Challenging Our Assumptions… about Rice (and Pot Roast)

I love rice. Specifically, I’ve been brand-loyal to Mahatma Jasmine’s enriched Thai fragrant long-grain rice for years.

I was dismayed last time I went grocery shopping when I saw how the price of rice had shot up. I don’t know when the last time I’d bought rice was, but I guess it was before Cyclone Nargis wiped out the crop. I suppose, too, that rice from previous seasons could have been warehoused, but it was $11.49 for 5 pounds. I couldn’t believe it. Even though I love rice, and go through it slowly, and that’s not a price I would have to pay a lot of times in the future, I could not justify going home with it. I reluctantly switched over to ten pounds of some basmati rice in a burlap sack. Oddly, further down the aisle, on the opposite side, the rice selection picked up again. It was the usual selection of calrose rice and other unremarkable grains, and I assumed that it was the domestic products. Stores do like to lump food by ethnicity, you know. I found a five-pound bag of jasmine rice that was $4.99, and took that instead. How much worse, I figured, could American rice be?

I decided to kill the little bit of Mahatma rice I had left in the bag as a base for the pot roast juice and vegetables I have left over from last night’s dinner. I didn’t know if I would need the new bag of rice to fill out the scoop, so I had both bags on the counter and inadvertently performed a side-by-side comparison. Let’s just say that my mind was blown.

Golden Star Jasmine Rice, a prime grade long-grain fragrant rice, is not–as I had assumed–from the United States. It is, in fact, another brand of Thai Hom Mali rice from Thailand–just like Mahatma! So I haven’t tasted it yet, but I cannot figure out why one would be so much cheaper right now. They both sport the seal of the Thai Department of Foreign Trade, which lends a sense of authenticity. They both have a resealable plastic bag. They both “go bad” in 2010. So what gives?

Mahatma Jasmine Rice is actually enriched. They’ve actually added stuff. I’ve never noticed that difference before. A serving of Mahatma contains 8 percent of the RDA of iron, for example; Golden Star contains none. No thiamine, no niacin, no folic acid, either. I’m pretty astonished. I had assumed without ever seriously pondering the question, that all rice was enriched these days. After all, all Twinkies are enriched, and those aren’t even food.


I now seriously have to decide if I care. I think I don’t eat enough rice for it to matter, but you can bet I’ll be watching my folic acid, niacin, iron, and thiamine intake for the next few days just to see. Considering, however, that even the Duncan Hines chocolate cake I baked last night contains 10 percent of my RDA of iron–per serving–I think I’ll be OK.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–the powdered sugar frosting recipe rocks. This time I added the 1/4 of cocoa powder to the 1 pound of powdered sugar, 1 stick of salted butter, and 1/4 cup of milk and mixed for just one extra minute, and it came out great. Almost better than the non-chocolate version.

Funny scandals seem to appear everywhere I look these days. I just stumbled on two completely different scandals involving Thai rice. Breakfast, friends, has gotten political.

“The Controversy Surrounding Thai Hom Mali” (FoodMarketExchange, December 24, 2001)
“Behind the Run on Rice” (BusinessWeek, April 25, 2008)

Crock Pot Pot Roast

Many items of meat were on sale at buy one, get one free prices, so I came home with some large rumps. Our Crock Pot is neglected, and it’s so easy to use, so I looked up some Slow Cooker Pot Roast recipe online and went to work. When I disassembled my patio garden, I harvested all the ailing green onions; some of them had turned into pearl onions, and those went in the pot.

The meat turned out a little stringy, but that could be the pot roasty goodness factor. I don’t love stew meats usually, but this wasn’t choke-you dry. It’s probably an artifact of the process. I maybe, however, overcooked it, but I honestly can’t tell with slow cooker stuff. It was in the pot on low for seven hours. My big mistake was adding the carrots and potatoes too late; the ones on the top were still vaguely crisp. I had been skeptical of adding two cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup, because of the creamy, sticky whiteness it brought to the pot. I was not expecting the rich, brown, mushroomy wonderfulness that resulted. It did not perform the way I had assumed it would perform. Had I been less rushed, I might have scouted around for a different pot roast recipe that called for another liquid instead of picking the first one I saw. I am glad that I didn’t. Of course, they could all call for two cans of cream of mushroom soup.

I added extra garlic and spices and was not particularly careful about measuring out the vegetables into the pot. It didn’t matter. It was a pretty good dinner, with plenty of leftovers. What with the split pea soup I have left over from Sunday, I shouldn’t have to cook for the rest of the week!

Lest you, Gentle Reader, assume that I have forgotten about Thanksgiving, I will clarify that we are going to spend Thanksgiving in some condos in the desert, and eat at restaurants. Let that be a lesson to you. Who’s the racist now?

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  • Anita  On February 5, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I’m curious – after cooking the two rices did you taste any difference between Mahatma and Golden Star?

  • Karen  On February 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I really did. Mahatma smells better and has a richer flavor. I don’t know if it’s twice as good, exactly, but the Golden Star is sort of flat. I know that doesn’t make any sense, and is probably a confirmation bias, but the smell is different.

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