acid (GABA), dietary fiber, inositols, ferulic acid, phytic acid, tocotrienols, magnesium, potassium, zinc, γ-oryzanol, and prolylendopeptidase inhibitor (Kayahara and Tukahara, 2000). Kayahara and Tsukahara indicate that volume of nutrients contained in GBR relative to milled rice are 10 times for GABA, nearly 4 times for dietary fiber, vitamin E, niacine and lysine, and about 3 times for vitamin B1 and B6, and Magnesium (Fig. 1). Accordingly, they conclude that continuous intake of GBR is good for accelerating metabolism of brain, preventing headache, relieving constipation, preventing cancer of colon, regulating blood sugar level, preventing heart disease, lowering blood pressure as well as preventing Alzheimer’s disease." FAO Rice Conference 2004
Turns out that soaking grains, beans, pulses, and seeds increases their nutritional value, especially if they are allowed to germinate. The many cookbooks that recommend soaking strictly as a way of speeding up the cooking time--and, by pouring off the soaking water, making beans less gassy--miss the big point, namely, how soaking and specifically germination/sprouting improves the nutritional value. And, that includes, a better glycemic index.
So, now, with all grains and beans, I'm soaking and germinating and that includes hot breakfast cereals.

Posted by BKG at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

Korean festive rice

royalcusine_09.jpg In my quest to understand my intelligent rice cooker and use it to the full, I dropped by one of my favorite vegan buffets, Temple in the Village (74 W. 3rd Street at La Guardia/Thompson, 212-475-5670), to check out their seven-grain rice, which they make in a rice cooker. Turns out this is a Korean festive rice, part of Korean royal cuisine, and it is wonderful. Five Grain Sura: "Boiled rice with five grains is made by mixing non-glutinous rice, glutinous rice, glutinous millet, beans, and red [aduki] beans. It is eaten on the 15th of January together with stale [dried and rehydrated wild] greens."
Basically, it is a mixture, in various proportions of some combination of the following: brown rice, brown glutinous rice, millet, aduki beans, black soy beans, white soy beans, barley, and sea salt. I use organic whole grains: unhulled barley, unhulled millet. Soak everything separately. Best of all, try to get the grains to start germinating. Then, into the rice cooker. The luxury version of this mix includes jujubes (Chinese red dates--watch out for the little hard pits or use pitted ones to be safe), soaked dried chestnuts, and/or pine nuts.
Try the variations and use brown rice or brown glutinous rice or a combination instead of white rice: O Kok (5-grain rice); Pat Baap (traditional red [aduki] beans and rice); Bam Baap (chestnut rice).

Posted by BKG at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2004

Monsoon food

2982-small.jpg Anurima says kichidi, also spelled khichdi, kichari, khichudi, kanji, and many other ways (and also known as pongal), is monsoon food--a soft, warm, soothing way to start a cold wet day. A hearty nourishing one-dish meal for large gatherings, it is also festival and temple food. Rice and dal are cooked together with spices until thick and served with chopped raw onion and fresh coriander, a wedge of lemon, ghee, and lime pickle. Mix it all together on your plate with your fingers. Accompany with potatoes or eggplant rubbed with turmeric and fried in mustard oil.
Anurima says our place smells like her grandmother's house in Calcutta. This winter, we bundled up in shawls and sat with hot water bottles on our laps to fend off the damp chill in our Bowery loft during a particularly severe Manhattan winter. It was in its way New York's monsoon season and a call for kicheri. My first effort, a combination of brown rice and red lentils in my favorite cast-iron pot, was too loose. Anurima made a second batch, using red lentils and Basmati rice, which was perfect.

Then, the rice cooker arrived. The first thing I made in the rice cooker was kichidi, this time with brown rice and split peeled mung dal. The technique? Place all the ingredients in the cooker about 5 hours before you want the cooking to start, set the machine for brown rice and the timer to complete the cooking at the desired hour. Six hours later "neuro fuzzy," as the machine is affectionately known in our kitchen, sang its innocent robotic tune and turned itself to warm. We ate from what seemed like a bottomless mass of primal substance for days. With the press of the reheat button, the kicheri's soothing warmth returned. Chopped fresh dill, mint, and coriander, chopped onion, and a good squeeze of lemon gave the by now familiar mass a piquant freshness.

Khichadi can be simple or elaborate. You can include some or all the spices at the outset or temper some of the spices and add them just before serving. You can fry the spices in the bottom of the rice cooker and then add the other ingredients, as long as you reset the rice cooker to start all over again. If the recipe calls for spinach or peas or other green vegetables that cook quickly, I would fold them into the hot rice near the very end, so that they do not overcook, particularly with brown rice. You can make khichdi in a pressure cooker, but you cannot time it and keep it warm that way or add things at intervals, though the pressure cooker is fast, "traditional," and cooks the kicheri to a nice texture.

An exceptionally large and interesting collection of recipes can be found at Follow the pongal thread.

Posted by BKG at 02:08 PM | Comments (1)

Magnificent obsession

nszac10.jpg I've never understood the rice cooker, which is standard equipment where rice is eaten daily, until last week. New fuzzy logic cookers capable of cooking a wide variety of rices--white, brown, sticky, mixed--and completing the cooking at a pre-set time tempted me to give the rice cooker a try. So, what's the fuzzy logic? You tell the cooker what kind of rice and when you want it ready. Then, you place the rice and required amount of water into the cooker and, based on the weight and temperature of what is in the pot, it figures out what to do in relation to the settings for type of rice and time to be ready. Pretty clever.

I'm not big on appliances. No microwave. No toaster oven. No dishwasher. Our orange juicer, Krups expresso maker, Waring blender, behemoth Champion juicer, and industrial strength Kitchen Aid mixmaster, all good ideas at the time, are rarely if ever used, although our toaster, coffee grinder, electric kettle, food processor, immersion blender, electric grill, and pressure cooker get a pretty good workout.

As I write this, I imagine Harvey Molotch in the room and his book Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come to Be As They Are. Harvey and I co-taught a course, Objects, Desire, and Consumption, at New York University last year, a singular pleasure. Since then, I have been even more acutely aware of the objects in my life, the rice cooker among them.

The Zojirushi NS-ZAC18 10 Cups Rice Cooker is one sleek baby, an armless, legless creature, a kitchen pet, almost animate, certainly intelligent, "neuro fuzzy," as in logic, not fur. A retractable electric cord, carrying handle that folds down, non-stick liner that comes out, and amphibian face, this cooker sings when the rice is ready. Anthony is in the kitchen and just piped up, "It needs to have wheels and a leash. It looks like it wants to be mobile." Matt says that it's an anime character. All this creature is missing is its ears.

What to cook? That's next.

Posted by BKG at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)