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whole grains with asian stir-fries, curries, and simmered dishes

Can you recommend an alternative to white rice to have with traditional Chinese stir-fries like kung pao chicken and twice cooked pork; Thai curries; Japanese oyako-don; and other Asian dishes I make at home. My goal is to incorporate higher-fiber, lower glycemic grains without straying too far from the mild taste and textural properties of white rice. The texture test is whether it can be eaten with chopsticks, so nothing too porridgey (like amaranth) or with unclumping distinct grains (like wheat berries).

Brown rice might be the obvious answer, but I cook for someone who doesn't like it. Quinoa comes close, but the individual grains separate and therefore don't clump in a way that nicely carries sauce and can be lifted with chopsticks. Any other suggestions? Thanks very much.

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  1. Even brown basmati is out? It tastes very mild, really like white rice in my experience. It is very different from short grain brown rice. Also, the red rices are whole grains.

    2 Replies
    1. re: magiesmom

      Yes, and there's even BLACK rice to consider...loads of antioxidants and fiber...they sell it at Whole Foods but I've also seen it at Asian grocery store...great stuff!

      1. re: Val

        Thanks for both of those rice alternatives. I don't think I've tried either.

    2. I've been cooking with barley lately. Big plump balls that absorb whatever the sauce is.

      Purple rice is good (from Thailand, often marketed as Forbidden Rice but also available in bulk sections). If you find it too chewy on its own, mix with white rice.

      And of course noodles; you can find some that aren't just white flour, like soba or green noodles. http://greenoodles.com/

      1 Reply
      1. re: Windy

        I love barley but it is alot like wheat berries in style.

      2. Brown jasmine rice has been my standard rice since discovering it at Trader Joe's a few years ago. Its texture is like long grain white rice, with a mild nuttiness. I had been using brown basmati before that but they'd run out and a TJ's clerk recommended trying the brown jasmine.
        I have even used it successfully for rice pudding.

        1. You can cook steel-cut oats as a grain - they look like kasha or bulgur. There have been numerous threads on savory uses for steel-cut (a.k.a. pinhead) oats.

          1. This is a totally non-traditional idea, but forgive me -- I'm a UC Santa Cruz alumnus and I feel that my crunchy granola roots will betray me with this suggestion! Ah well.

            Here's what I was thinking -- make polenta from whole grain cornmeal (not always easy to find, but Hodgson Mill makes it, and I think Bob's Red Mill does as well), chill and cut into bite-size pieces, then pan-fry until crispy. I'd happily eat crispy bites of polenta under an Asian stir-fry or curry, but I'm not sure if that's just me!

            2 Replies
            1. re: operagirl

              Funny you should mention this. Someone I was talking to about this said that there's a sub-region of China near the Sichuan/Yunnan border where the staple grain is a whole-grain cornmeal mush, eaten with stir-fries just as rice is in much of China.

              1. re: david kaplan

                What do you know! That is fascinating.

            2. Millet. Lightly dextrinize before cooking for a nuttier flavor (cook's choice, though). Grain to water ratio = 1:4. Cook in oven @ 350 for 2 hours or in crockpot overnight.

              1. I too would recommend brown basmati rice. I recently discovered that if you cook it like pasta (i.e. in lots of water and then drained), it turns out light and fluffy every time!

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