This staple has been feeding Asian nations for millennia, and its popularity has since spread to the rest of the world. With a multitude of varieties, it’s a surprisingly versatile grain that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, from Spanish paella to Vietnamese sticky rice creams.
By
Carla Grossetti

5 Jul 2013 - 12:40 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Recipes

India
While biryani is now savoured in all parts of India, this version is a blending of Mughal and Andhra Pradesh cuisines, and dates back to the royal kitchens of the Mughals, who ruled much of India for more than two centuries.

Hyderabadi-style chicken biryani

 

Vietnam
Sticky rice is eaten everywhere in Vietnam and the black-hued variety is best-known boiled, sweetened and served as a pudding. When cooked, the rice has a viscous texture and turns a deep purplish colour, which adds a lovely bit of vibrancy to dishes.

Black sticky rice creams

 

Spain
There are as many versions of the original Valencian paella as there are cooks, and the defining element of modern-day interpretations is the pan. If you don’t have a paella pan, use a wide heavy-based frying pan.

Paella

 

Malaysia
In Malay, nasi means rice, while ulam relates to the mix of herbs in the recipe. While versions of this dish exist throughout Malaysia, it is especially common in the state of Kelantan, where the rice is tossed with local wild herbs such as jungle pepper leaves, Indian pennywort, cashew leaves and betel nut leaves.

Nasi ulam

 

China
The tradition of eating zongzi (sticky rice parcels) during the Dragon Boat Festival is still very much alive. The festival is held to honour Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet who threw himself into a river 2000 years ago, when he heard the kingdom of Chu had been conquered.

Glutinous rice parcels with pork

 

Poland
While this combination of shredded celeriac, prosciutto and fresh herbs is a more refined take on the traditional version of Polish rice cakes – typically paired with grated or mashed potato – the resulting rendition is every bit as satisfying.

Rice cakes with pickled beetroot

 

Photography by Chris Chen.