Steamed Rice

Steaming rice the Chinese way is simple, direct and efficient. I prefer to use long-grain white rice, which is drier and fuffier when cooked and gives the most authentic results in wok cooking. There are many varieties hut I particularly like basmati or Thai fragrant rice which are widely available. Don’t use pre-cooked or ‘easy-cook’ rice for Chinese cookery as both these types of rice have insufficient flavour and lack the texture and starchy taste fundamental to Chinese rice.

The secret of preparing rice that is not sticky is to cook it first in an uncovered pan at a high heat until most of the water has evaporated. Then the heat should be turned down to very low, the pan covered and the rice cooked slowly in the remaining steam. As a child I was always instructed never to peek into the rice pan during this stage or else precious steam would escape and the rice would not be cooked properly, thus bringing bad luck.

Here is a good trick to remember: if you make sure that you cover the top of the rice with about 2.5 cm (1 in) of water, it should always cook properly without sticking. Many packet recipes for rice specify too much water and the result is a gluey mess. Never uncover the pan once the simmering process has begun; time the process and wait. Follow my method and you will have perfect steamed rice, the easy Chinese way.

Most Chinese eat quite large quantities of rice (about 150 g/5 oz per head, which is more than many Westerners are able to manage). This recipe and that for Fried Rice allows about 375 g (13 oz) dried weight, of rice for four people. If you want more than that, just increase the quantity of rice, but remember to add enough water so that the level of water is about 2.5 cm (1 in) above the top of the rice.

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  • Enough long-grain white rice to fill a measuring jug to the 400-ml (14-fl oz) level
  • 600 ml (1 pint) water


Put the rice into a large bowl and wash it in several changes of water until the water becomes clear. Drain the rice and put it into a heavy pan with the water and bring it to the boil. Continue boiling until most of the surface liquid has evaporated. This should take about IS minutes. The surface of the rice should then have small indentations like pitted craters. At this point, cover the pot with a very tight-fitting lid, turn the heat down to as low as possible and let the rice cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. There is no need to ‘fluff’ the rice. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.