Five tips for spicing up your menu with rice

Why rice is nice: Five tips for spicing up your menu with rice
By Joanna Weinfeld, Heart and Stroke Foundation registered dietitian
April 2, 2014
Tips for adding rice to your restaurant's menu

There is more to rice than meets the eye. There are many different types, colours and textures of rice that can make any meal exciting. From the delicate taste of jasmine rice, to the earthy taste and texture of wild rice, this grain should be seen as more than a side dish. It is what keeps sushi safely tucked into place, what gives risotto a creamy texture or what makes rice pudding a rice pudding.

While prominent in Asian cuisines, it might be fair to say that it has taken a bit of a back seat to potatoes in many other English-inspired cuisines. Yet, North America itself is a home to the fragrant and satisfyingly rich wild rice, which while technically not rice at all, is used in many dishes in lieu of traditional rice. Wild rice is a semi-aquatic grass that has originated in the upper Great Lakes and has eventually found its way onto plates across Canada and the U.S.

It is perhaps the culinary global variety offered by today’s Canadian restaurant scene that has Canadian consumers asking for more rice. Red rice was listed as on of the up and coming trends in Restaurants Canada’s 2013 Canadian Chef Survey.

Bhutanese red rice is native to the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas and offers a nutty flavour and pink colour to your dish. It is also a whole grain and a good way to get fibre into your dish.

So, whether it’s colour, taste, texture or nutrition, rice is a good way to experiment.

Below are some tips for spicing up your menus with rice:

  1. Mix and match the colours. Instead of relying on one colour or type of rice, get creative and make this side more exciting.
  2. Use rice in desserts. Rice is a grain and as such can provide a good base for a number of desserts. Why not experiment with different flavours of rice pudding?
  3. Add to salads. Use wild rice in your salads to jazz up the flavour, texture and the nutrition. Entrée size salads can benefit from the added fibre, which will help your guests stay satiated for longer.
  4. Change up the white. To add colour and fibre to your dishes, use brown, red or wild rice instead of white.
  5. Play with your food. If you offer curries, give your customers a variety of choices for their rice. How about half a serving of white and half a serving of red? This will give your dishes a unique presentation.

Rice is a wonderful canvas that allows for a lot of artistry and inspiration. It can absorb flavours, but also offers its own unique properties. It’s a great and easy grain to experiment with where a little goes a long way. For more inspiration and recipes, visit www.healthcheck.org.

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