Rice is one of the commonest meals eaten anywhere around the world. However, like every other dish, different countries prepare it differently. Each country has made the grain their own, with original recipes and distinct spices.
Let’s take a look at some popular rice dishes eaten around the world.
The risotto is a rice dish made in northern Italy (story has it that it was made by accident). This is a rice-based dish cooked to an almost creamy consistency; the broth can be made with meat, fish or vegetables. Most risottos also contain butter, onion, white wine and, of course, a generous helping of Parmesan.
Jambalaya (Louisiana, US)
An excellent example of the multicultural melting pot that birthed the U.S., jambalaya is a dish of Spanish and French descent prepared with meat, vegetables and rice. More traditional versions can also include sausages and other kinds of meat or seafood. The vegetables used include celery, onion and green bell pepper;
Jollof rice (West Africa)
Jollof rice is a very popular dish in many West African countries, definitely in Nigeria and Ghana. Jollof rice is often consumed during special ceremonies like weddings and birthdays (talk about “party jollof”). Although there are regional variations in name and ingredients, most Jollof dishes are made by cooking the rice in a tomato- and onion-based sauce with spices like nutmeg, ginger and bay leaf, and served with a variety of protein like goat meat, beef, chicken, or turkey. A grand jollof is incomplete with some fried plantain and salad (especially in Nigeria)
Hokkien fried rice (China)
Also called Fujian fried rice, this is a popular dish at many Chinese restaurants. As simple as it is delicious, it consists of a thick sauce poured over a bowl of fried rice with pieces of egg, mushrooms, meat (or prawns) and vegetables. Some people also add winter bamboo shoots and peanut oil to their list of ingredients.
A specialty of Iranian cuisine, tahdig translates to “bottom of the pot” in Persian and refers to crisped crumbs at the bottom of a pot of cooked rice. This may sound unappetizing but a bed of the rice with saffron-flavored yogurt, potatoes and tomatoes (with a piece of bread as an accompaniment) makes for a delicious dish.
Nasi goreng (Indonesia)
This meal consists of stir-fried rice with vegetables and a selection of meats (usually chicken or prawns), garnished with sweet soy sauce, shallot, garlic, tamarind and chili; for an extra-special treat, add a fried egg on top. A staple of the local cuisine, nasi goreng can be enjoyed everywhere – from street-food stalls to high-end restaurants.
The national dish of Jordan (it is also popular in Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia, among other nations), the first examples of mansaf were reportedly a serving of meat (camel or lamb) cooked in clarified butter and served with bread. Rice was introduced to the dish in the early decades of the 20th century. Today, it is served on top of a bed of white rice and sometimes with bulgur (cereal food made from several wheat species).
Xôi ngũ sắc (Vietnam)
Xôi ngũ sắc is a popular rice dish in Vietnam, this multi-colored dish is eaten in the rural parts of the country and contains absolutely no food coloring. Instead, the rice is cooked with a selection of natural ingredients like the magenta plant, pandan leaf, gấc fruit and mung beans.
Champorado is a chocolate rice porridge. Made by boiling sticky rice and cocoa powder (with milk and sugar to make it sweeter), this is a popular snack in the south east Asian country. Sometimes it is served with salty dried fish chips; it can also be made with coffee powder instead of cocoa.
Paellas comes from the Valencia region of Spain. A symbol of that region’s identity, proper paella is believed to be that which is cooked in olive oil and consists of white (round grain) rice, green beans, meat (preferably chicken or rabbit) and snails, with saffron and rosemary for seasoning. Other types of paella can include vegetables and seafood.
Biryani is an iconic Indian dish. It is usually made with lamb or chicken (marinated overnight) cooked with yogurt, herbs, spices and dried fruits in a clay oven and served with steamed rice. A similar rice-based dish is pulao (or pilaf); this is prepared slightly differently, in that it is less moist and lacks the spices.
Literally translated as “mixed rice,” this dish is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with sauteed vegetables and garnished with chili pepper paste and soy sauce. Common additions include egg (fried or raw) and meat (usually beef). Although the items are served separately, you are expected to mix the ingredients together before eating!
Pabellón criollo (Venezuela)
A traditional Venezuelan dish, this popular food item is a variation of the rice and beans combination. It is basically a plate of rice served with a side of stewed black beans and a bowl of shredded beef stew. They may also be served with tajadas (fried plantain slices) and/or a fried egg.
Another example of the Colonial-era led fusion between England and India, kedgeree (called kitchdi in the latter country) started life as a bean- or lentil-based rice dish served with yogurt. When it was transported to the U.K., flaked fish (smoked haddock or salmon), parsley and hard-boiled eggs were added to the list of ingredients. Either way, it is garnished with specially designed and dry-toasted spice mixtures.