Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 20 Feb 2019 12am







    Tuesday, February 19, 2019-2:03:27P.M.






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Boom! Red rice

IT may seem strange to share a recipe for red rice in a Marianas newspaper.

“You are in the land of the Chamorros,” one Chamorro chided me when I brought up the concept at a barbecue this weekend. “Everyone already knows how to make red rice.” 

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And she’s right. Zenn Tomokane, Executive Sous Chef at the Hyatt, told Variety that red rice is “so Chamorro even the KFC serves it.”

“When you go to parties it’s the first thing that you see — it’s like ‘Boom!’ Red rice.”

Yes, red rice is everywhere on our islands. But each family makes traditional dishes in their own way, so why not compare notes? Here’s Tomokane’s take on a local classic:

Step 1: Soak Your Achiote Seeds

Also called annatto, achiote seeds give red rice its color and flavor. Tomokane recommends soaking one part seeds in five parts water for at least four hours or even overnight. When you’re ready to start cooking, rub the seeds together to infuse the water with the achiote’s pigment and smoky taste. But be sure to treat the seeds gently; you want the water to be seasoned by their outer coating, not the bitter layer underneath. Strain out the seeds once the water has become a cloudy, deep red.

Step 2: Chop and Sauté

Traditionally, red rice is made with sautéed onion and bacon bits. But this time around, Tomokane chose to “pork it up” a little, adding Chamorro sausage and raw link sausage (removed from its casing) to the mix. Chop one slice of bacon, one half an onion, and a Chamorro sausage and add them to a large rice pot with the inside of a link sausage and a tablespoon of oil. Sauté on medium heat, breaking up the chunks of skinless sausage so that they’re evenly dispersed. When the onions are translucent, reduce to low heat and add a dash of black pepper.

Step 3: Rice Time

Tomokane thinks in proportions, not particular measurements—he says the water-to-rice ratio should be about one to one. In this case, he estimated that he used about three cups of rice, rinsed three times to remove “starchiness.” Mix the dry rice with the sautéed ingredients, then add an equal amount of achiote-soaked water. Stir so no rice gets stuck to the bottom.

Step 4: Get Cooking

Increase to medium heat, cover, and allow to simmer until the rice expands enough to reach the surface of the water. Bring down to low heat and stir again. Cover for fifteen minutes, making sure the lid has a good seal.

Step 5: Accoutrements

At this point, the rice should be ready for your standard barbecue. But there’s still room for a little added flare. For example, Tomokane looks for new ways to make the traditional dish a little healthier.

“The salt is light; it’s going to come from the bacon and the Chamorro sausage,” he explained. “I didn’t add salt because I want Chamorro food to be less salty.”

“And vegetables!” he exclaimed as he chopped green onion and cucumber for additional garnish. “Always add vegetables anywhere you can. And use local products.”

He blanched a handful of green peas for color and texture—“Again, you can fry them but the healthier option is to blanch them,”—and sliced a red pepper into long, dangling strips so that it looked a little like a red pepper paint brush and could be dragged across the rice, leaving a trace of heat behind.

The result was a fresher, more colorful red rice than what you’d find at your average Chamorro fiesta. Different— and delicious.

How do you make your red rice?