Black Rice

A new season of Top Chef started a few weeks ago – World All Stars this time around. A group of winners or near winners from different countries are facing challenges as they attempt gain yet another accolade. I frequently work ushering at the local theater on Thursday evenings, the night it’s on tv, and miss the program. This past Thursday, current show at the theater was cancelled due to “illness.” Thanks to the miracle of reruns, we binged Top Chef’s two first episodes and the new one, too.

The aspiring winners were challenged to create dishes not only using rice, but featuring this ingredient. Who knew so many varieties of rice exist. Black rice sent one chef home. Black rice also was the ingredient manipulated successfully by the happy winner.

Black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice, refers to more than twenty varieties of Oryza sativa. It’s a medium-grain rice that originated in China and elsewhere in Asia 10,000 years ago or so. Black rice is often called forbidden rice because it was reserved for the Chinese emperor to ensure his health and longevity. It’s also been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Raw black rice looks, well, black. When it’s cooked or soaked the grains look purple because of the high level of anthocyanin pigment, the same antioxidant pigment that gives eggplants and blackberries their deep color.

Black rice is in an ingredient in my kitchen (thanks to my neighbor who did not care for it) waiting to be paired with a huge sweet potato waiting for the past few weeks to be used, deliciously. The recipe on the back of the bag the rice came in is really an easy one, even if it tripped up the recent Top Chef contestant!

Black Rice with Sweet Potatoes. Bring two cups of water to a boil, add one cup of black rice and cover. Lower the heat and simmer about 35 minutes. Let the rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Black rice cooked

While the rice is cooking, peel and dice a large sweet potato, dice a bunch of scallions, and peel and mince some ginger. Add everything to a skillet with some heated oil. Stir til all are coated with the oil, then reduce the heat to medium and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sweet potatoes, et al

Cook, covered for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and toss gently to continue.

I served this dish with the Soboro Donburi (Gingery Ground Beef with Peas over Rice) mentioned in last week’s blog (see post 1-17-22 for the recipe). I added some baby bok choy to the dish.

Sonboro Donburi

The two dishes paired deliciously for dinner for a winner, and, no, I’m not trying out for Top Chef anytime in the near or distant future!


  1. Great looking dishes! I have to confess, the black rice also makes me think of moros (the dish of white rice mixed with black beans).


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