grain 101. washing. soaking. boiling.


Let’s Start With Rice... and Washing

Washing Rice

I listened to an interview on NPR with Roy Choi, the LA ‘Food Truck King’ (who wrote an awesome and fun cookbook/memoir, L.A. Son) and I thought, wow, that’s it. He’s told it perfectly:

“In the back of your book, in a section called Essentials, you have a description of how to wash rice. This is the advice you’re giving that means a lot to you.

Yes. I’ll read it and then I’ll talk on it. ‘The most important step in cooking rice is how you wash it. Our Western mentality gets us in the habit of washing fruits and vegetables because they are dirty. Washing rice comes from a totally different place. Wash your rice to cleanse, not to clean. Run cold water through the rice and massage the grains, transferring all your energy to the rice as the rice transfers its own energy to you. Try to feel every single grain as you swirl the water. Drain the water and do it again. Get deeper with it. Turn off your phone. F the world for a minute. Drain the water and do it again and again and again. Minimum three times or up to at least five times or even more if you’re feeling kinky about it. Fill the vessel back up with water till it rises an inch above the surface of the rice and cook. I hope that you explore the beauties and spirituality of rice. Really, it’s therapy for every day of your life.’

So it’s not just cleaning it.

It’s not. The cooking technicality behind it, people say, ‘Oh you’re washing off the starch.’ That’s definitely true so it’s not so sticky but it’s more than that. Talk to any Asian person from Southeast Asia all the way up through Northern China. That rice is how you live. It’s everything you are. And it’s also a little bit of that mystical philosophy: watching the water clear up as well. When you first put water in rice it’s cloudy. But then as you wash it the water becomes clear. It’s like cleansing your soul and watching your soul cleanse in front of you just for that moment. That small little moment every day. ” [1]



Each day while I swirl the grains in my bowl, I think like this...

Clearing the water; clearing the way.

Cleansing the rice; cleansing the soul.

That’s it. That's what's inside every pot, every bowl... of rice, of grain... that I cook, serve, and share with friends and family.



And this is how I do it... 

I don’t measure much exactly when I cook any more. I pour my rice into a bowl or into my pot. For any pot, my measure is about 1/4 or less of its volume. You could go a little more but too much will overfill and undercook your grain. (Test your pots and your skills. Look for the How To Cook experiments later on in the Cooking series.)


To wash, cover the rice in your bowl or pot with spring or filtered water. Gently ‘scour’ (another way to say wash but in a specific motion) rice by stirring it in a circular rhythmic way with your hand 3 or so times around and then press down into the rice, squeezing it inside your palm or ‘kneading’ it with your knuckles or pressing it along the side of your bowl. Pour the water off either very carefully holding back the rice with your hand, or pour through a strainer, to catch any rice that may fall out. This water, full of rice starch and slightly oily, is a secret treasure. Save it for a face wash (it will be soothing, smoothing, brightening, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory!) or for blanching vegetables later in your meal preparation. I learned face wash from the Koreans and vegetable blanching from the Japanese. This water can be stored in a glass jar in your fridge but use it by day 5 for sure. The starch will settle to the bottom so mix again before using.

Add more washing water to the rice and strain off again. Scouring removes the small amount of bran remaining on the rice kernels. The bran is usually a bit stale by the time you are preparing your rice for eating. Clearing the bran away with washing makes your rice taste so much better. Repeat your washing moves until the water is pretty clear which usually 3 rinses. It will never be completely clear so do not make washing rice a marathon.

Now you are ready to cook — or to soak.