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Better-Than-Halal-Cart Rice

Better-Than-Halal-Cart Rice

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Will Budiaman

Better-Than-Halal-Cart Rice

For those of you who have ever eaten from a "halal cart," the title of this rice recipe probably seems like a bold statement. If the reference means nothing to you, don't worry — before moving to New York, I wouldn't have had a clue either.

A halal cart is a street vendor that, at a minimum, sells two things, and two things very well: chicken over rice and lamb (or gyro) over rice. Most offer the option to wrap up the same fixings — meat, lettuce, generally out-of-season tomatoes, white sauce, and a bit of smoky paprika-based hot sauce — in a pita as well, minus the rice. It sounds simple, but done right, it's absolutely delicious, addictive, and satisfying. The best part? You walk away full after spending just $5.

Some also sell knishes (another mysterious New York thing), kebabs, and falafel. Others even offer pretzels, hot dogs, chestnuts, and Philly cheesesteaks. In other words, if you can walk away with it, they probably have it. (I have yet, however, to see one that sells pizza.)

The rice, in theory, is basmati. Some vendors offer just white rice, others will offer "yellow rice," while some offer a mix of the two. It sometimes has a few peas in it and perhaps some cooked tomato. Some of them cheap out on the rice, though, and offer something that tastes suspiciously like Uncle Ben's. The mystifying thing is: What exactly makes the yellow rice yellow? Is it turmeric? Is it saffron? (Probably not.) A friend recently pointed out that it might be food coloring.

We decided to take the guesswork out of the equation and make a new and improved version of halal-cart rice that you won't get on the street. This version is flavored with saffron, freshly shucked peas, and ripe tomato — the perfect base for grilled chicken, fish, or lamb. Whoever says rice is bland is about to have their world rocked.

Click here to see Rice Made Sexy — 5 Great Dinner Recipes.


  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 Cup basmati rice
  • 1 ripe beefsteak tomato, chopped
  • 1 Pound English peas, shucked
  • 1 Teaspoon kosher salt

Perfect Jasmine Rice

Named after the sweet-smelling jasmine flower, jasmine rice is a long grain rice native to Thailand with a delicate floral and buttery scent. The secret to cooking it perfectly is getting the right ratio of water to rice. Typically, the instructions on the package call for 1-1/2 cups water for every 1 cup of rice. That’s fine if you like your rice “al dente” but I prefer mine soft, so I always add a bit more water. Many recipes call for rinsing the grains before cooking but I don’t think it’s necessary — even when you rinse jasmine rice, the grains have a slightly sticky texture and cling together.

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Curried Rice

This version of curry rice is a sort of pilaf: rice is toasted in aromatic butter before being steamed to perfection. Perfectly spiced, it makes for a solid side dish, or a filling main. Below, we break down all the components that make this rice perfect.

Ghee is clarified butter and using it has its pros and cons. Unlike butter, which still contains milk solids, ghee is pure fat, which means it has a much higher smoke point than regular butter and won't burn as readily. However, the lack of milk solids in ghee also means it won't develop as much flavor as butter will during cooking. If you've ever cooked with brown butter, you know just what a treat it is.

Much of Indian cooking uses ghee, which has a richer taste than most other vegetable oils. But if you want to bump up the flavor even more, go ahead and use butter&mdashjust make sure you lower the heat and keep stirring the pot to avoid burning those milk solids.


For perfect curry rice, nothing beats the flavor of a high quality yellow curry powder and some fresh curry leaves. While optional, frying the curry leaves in ghee both infuses the ghee with a mild curry fragrance as well as creating a crispy garnish to serve your finished rice with. To supplement the pre-made curry powder with some additional punch, we're also using lots of fresh garlic and ginger, as well as cumin seeds, freshly ground black pepper, coriander, and a touch of ground cayenne for heat. All of these spices get bloomed in hot ghee to help release their flavors into the fat, which then get absorbed into the rice during the cooking process.

For best results with this recipe, go with a good long-grain white rice&mdashthe liquid to rice ratio here is made specifically with white basmati in mind. Be sure to rinse the rice three times or until the water runs clear: this eliminates excess starch for distinct, perfectly tender cooked grains. Drain well, then toast the grains evenly in the pot with your aromatics before adding in your broth. Bring the pot to a gentle simmer, reduce the heat to your lowest setting, then clamp on that lid&mdash17 minutes is the magic number! After you turn off the heat, do not lift the lid right away: Wait just 5 more minutes to let the steam inside the pot distribute evenly. Once you uncover, bathe in the fragrant rice aromatherapy, then fluff gently with a fork to separate your grains before folding in the peas.

And everything nice

Curry rice is a blank (but delicious!) canvas that you can adjust to your liking. For topping, I like some crunchy raw red onions, crispy curry leaves, pan-toasted cashews (with just a little bit of char for smoky nuttiness), fresh cilantro and spicy red chilis, and cooling, creamy yogurt. You can add more veggies or protein in if you're planning on eating it as a meal by itself: a fried egg, roasted carrots, some steak, or roasted chicken.

Leftovers can be placed in an airtight container and will keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. A quick reheat in the microwave with a small bowl of hot water will do wonders to bring back that freshly-steamed rice flavor and texture&mdashperfect for a speedy lunch.

If you've made this recipe, leave us a rating and drop a line down below in the comments and let us know how you liked it!

Easy Coconut Rice

Coconut rice is a staple in Thai cuisine. Aromatic and flavorful, with a subtly sweet coconut flavor, this rice makes a terrific accompaniment to many Thai and Indian dishes, but it's equally wonderful with nearly any Western-style entrée. Quick and simple to make, this recipe can be the base for many other dishes: Think of curries, stews, and saucy vegan preparations that the rice will soak up, creating the perfect bite. In fact, as a vegan recipe, this rice can be a main dish for your vegan guests when served with a good spread of roasted vegetables or a sesame-ginger baked tofu dish.

For this recipe, use Thai jasmine-scented white rice. You can find it in most grocery stores in the rice aisle, online, or in Asian or international supermarkets. This type of rice is key, as the end result is fluffy restaurant-style coconut rice. Other rice can have too much starch and become gluey and too sticky, whereas jasmine has the perfect grain and size to soak up the coconut flavor without becoming greasy or sticking together. For best results, get full-fat canned coconut milk, and not the carton of coconut milk used for coffee and other beverages.

This recipe uses the stovetop method for cooking rice, so be sure to have a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cooking the rice in a rice cooker will also deliver wonderful coconut rice.

Spicy Indian rice

Fry the onions in the sunflower oil in a large frying pan for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Fill a roomy saucepan with water, bring to the boil and tip in a heaped teaspoon of salt - the water will bubble furiously. Add turmeric and the cinnamon stick to the water. Pour in the rice, stir once and return to the boil, then turn the heat down a little so that the water is boiling steadily, but not vigorously. Boil uncovered, without stirring (this makes for sticky rice) for 10 minutes. Lift some out with a slotted spoon and nibble a grain or two. If they're too crunchy, cook for another minute and taste again. They should be tender but with a little bite. Drain the rice into a large sieve and rinse by pouring over a kettle of very hot water

Stir the crushed seeds of the cardamom pods into the onions with the cumin seeds and fry briefly.

Toss in a large handful of sultanas and roasted cashew nuts, then the hot drained rice. This is great with curry and will also give an exotic edge to grilled meat or fish.

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Turn off heat set aside.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onions and peppers cook until soft and translucent, 5 – 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, chicken bouillon and sazón cook until warmed through.

Pour rice into pot stir to coat. Cook rice 1 minute. Pour in hot water stir to combine. Bring rice mixture to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until rice is tender and water is absorbed completely, about 25 minutes.

Fluff rice with a fork and let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

You are now able to buy this recipe’s ingredients online! After you select your market, you decide if you want to have your items delivered or if you want to pick them up in store!

Quick Save for Scorched Rice

If your rice starts burning, don’t panic! Instead, carefully bring the pot to the sink, run cold water over the bottom (to stop the cooking process) and gently shake the rice into a new saucepan, excluding any burnt grains. For extra insurance, place a slice of bread on top of the rice cover the pan, and finish cooking. The bread will absorb any lingering burnt smell to help your grains taste as good as you intended.

Perfect Fried Rice

Fried rice is a dish we turn to again. and again because it's not only super easy to make, but also SO adaptable based on what ingredients are hanging out in your fridge. We love beef fried rice and even hot dog fried rice (don't knock it 'til you try it). Before you make a batch, read our tips for making perfect fried rice.

Sesame oil > any other oil.

Sesame oil is one of those kitchen cupboard staples that you might resist buying ("Do I really need another oil?!"), but once you do you'll want to use it in everything. Fried rice is one of those recipes we find sesame oil really enhances. If you don't want to use sesame, a neutral oil like vegetable is best.

Cold rice is key.

The reason why so many fried rice recipes call for leftover rice: Dried out cold rice gets much crispier in the pan than the freshly cooked stuff. If you're craving fried rice and don't want to wait for the rice to chill in the fridge, spread freshly cooked rice on a baking sheet and freeze it for 10 to 15 minutes.

Do I need to scramble my eggs separately or can I do it all in one pan?

You can totally start your rice by cooking the vegetables and then push them to one side of the pan and crack in your eggs and get scrambling. We find that the eggs can easily overcook this way, so prefer to scramble them separately first.

What other flavour goes into fried rice?

Aside from sesame oil, we stir in crushed garlic, soy sauce, and ginger.

Can I add other ingredients?

Absolutely! As we said, fried rice is endlessly adaptable. Fry up some bacon and toss in some kimchi and you've got an unreal Bacon Kimchi Fried Rice. Or, add some diced pineapple for a sweet twist on the classic.

Editor's Note: This introduction to this recipe was updated on 21/7/20 to include more information about the dish. The recipe title was also changed.

Fried Rice History

While the exact origins of fried rice are lost to history, it’s believed that it was invented sometime during the Sui dynasty (A.D. 589–618), in the city of Yangzhou in eastern Jiangsu province.

Yangchow (Yangzhou) fried rice is still the standard by which all other Chinese fried rice dishes are judged: morsels of fluffy rice tossed with roast pork, prawns, scallions, and peas. In American-Chinese restaurants, you’ll sometimes find it called "special fried rice."

Today, fried rice dishes are found throughout China, particularly in the south, where rice is the staple grain.

Gungjung Tteokbokki (Korean Royal Court Rice Cakes)

Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Judy Kim.

This savory-sweet rice cake dish is similar to the tteokbokki that was served in the Korean royal court during the Joseon Dynasty. Its spicy gochujang-rich younger cousin is better-known, but this milder version was created before the introduction of chile peppers to Korean cuisine. Gungjung tteokbokki has a complex sauce of roasted sesame oil, soy sauce and aromatics. Beef, vegetables and chewy-tender rice cakes, which are sold in the refrigerated section of Korean markets, are simmered with the sauce until it reduces to a velvety glaze. For a vegetarian meal, simply omit the beef. (The mushrooms add plenty of meaty flavor.) Mung bean sprouts add texture, but they can be left out, if you can’t find them.

How to Make Cauliflower Rice at Home Using This Simple Recipe

Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

While I sure do love a good serving of carbs, I always like to find ways to lower the carb count on my meals. I'm a huge fan of making zucchini noodles (also known as "zoodles"), and more recently I have discovered a love for cauliflower rice recipes, too.

Now I've never been a huge fan of rice in general. Unless it's fried rice mixed with pork and steamed vegetables from our go-to Chinese takeout spot down the road, I'm usually not one to make it. I have experimented with some recipes using rice before, and while they turned out just fine, it's still not my cup of tea. This is where cauliflower rice, thankfully enough, has come to the rescue.

Some recipes even call for cauliflower rice specifically, like this Paleo Tomato Chicken Curry, keeping it low-carb yet tasty for all. You could also attempt to make a cauliflower crust for pizza using this rice, or even some cauliflower "tater tots" if you're feeling extra adventurous. Or, my personal favorite, a simple fried rice with teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, sauteed vegetables, and a scrambled egg.

There are so many creative uses for cauliflower rice, your possibilities are endless. I'm sharing my easy step-by-step guide to making cauliflower rice at home. This recipe can easily be doubled so you can meal prep and save some for future meals, too!