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No offense to all the potato and pasta lovers out there but if I have to choose, I’ll ask for rice dish any day. I love rice like Oprah loves bread! I know I’m not the only one. All around the world people love to share the rice recipes they serve at home. The dishes are so popular, locals will ask for it even when they’re out dining in a restaurant. It doesn’t matter that they can get the same dish at home.
You could say that rice is the king of crops. Here’s why. According to historical records and documents, rice cultivation began in China and spread across Asia. As empires expanded and foreigners came to know one another via exploratory travels, the crop made its way to Africa and parts of Europe. The Europeans brought rice to America. Nowadays rice is everywhere. It is a staple food and many populations survive because the people are given a bowl of rice a day. “Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop.” (Quote Source)
My family tree is Bahamian. I grew up eating pigeon peas and rice and always thought it was a uniquely Bahamian dish. But then my Puerto Rican friend told me they eat it a lot where she comes from too! The way they make it in Puerto Rico is slightly different but it’s still delicious. It is my all-time favorite rice recipe because it has ties to my heart.
Rice and peas or peas and rice is a traditional food in Africa. Everybody knows that Africans were brought to the Caribbean, The Bahamas, and the United States, by way of the slave trade. It makes sense that the people simply adapted and modified recipes they remembered from home, to suit their new environment. In The Bahamas, pigeon pea is a crop that is harvested regularly. Peas n’ rice started out as a one-pot meal, a sort of survival food for the islanders and those who farmed the land. Starch, meat, and veggies were all in one pot. The meat included in the recipe was usually salt pork or bacon. (You can change the recipe and do vegetarian or vegan-style. It’s OK!)
Over time, the locals and travelers or visitors to the island country grew to love peas n’ rice and as of today, it has become a common side dish. It almost always makes an appearance at everyday meals served at home and it is expected to be served as one of the sides at any restaurant, much like how American expect their french fries.
Even though I am familiar with Bahamian pigeon peas n’ rice because that’s my roots, there are other rice dishes I like eating just as much. Chinese fried rice. Paella. Biryani. Persian rice. ALL YUM!
No doubt each of these rice dishes have their own similar food history. Similar, that is to say, very likely started out as food for the commoners but tasted so good everybody wanted to eat some ~ the commoners and the aristocrats or rich folks.
Below are links to a collection of rice recipes that are sure to please, with a few historical tidbits mixed in to enhance the joy of eating.
Asian Rice Recipes
Chinese Fried Rice ~ You can do vegetarian-style or add small pieces of meat. The recipe actually came about as a way of using up leftover rice. The earliest historical records dates its origination to the Sui dynasty (589–618 CE).
Chicken Biryani ~ There are vegetarian versions, but I like the chicken. There are very strong opinions that biryani should be the National Dish of India, even though “biryani” is derived from the Persian word “birian” which means “fried before cooking.” Many give credit to the Mughals for creating the biryani dish, but some say there were similar dishes being eaten in India long before the establishment of the Mughal Empire. So let’s just say they took a common recipe and made it their own once they took over!
European and Middle-Eastern Rice Recipes
Seafood Paella ~ Paella originated in Valencia, Eastern Spain. It is a fusion of 2 cultures: Arab Moors and the natives of Spain. As to its history? One story goes that this rice dish was created by cooks using leftovers to give to the king’s guests to take home from the banquets.
Persian Rice ~ Also called Persian Wedding Rice or Iranian Jeweled Rice. It’s made with fruits and nuts. Iran which was once known as Persia, and was at one time an “ancient super power”; meaning the rulers conquered a lot of peoples who had different cultures. Iranian cuisine or Persian food has been influenced by many cultures. Hard to tell what originated from what resulted from the fusion or the blend. “Iran’s food has a rich and illustrious backstory that tells the tale of conquerors, explorers, and merchants all leaving their mark on Persian cuisine.” (Quote Source)