Saturday, July 18, 2015

Somali Restaurant Rice Redux

If you've followed my previous blog, Livin' In Layla Land, you know that in addition to being into fitness, I'm also really into languages and cultures.
I learned Somali from my co-workers and friends when I lived in Minneapolis, and a nice side benefit is that I got to eat a lot of Somali food!

The first time I celebrated Ramadan with my dearest Somali friends, their sister Ismahan taught me how to make Somali rice. Now, there are a number of different recipes, the most traditional uses liquid from cooking goat soup bones to flavor the meat, but some less traditional options use chicken broth or even bullion.

If you go to a Somali restaurant, you'll probably also notice that some of the grains are orange. Traditionally, saffron was used to give the rice this color, but sadly most places today use orange food coloring.

The best recipe for restaurant-style rice is from the Somali Recipes blog, and it even comes with a video. Now, for my own variation, I've played around with the amount of oil and feel that you can definitely reduce it quite a bit without significantly affecting the taste.

The key to good flavor, in my opinion, is to saute onion in the oil before adding the other spices and raisins, and to use enough cilantro and garlic. I prefer an MSG-free bullion so my recipe uses Better Than Bullion instead of Maggi. Here's a funny post about the overuse of Maggi in the Middle East.

Without further ado, here's the recipe:
2 Cups of Rice, washed and drained (don't skip this step)
1 Onion, diced
4 Cups of Water (set on to boil)
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons of Cilantro (crushed, I always keep some pre-crushed in the freezer)
3 Cardamom Pods (crush with a mortar and pestle)
1 Teaspoon of Cumin Powder
1 Teaspoon of Salt
1/4 Cup of Oil
1/4 Cup of Raisins
1 Teaspoon Better Than Bullion
1 Teaspoon of saffron or ¼ tsp. turmeric

1. Set the water on to boil.
2. While waiting for the water to boil, smash the garlic, cilantro and cardamom seeds.
3. In a pan on high, heat the oil and saute the onion.
4. Add the chicken cube, salt, cumin, cilantro, garlic, cardamom seeds and raisins. Cook until the raisins puff up.
5. Add the drained rice and stir well for 2 minutes.
6. Add the boiling water and give it a quick stir making sure all the rice is in the water and none is stuck to the side of the pan.
7. Cook on medium/high until most of the water is gone.
8. Transfer the rice to a crockpot and put it on warm with the lid on (Many people use the oven on 275 instead, but I think the crockpot is easier for serving purposes).
9. Sprinkle the saffron or turmeric on top of the rice, do not stir.

Wait at least 10 minutes to serve so the rice finishes steaming in the crock pot.
This is an excellent dish to bring to a potluck or family gathering!
It’s amazing served with Chicken or Beef Suqaar or even your favorite curry.

Thanks to my other white Somali sister at Somali Recipes for the inspiration!

As a final step, use your Beachbody Portion Containers to measure your rice for best effect!  It should count as 1 yellow and 1 orange.

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