Rice, it’s what’s for dinner



By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi (Honolulu: Watermark Publishing, 2011, $15.95, paperback)

A blend of history book, storybook and cookbook, “The Hawai’i Book of Rice” introduces readers to rice through a collection of personal anecdotes and original recipes gathered from chefs, individuals, and organizations. The influence of so many different cultures for all the recipes and stories is vast. Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, Greek — this is only a partial list — Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi has gathered recipes from all over the world to bring readers an eclectic yet comprehensive look at rice.

The personal stories and cultural mythology stories will both enlighten and entertain, and add a community-like feel to a grain whose footstep practically spans the entire world.

The book is spiral-bound for easy reference while cooking, and is organized into four sections — a brief history of rice, rice mythology, personal anecdotes from people who love rice, and the recipes. Beautiful color photographs accompany each section. Recipes are organized into six sections: Appetizers and Snacks, Salads, Fried Rice, Entrees, Side Dishes and Sweets.

The sheer diversity of recipes is impressive. They vary in style from the most basic and comforting rice porridge to the more decadent and complicated risottos. But even basic fried rice can become more than just a late-night snack. Try the Pineapple Fried Rice, an unexpected dish with fresh pineapple and savory curry flavors combined with ginger and crunchy macadamia nuts. Or for a special meal, try the recipe for Keahole Lobster Risotto. Despite its simplicity, readers will be enticed with the savory flavors captured in the rice.

While the idea of cold rice might sound unappealing to some, the chapter on rice salads shouldn’t be skipped. Try the Emerald Confetti, a salad with green onions, green peas and peanuts. The vegetables’ crunchy texture complements the rice, which absorbs the dressing. If you have only known the joys of a hot, steaming bowl of rice, you will be pleasantly surprised at how refreshing a cold one can be.

Finish off your meal with a rice-based dessert. Beginners can start with conventional, yet delicious, recipes such as rice pudding or mango with sticky rice, and then advance to more unusual recipes such as the Coconut Risotto, or Pineapple Rice Cake with Mango Frosting. While unconventional-sounding, rice is so versatile that it can be baked into cornbread and even pie filling!

With more than 100 different recipes, all including rice, you will be amazed at the endless range of what can be done with a seemingly simple grain.

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