Rice is a staple for 3.5 billion people all around the world. You will be surprised that rice is not only a staple for Asian but also other parts of the world.
Let's take a tour around the world and see how dishes around the world looks like. We may not cover all the dishes because they are SO MANY!
1. Malaysia: Nasi Kerabu
Nasi Kerabu is a Malaysian Kelantan dish. It is very identifiable with its blue rice. The butterfly-pea flower is used as a natural colouring in the rice. It is often eaten with fried fish or chicken, prawn crackers, pickles, fish floss with grated and sauteed coconut and ulam or raw vegetable salad. It is full of vitamin goodness with a sinful side (fried protein!). Definitely, a must-try if you visit Kelantan.
2. Indonesia: Nasi Goreng
Nasi goreng or fried rice is one of Indonesia's national dish. This is definitely not your Uncle Roger's version of egg fried rice. Indonesian nasi goreng is made with lots of spices like garlic, shallots, sambal and also the sweet soy sauce called kecap manis. There are a lot of variations of nasi goreng in Indonesia which includes a variety of proteins, vegetables and eggs if you like spices, definitely a dish for you.
3. Thailand: Mango Sticky Rice
Thailand's famous mango sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง) is made from glutinous rice, with coconut milk and fresh mango. Although it originates from Thailand, it has since consumed in the Indochina region. Mango sticky rice is usually eaten in the peak mango season, which is between April and May in Thailand. Nowadays, a variation of durian sticky rice is also available.
4. Vietnam: Cơm tấm (Cooked Broken Rice)
The dish used to be a poor man dish. Its origin of the dish is from the Mekong Delta. The farmers used this unsellable broken rice for cooking. Eventually, this dish is introduced to Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City). Cơm tấm is now served with a variety of sides like shredded pork, eggs and pickled vegetables.
5. Philippines: Suman
This Filipino dessert has many variations depending on which part of the country you are at. These rice cakes are usually cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with sugar and salt and are typically wrapped in banana or palm leaves. Some suman served with sweeteners like chocolate syrup, jam, fruits such as the mango, or plain sugar, some mix it with toasted coconut flakes.
6. Taiwan: Braised Pork Rice
Taiwanese gourmet writer Guozhi Shu described the braised pork rice (滷肉饭) as one of Taiwan's national dish. This dish is as simple as it eats. It simply is just sauce (stewed soy sauce), pork, and served with a bowl of piping hot rice. Each element plays its part to balance the flavour of this dish. This is comfort food in Taiwan where you can find it in almost every corner. It is definitely a must-try when in Taiwan.
7. China: Lotus Wrapped Rice
Lotus wrapped rice or known as lo-mai-gai 糯米雞 is a classic and favourite dim sum dish. Lo-mai-gai contains glutinous rice with chicken, Chinese mushroom and Chinese sausage wrapped in a dried lotus leaf and steam. Many variations such as zongzi 肉粽, lo-mai-gai in a triangular shape. The best thing about this dish, you can cook in bulk, and it freezes very well.
8. Korea: Bibimbap
Bibimbap (비빔밥) translates to mixed rice with meat and vegetables. Traditionally it was made with raw beef and raw egg yolk. Today, it is a visually pleasing dish with a mixture of colourful quick stir-fry vegetables, mushrooms, eggs and protein mix, served with Korean red chilli paste, gochujang. Although it looks too pretty to mess up, make sure you mix well to get that umami flavour.
9. Japan: Sushi
Sushi (寿司) is one of the most famous Japanese dish in Japan and all around the world. In Japan, it is normally enjoyed during the special occasion. Traditionally, sushi referred to pickled fish preserved in vinegar, but today, sushi is referred to vinegared rice with various topping.
10. India: Briyani
This iconic Indian dish has found their place in a lot of hearts all around the world. Briyani is normally cooked with basmati rice with aromatic herbs and spices like saffron, cumin, turmeric, paprika and many more. It is usually served with marinated protein like chicken or lamb, yoghurt and served with a drizzle of Indian curry. Comfort food on a rainy day!
11. Middle East: Pilaf
Pilaf is a staple of many middle east countries like Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and many more. Each country has a special way of making the dish uniquely theirs. For example, Azerbaijan has more than 40 variations of pilaf! Basmati rice or other long-grain rice is used for pilaf. It can be cooked in seasoned broth with fried onion and aromatics like cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon. There's the variation for both meat lovers and vegetarian. If you want to try all the pilaf variations, it will take a long time.
12. Iran: Tahdig
Tahdig is Persian's soul food. Tahdig is the pan-fried layer of crust at the bottom of the rice pot and, it literally translates as "the bottom of the pot" in Persian. Tahdig looks like a perfectly caramelized disk if done well, and it can be detached from the pot and served whole, or broken into golden shards. If you are crispy bits at the bottom of the pan, you will definitely love this.
13. Mexico: Rice Burrito
Do you know that the word 'burrito' means 'little donkey' in Spanish? The name burrito possibly from the variations that a burrito can content, similar to how a donkey would be able to carry a lot. Typically a burrito is wheat flour wrap either some form of meat or fish, potato, rice, beans, asadero cheese and chile rajas. Rice burritos are made popular when Mexicans migrate to America and bringing this flavourful dish with them.
14. Jordan: Mansaf
Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan. It consists of rice and lamb (or camel) cooked in jameed, a fermented, dried yoghurt. This dish is served with flatbread top with rice, lamb, jameed, almonds and pine nuts. Mansaf is served on special occasions like weddings, births and graduations, or major holidays.
15. West Africa: Jollof
Jollof rice is a unifying dish across West Africa. It is popular in Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and many others. This smoky one-pot dish includes tomatoes, onions and peppers with the options of proteins like lamb, chicken, beef and even fish. Traditionally this dish is cooked over an open fire, hence the smoky flavour. This is served with fried plantains or vegetables.
16. Italy: Risotto
If you don't have the patience, you can't cook risotto. The rice dish is slowly cooked in broth and wine, with constant stirring until the liquid is absorbed. The short-grain rice is cooked till tender but firm. Risotto is both creamy and decadent with lots of butter and parmesan cheese. Today, risotto is served with lobsters, truffles, caviar for the those can afford.
17. Spain: Paella
This Valencia dish is cooked in a paella pan over an open fire. Traditionally, this is lunch for farmers and is eaten straight from the pans. The proteins and vegetable are used based on the availability of ingredient, but the essential ingredients are onions and garlic. Today, there are many variations from meat to seafood and even snails!
18. America: Jambalaya
Jambalaya is a dish of Spanish and French descent of Louisiana. This one-pot dish is soul food in New Orleans. Traditionally Jambalaya includes sausages and other kinds of meat or seafood, celery, onion and green bell pepper. There are two variations of jambalaya, creole and cajun. Creole version uses tomatoes while the latter doesn't.
Now we explored some of the best rice dishes around the world. Do let us know if there are any other rice dishes we need to try.
As Julia Child once said, “People who love to eat are always the best people.”