Plain white rice was always that reliable staple in my house that you could pair with anything because of its relative blandness—it soaked up strong, spicy flavors well, and was always on standby to be consumed along with the main dish of the night, its inoffensive quality in terms of taste being a good thing. Despite having grown up eating chiefly white rice with just about everything, however, I'm not the type of person who has cravings for a bowl of hot, steaming rice. Married with other dishes—sure, it's great, but on the whole, I find it a bit boring.
And this is where Chinese black rice comes in, which I've been enamored with since I first tasted it at a Thai restaurant a few years ago. Most people recognize it as "forbidden black rice," and it's more of a deep, dark reddish-purple shade when cooked. (The reason why it's "forbidden" is that it was generally reserved for the emperors of China, and not for the common folk.) It's got a subtly sweet quality and a delicately chewy texture, making it popular for both main dishes and desserts. Instead of relying on your regular supply of chicken noodle soup, stave off those winter chills instead with this recipe for Thai chicken soup with Chinese black rice, which gives a little punch with the addition of Thai curry paste. Sass suggests adding in a handful of baby spinach or frozen peas, as well as a few tablespoons of chopped fresh mint. You can also substitute brown basmati, brown jasmine, or sticky Thai black rice instead.
- 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 can (15 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 to 3 teaspoons Thai red or yellow curry paste
- 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, including liquid
- 1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skinned chicken thighs or split breasts
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced (keep white and green parts separate)
- 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
- 1 1/2 cups cooked basic Chinese black rice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or basil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- Thai fish sauce or soy sauce (optional)
- Lime wedges, to serve at the table
1. In a 4-quart pot, blend the chicken broth, coconut milk, and curry paste to taste. Set the pot over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, chicken, scallion whites, and bell pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked, 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon size.
2. Remove the chicken. When it is cool enough to handle, shred or chop the meat and discard the bones. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the rice. Add the cilantro, scallion greens, lime juice to taste, and fish sauce, if needed to perk up the flavors.
3. Before ladling out each portion, stir well to bring the rice up from the bottom. Serve with lime wedges.