Book review: The Rice Book by Sri Owen

16 November 2023 by
Book review: The Rice Book by Sri Owen

Every rice-related recipe you could want can be found in the new edition of this 30-year-old cookbook

Who would have thought the whole world could be tied together with a single ingredient? There's hardly a single culture that doesn't have a rice dish they hold dear. From sushi to gumbo, it's a staple for so many, and Sri Owen wants to celebrate that.

The Rice Book first came out in 1993 and for the past 30 years Owen has been helping home cooks and chefs alike conquer the slightly scary task of cooking perfectly fluffy rice (she suggests putting a layer of foil or a tea towel between the pan and the lid, and leaving it undisturbed on a low heat for 10-12 minutes). With this starting point, the door to a world of cooking is thrown open.

There are 20 new recipes in this edition, nestled among old favourites. Each section is a mix of global cuisines; rather than categorise them geographically, Owen chooses to sort each section by the rice's function, such as "rice as an accompaniment" or "snacks and soups". Flip to one spread and there's a recipe for Russian fish pilaf next to West Javanese rice and salmon parcels; another sees dessert rice ice-cream alongside sweet glutinous rice with mango.

The recipes aren't what one might call "authentic", but rather made accessible for the UK reader with plenty of substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients. Quite telling of its original publication date, the recipe for Korean bibimbap suggests that if you can't find kimchi, "thinly-sliced gherkins" will do. Nevertheless the preamble to each recipe is careful to provide details of sources and inspiration, cementing this as a bible of rice cookery.

As for the design, the book has been given a very tasteful 21st-century update, and images are used sparingly, instead packing as many recipes in as possible.

If this is the first time you're hearing of The Rice Book, get your hands on a copy – it's useful in so many ways and a pretty addition to your bookshelf. Or, if you happen to have a 30-year-old edition that's falling apart at the seams, this is your sign to update.

The Rice Book by Sri Owen (Bloomsbury Publishing, £30)

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