Ask Joyce: Red Rice is delicious ...can you give me the recipe?

  • Published
  • By Joyce Martratt
  • 36th Wing
Ah, so you've tried and enjoyed red rice. Like you, I too enjoy red rice. Rice has been an integral food source on Guam's for hundreds of years. But before we get into the intricacies of red rice, let's talk about its more common forms.

It has been said and written that white rice is less nutritional than brown rice. However, brown rice is white rice; the difference is the bran cover of brown rice remains intact with nutrients like magnesium, manganese and zinc. When that bran cover is removed it turns into white rice, which lessens the fiber and vitamin contents of white rice. 

White rice, however, is fortified with an excellent source of niacin and a moderate source of protein, thiamin and iron. I thought about this factor, and since the ancient Chamorros ate rice a lot and were found to be a healthy group of people by the Spanish in the 1500s, perhaps the rice was in its natural form -- brown rice. Rice to the Chamorros is what potatoes are to the Western world.

Introduction of other spices by the Spanish turned rice into an attractive and tasteful accompaniment to fish, meat, poultry and vegetables. This particular spice is called Achote or Achiote from the Annotto tree that was introduced to Guam by the Spanish. This tree is native to the Americas and South Mexico (Yucatan). 

Achote is used as a dye and flavor enhancer to spice different types of food. Several Chamorro yards or lanchos (family farms) have this tree. The fruits blossom into clusters and within each chamber are reddish seeds. Chamorros remove these seeds, spread them on a flat basket or tray and dry them under the sun for a few hours. These seeds are then put in airtight containers to preserve them. Today, you can find Achote in markets throughout Guam in seed, liquid or powder form.

Now on to the form of rice we most enjoy on Guam. Fiesta and party tables on Guam are never without red rice for sure. Most assuredly, the red rice recipe includes Achote. 

Red rice can be a meal in itself by adding vegetables, seafood, poultry, pork or beef to it. You should experiment to your taste and enjoyment, but remember, leftovers can be frozen for a couple of weeks and reheated when desired. I have not tried using brown rice, but I have the gut feeling it will be good with that nutty taste.

Here's how you make red rice:

3 cups of rice (short grain, jasmine rice)
½ onion (finely chopped) (may want to use scallions instead; chopped finely)
4 slices bacon (smoked or regular, slice medium thin)
1 clove garlic (finely chopped) (optional)
1 small can of peas (drained)
Few pieces of celery leaves (optional)
½ cup Achote seeds (pre-soaked in ¼ cup of hot water with ½ teaspoon salt)
Rub the soaked seeds with your hands to extract the colors, add more water; strain into a bowl; fill halfway with warm water, rub, add more water and strain. Continue this process until the color is fully extracted.

On the stove, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium high. Place the bacon slices to brown a little - if desired, you may also add diced shrimp, beef or chicken with the bacon - then add onions or scallions, garlic if desired. Sauté for five minutes. Turn off stove. 

In a rice cooker, put rice (jasmine is really nice) in, add sautéed ingredients to include peas and celery leaves and 3 and ½ cups of Achote water, stir, cover and turn on rice cooker until fully cooked.

Next week, I'll tell you how to make tamales queso - it's one of my favorite Chamorro recipes.

Joyce I. Martratt