Sep 3, 2012

Basic Brown Rice and Rice Preparation in Liberia

Rice is one of the most common grains in the world. It is a staple in many countries worldwide, including Liberia and the Cote d'Ivoire where I lived many years. Rice is something I make regularly and one of the changes I have made to improve the nutrition my family is getting is to replace most of the white rice we eat with brown. I will be sharing several Liberian recipes to be served over rice and using brown rice gives these meals a rustic and more authentic feel. White rice is a subsidized import in Liberia so not all the rice consumed is the locally grown brown rice. 

My photo.
Brown rice has only the husk removed leaving the germ and bran intact. Brown rice has a small amount of rice bran oil and a lot of good fiber. It's a good source of several vitamins and minerals including B1,  B3, iron, and magnesium. Brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice so does not raise blood sugar as white does. White rice has the germ and bran stripped and with it all the nutritious oil, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Left behind is a refined carbohydrate. Most white rice is now sold as "enriched" with some synthetic vitamins and minerals added back, but these nutrients are minimal compared with natural brown rice. This is another example of why food is healthiest when eaten the closest to the way God made it in nature.

Brown rice does cost more than white rice, but all things considered, switching from white rice to brown rice is not a big financial sacrifice. Because of the good balance of fiber, oil, and nutrients, brown rice is more filling than white, so you eat less which does save a little on the cost. Unfortunately, most people do not know how to prepare brown rice so they believe brown rice equals hard grains while white rice is soft and fluffy. The good news is brown rice can be very fluffy and delicious if it's prepared properly. Adding salt to the water before cooking helps to bring out the flavor.  It's a little more chewy than white rice, but the flavor is fairly neutral and it goes with anything you'd usually serve with white rice.  

There are several varieties of brown rice that are inexpensive and readily available. Regular long grain brown rice is the most common and has a neutral taste. Brown Jasmine rice has all the health benefits of brown rice with the delicious aromatic flavor of Jasmine rice. There is also brown basmati rice but it is a bit more costly and I have not tried it yet.

Wal-Mart brand brown rice was $0.72 a pound the last time I bought some. I was able to find brown Jasmine rice at an ethnic food store for about the same price as regular brown rice, which is a very good deal. If you eat a lot of rice and like Jasmine rice, I would look at your local ethnic food store for the best price. Brown basmati rice was more expensive (basmati rice is already more expensive than regular rice) but if you eat a lot of basmati rice it would be worth it to switch to brown basmati.

Rice is one of the grains that does not have to be soaked, according to Nourishing Traditions. You can soak it, but it does not make a huge difference. Rather, it is suggested to cook rice with a good quality homemade meat broth to make the most of the nutrients. I don't do this with all my recipes, but I try to when I can as it does significantly increase the nutritional value.

Here are two practical and informative recipes by other Nourishing Traditions followers on making your own meat broth:

Rice in Liberia:

Rice in Liberia is so popular and important a common Liberian saying is that one has not eaten unless they have eaten a meal that included rice. It is even believed that rice is essential for a Liberian to eat in order to maintain good health.

Nutritious brown rice - also known as African red rice - is grown by subsistence farmers in various varieties and hues, some being almost purple in color. Farmers plant their own rice grains, saved from a previous harvest, cultivate it, harvest it, then store it in bundles still on the stalk. Each day when it is time to begin preparing dinner, the rice is pounded in a mortar to remove the husk. This job is done by women or children with sometimes two or three people taking turns pounding a pestle in rhythm.

After the husk is removed, the rice is shaken in a rice fan to remove the chaff.

Finally it is rinsed then added to a pot of already boiling water. 

Salt is added and the rice is stirred from time to time to prevent burning.  Excess water is poured off as needed. This rather complicated method of cooking the rice could be because of the unstable heat from an open fire, but creating perfect brown rice in your own kitchen is a lot easier. There are several ways to make brown rice successfully, but this method works well for me.

Note: Rice can be prepared with almost any liquid. Using water is the most authentic for Liberian recipes, using broth is the most nutritious according to Nourishing Traditions. 

Basic Brown Rice

1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups water or broth
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, optional

Combine all ingrediants in a 2 quart sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork before serving.

Preparation time: 1 minute. Cook time: 50 minutes. Servings: 4-6.

Tips for success: Do not peak under the cover, do not stir while cooking, and set a timer for 45 minutes.  This method works every time for me.

Brown rice can be successfully frozen and reheated. This is a great way to make sure you always have the time to eat brown rice since one does not always have 45 minutes to prepare the rice. I freeze portions in the amount we need for one meal then thaw and reheat as needed.


  1. Brown jasmine rice has such a wonderful scent! And is more filling and satisfying, as you point out Melodie. Love your photos of preparing rice in Liberia. The home grown rice is Liberia is African red rice, sometimes available here from Indonesia and other Asian countries at GREAT expense. We have often wondered why Liberia doesn't market it to Americans. It is ironic that in the past, Liberians wanted "civilized" white rice rather than their home grown red rice, and now the red rice is desired in the Western world. Unfortunately, it is more work intensive, less productive and has a longer growing season that Asian varieties that are being introduced now, so it is being squeezed out. Looking forward to your Liberian recipes.

    I have a little bit different way of doing my brown rice, but I think one key to cooking brown rice is to give yourself plenty of time so that the rice can sit an additional 10 minutes after the cooking time, then open it up and fluff it. The times it doesn't turn out is when I am in a rush.

  2. When the kids came home a Korean friend gifted us with an industrial sized rice cooker & a 20# bag of rice...I buy my brown rice at the Korean H Mart ... It is fairly inexpensive... Mercy & Odesco still eat it for breakfast if there's leftovers:) I'm looking fwd to the recipes. Mercy will be thrilled!!