A good idea finds its way around the world, and so does good food. Popular in every culture, rice appears in recipes found all over the globe. Originally cultivated in China, rice has traveled from region to region, gaining popularity everywhere.
Whether you find yourself eating the Mongolian dish, Budaatai Huurga, or supping on Machboos ala Dajaj in Bahrain, you eat rice. Travelers In Europe may love to order the Spanish arroz en paella, which faintly resembles the spicy Creole gumbo found in the Southern United States. Full of seafood and vegetables, both are served on a bed of rice.
For over 4000 years, people have moved rice around the globe, and now it’s a primary source of food in every hemisphere.
In Southern Asia, rice is not only a staple of most recipes, but it figures prominently in holiday celebrations. In China, the New Year’s Festival traditionally means eating nian gao, a sweet glutinous rice cake made to ensure luck through the coming year. India celebrates its New Year, Ugadi, with a creamy, mustard flavored rice curd called Ava Pettina Daddojanam, and in Sri Lanka, milk rice (Kiri Bath) is prepared after the first lighting of the hearth for the New Year.
Southern Europe & Northern Africa
Rice made its way to the European Continent as explorers returned from their forays in Asia. It soon became the staple in such common dishes as Italian risotto, Greek pilaf, and, of course, the famous Spanish paella. Further south, North Africans use brown rice with lentils and top it with fresh vegetables. Rice made it to the west when Portuguese settlers brought it to the New World.
South and Central America
If you visit the country of Brazil, order a bowl of the traditional Galinhada, a stew made of rice and chicken. This particular stew is found all over the South American continent in various forms and with various seasonings. Further north in Central America, rice dishes make up an important part of most Mexican meals, usually served as a second course called sopa seca.
Immigrants from all over the world carried their recipes with them to America, and there, they have been melded and transformed into entirely new creations. In the southern United States, enjoy a spicy jambalaya, and in the Midwest, a popular side dish is broccoli, rice, and cheese casserole. Canadians like to indulge in a sweet and creamy rice pudding.
The next time you wonder what to fix for dinner, consider using rice in a whole new way. Dream of faraway lands as you prepare ethnic dishes from around the world. Just as rice made its journey from country to country, so can you by eating food dishes prepared with rice.