Having food poisoning one time caused me to revert to my white-starch-eating childhood ways. I had regular old Uncle Ben’s instant rice for the first time in…..I don’t even remember the last time. And lemme tell you….
Plain old instant rice…. *shakes her head*
I swear, I made this stuff today and the ONLY good thing about it was that it was fast. Because it had been so long since I’ve had anything but brown or wild rice, I had no basis for comparison back when I used to eat it. But just a few bites in and I was convinced – instant white rice is completely worthless.
(My recipe for super easy, super awesome wild rice below!)
So I wondered, what is different in the processing that allows it to cook so fast and yet taste so terrible? Was this just another case of “Americanized” food created to be fast and easy without regard to quality? Well, in a word, yes.
What is the Real Difference
The difference between instant rice and regular rice is that regular rice only undergoes the “milling” processes that all rice goes through in order to be edible. This just takes it from the seed on the original plant down to the edible insides. The amount of milling decides how much nutrition will be left over, as you probably know.
So for example, brown rice is milled one less step than white rice, which preserves some of its nutritional value.
But instant rice, on the other hand, has been processed like this: milled from a seed on the plant down to white rice, then fully cooked and then dehydrated.
This process removes virtually all nutrition that the rice could have contained along with most of the flavor and almost all of the texture. What you’re left with is a mushy, shell of a rice grain that has practically no redeeming qualities.
Milled, instant rice is even more expensive than natural rice – in effect, you’re getting charged for them to cook it for you beforehand, and in the process remove any positive qualities that it once contained. Except that sometimes they “enrich” the rice with nutrients like they do to white bread. Basically saying, “Okay, we’ve removed all the texture and taste but then we’ve spray-painted it with nutrients so it’s perfect to eat now.”
Maybe you can hear the sarcasm in my words, but I just couldn’t believe what it tasted like after not having had it for so many years. I mean, it was literally worthless. I threw out the leftovers along with what remained uncooked in the box. The only thing that makes me feel better about its invention is that it was first used for the military where this sort of quick preparation makes practical sense.
Please, my dear Reader, do yourself a huge favor and invest a few extra minutes to plan ahead and prepare nutritious real rice for yourself and your family the next time you cook. It is every bit as easy as instant rice and 50 times better.
And on top of that, it lasts at least a week in the fridge, and is super easy to re-heat. Sides for days!!
Here is my favorite wild rice recipe:
- Wild Rice, according to package directions
- Water, according to package directions
- 1 tablespoon chicken broth base
- In a large sauce pan with a lid, add water and bring to a boil. Add rice and 1 tablespoon chicken broth base, and stir to dissolve. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering just until rice has soaked up all the liquid, or about 45 minutes. Fluff with a fork when finished.