Zaw is simply puffed rice; but it is unfair to just call it puffed rice, as it has to be one of the most famous and loved dishes in Bhutan.
People have their own way of eating zaw. The most common way is to top up butter tea with a generous scoop or two of zaw — like a cappuccino, except the foam is zaw — so that while you sip your tea, you can also enjoy the still crispy zaw. After you finish your tea, the soft and soggy rice with a tender tea flavour remains at the bottom of your cup to be relished. Try topping your coffee or hot chocolate with it!
In India, puffed rice is mixed with spices and chaat masala and sold as snacks.
Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water. Leave to soak for 8 hours, or overnight.
Next day, pour the rice into a large strainer. When all the water has drained, turn the rice out onto a clean tea towel. Spread out the grains in a thin, even layer and leave to air dry for 30–40 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Heat a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add just enough rice bran oil to cover the base and reduce the heat.
Add half the rice. Stir constantly for 9–10 minutes, then begin tasting the rice. Once it has a little crunch, continue stirring and tasting for another 10 minutes, or until the grains have begun to change colour and are crunchy almost all the way through. Be sure to turn the heat down if the rice begins to smoke or darken too quickly. When ready, pour the rice onto a large plate and set aside.
Cook the remaining rice in the same manner.
When all the rice is done but still quite warm, stir in the butter. There should be just enough to coat the grains. Sweeten with the sugar and season to taste with the salt.
The zaw is best enjoyed fresh, but can also be used the next day.
If you’re going to store it, let the rice cool completely, and wait until the grains have absorbed the butter and no longer look oily, then transfer to an airtight container.
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