I’d been eyeing a certain brown jasmine rice at the Chinese market for some time, and finally two weeks ago, I bought a bag. The financial investment in the five-pound bag is not a problem but the possibility that it’s not great is. I don’t like to discard food, especially rice, so if the 3 Ladies bag of brown rice turned out to be so-so and tedious to cook, I was stuck with it.
The evening I made the purchase, the market was about to close so I felt somewhat hurried. At the cash register, a Vietnamese customer looked at the rice and said to me, “Sister, that rice takes forever to cook. I soak it first for hours and cook it in a regular pot, not a rice cooker. You have to monitor it and keep adding water. I have some soaking now that I need to cook.”
That was not good news but I was willing to try. I’ve tried cooking brown jasmine rice in the past and experienced just what the Vietnamese lady said. And it wasn’t even good tasting. But this rice seemed different. The instructions on the back said it cooked up in 20 to 25 minutes. Sadly, by the time the Debby-downer Vietnamese customer and I finished our conversation, my skepticism had set in, but I’d already paid for the rice. I owned it.
My husband Rory encouraged me to be optimistic. We’ve been eating the medium-grain Japanese partially milled ‘beige’ rice for years but in our hearts, we missed long-grain jasmine rice. With a nice chew and dryish nature, it takes well to our everyday Asian foods like curries, soups and stir-fries. But like many other people, we’re incorporating more whole grains into our diets. White rice is a luxury. When would there be a tasty, relatively fast cooking brown jasmine rice? Maybe this was it.
To test drive the 3 Ladies brand of brown jasmine rice, I cooked four batches. I washed the rice each time because it’s part of my rice ritual and if there’s any dust (like with dried beans), it’s gone from the grains. Brown rice with its hull intact does not cloud up the water so the washing entailed just one (1) rinsing.
Trial 1: Because I was scared by what the Viet lady at the market said to me, I soaked the rice. Problem is, I didn’t have time to cook it as I normally would in a pot. So I pressure cooked it. The rice had soaked for 3 hours. I guesstimated 1.75 times the amount of rice to water since the rice had plumpep up during soaking; that is for 1 cup of rice, I used 1 3/4 cups (420 ml) water.
My Fagor duo pressure cooker has a low-pressure setting for delicate foods so I used that for 10 minutes. I let the pressure dissipate naturally and then peaked inside.
The brown jasmine rice was cooked but a little mushy. Totally edible and actually rather tasty. This jasmine rice had a lovely fragrance and flavor that was tropical, almost pandan like. It may have been because I’d just opened the bag but it was phenomenal. Rory said it had promise.
We ate the rice for dinner, and took leftover rice with us to Los Angeles, where I fed it to our friends John and Mike via a fried rice. They liked the rice. What’s remarkable is that despite being mushy in the pressure cooking, the rice firmed up as it cooled and sat. Mushy white rice would not be so resilient. This brown rice was able to gather itself. The bag instructions said you could cook the rice with 1 1/2 to 2 cups (360–480ml) of water per 1 cup (7 oz / 210 g) of rice.
Trial 2: Soaking seemed so fussy. What if I just cooked the rice in the pressure cooker? For this second trial, I used 1 (7 oz / 210 g) cup rice to 2 cups (480 ml) water. Again, the 10 minutes at low pressure followed by the natural cooling. The rice was soft but not totally terrible. After fluffing with chopsticks, I let the rice cool and dry out with the lid ajar. It's hard to tell below but the grains were too wet and soft for our taste.
After we ate a fair amount at dinner, Rory said, “Throw the rice away and start over tomorrow.”
No way, let’s see what happens overnight, I responded. Sure enough, the rice firmed up with refrigeration and resting. Rory pronounced our fried rice lunch the next day as being delicious.
Trial 3: Pressure cooker don’t let you watch the cooking process since you can’t casually lift the lid to look inside. I tried cooking the brown jasmine rice in a pot. I also tried the instructions on the rice bag itself. For the third test run, I used a cup of rice to 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water. Brown rice doesn’t absorb water quickly the way beige or white rice does so the initial boil to form anything resembling dimples or craters on the surface took a long time.
Impatient after a few minutes and figuring the rice needed the extra water, I put the lid on and reduced to heat to low. Then I cooked it for 25 minutes and let it rest 10 minutes before fluffing. The rice was good but it was a little soft; the grains were slightly uneven in cooking because I didn’t keep stirring them as I usually do. The grains were also a tad gummy.
Trial 4: Less water was maybe the solution so I tried a cup of the jasmine brown rice to 1 1/3 (330 ml) water. After the rice came to a boil, I lowered the heat to medium and stirred with chopsticks. I then covered the pot and let it vigorously simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, periodically uncovering and stirring to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking of the grains.
When the liquid had thickened, a slightly glossy film of water was atop the rice, and a few shallow dimples formed on the surface (see the above photo), I lowered the heat and covered the pot. After 20 minutes, I turned off the heat and let the rice finish cooking. I fluffed and rested again. The grains were separate, each one plump and toothsome. Nothing was mushy or soft. It was for our taste, perfect.
“This is the best,” Rory said as he ate rice from the pot with chopsticks. “I love this rice. It’s what we’ve been looking for.” He sounded nearly trite but was speaking the truth.
I thought it was remarkable too— brown jasmine rice that’s deliciously cooked in just a bit longer than a pot of white or beige rice. Shazam. I was sold.
Now that I’ve gone through half the bag, we look forward to buying a larger amount of this brown jasmine rice. It’s a keeper.
Where to buy this jasmine brown rice? Chinese and Vietnamese markets are likely your best sources for 3 Ladies brand of jasmine brown rice. You can order the rice online but shipping is rather high. I have not tried other brands so if you know of some that are comparable, please share your tip!
And, what about arsenic in rice? This level-headed article from UC Berkeley provides the low-down and pointers on how you can make an informed decision.