Red rice is the default Mexican rice. Or at least the default in central and southern Mexico, probably also the default in the northern variety of Mexican food known as Tex-Mex. This is something that some Peruvian friends of mine complained about. If you go to a restaurant and order rice but do not specifically order white rice, arroz blanco, you will almost surely be served Mexican red rice. The menu sometimes is helpful enough to specify arroz a la mexicana, Mexican-style rice, meaning it's going to be red, but not always. Be forewarned.

Red rice is a side dish and served with just about anything. It is therefore meant to be simple and generally uninteresting as far as Mexican food goes, hardly ever plays the starring role of a meal. Despite its relative simplicity in appearance and flavour, and the apparent simplicity of the recipe I give below, it is also exceedingly easy to goof things up and produce sub-standard red rice. It's a fickle dish that demands attention and love during its concoction.

Red rice features prominently in another recipe of mine noded here, mole de olla. There are many ways to make red rice, and for consistency I have decided to also present the recipe that our cook Mariana prepares, so that it matches with her conception of mole de olla. Variations on this recipe are of course possible, although I cannot guarantee their compatibility with mole de olla (actually, it probably will all taste great no matter what).

You will need

  • 1 cup of rice, short grain is probably best.
  • cooking oil
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 slice of onion
  • 1/4 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of green peas and chopped carrots (optional)
  • Salt, water

You will do

  1. Soak the rice in warm water. Mariana says to wait about one hour until it changes colour. Rinse it, strain it, and wait for it to dry.
  2. While you're waiting, put the tomatoes, onion and garlic into the blender and liquify them. This is why it's going to be red rice.
  3. Using just a wee bit of oil, fry the rice until it's a golden brown. Drain away the oil before proceeding. Switch the rice to a pot if you've been frying in a pan.
  4. Pour the liquified tomato mix and cook the rice until it's dry. At this stage it should be a deep red colour but still look like rice, not a stew. Keep cooking until it's dry.
  5. Now is the time to pour in the chicken broth, the salt and the optional peas and carrots. Pour in a bit extra water, about half a cup, if adding the extra veggies. Cook it covered for thirty minutes or until all the water evaporates and gets absorbed, like ordinary rice. Do not stir it at all during this final stage, or it won't cook properly.

That's it! It shouldn't be sticky at all, although you should be able to serve it in compact little domes shaped with a small cup. Mariana warned me more than once to be very careful about the cooking times and the amount of liquid used for cooking; it's very easy to make mistakes at either level. Accompany it with some black beans and the Mexican dish of your choice, such as enchiladas or inside the bowl in which you will pour the mole de olla. Enjoy!