Exploring Chicken & Rice: One Simple Dish With Worldwide Flavors
Did You Know?
- Rice provides sustenance to more people than any other foodstuff.
- One-half of the world’s population of 7 billion eats rice on a daily basis.
- Ninety percent of those people live in Asia.
- Twenty percent of the world’s total calorie intake comes from rice.
- Rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica.
- The oldest evidence of rice used as food is grains found in a rock shelter in the Hunan Province of China—they are at least 10,000 years old according to radio-carbon dating.
No wonder it’s considered the single most important crop on earth.
What can we say about chicken? Of proteins, chicken ranks #3 (behind pork and fish)—but unlike pork it is accepted by most religions, and unlike fish it is more widely available around the world. With those statistics, it should be pretty obvious that the combination of chicken and rice can be found in just about every corner of the globe. Let’s travel around the world, and explore how many ways we can make chicken and rice.
Chicken and Rice Around the World
#1 Arroz con Pollo (Mexico)
Our first stop is in Mexico with Arroz con Pollo, probably the first ethnic dish I learned to prepare (no, spaghetti and meatballs don't count).
Don't be turned off by the lengthy list of ingredients for this recipe. They are all easy to find at your grocery store and you can do the measuring ahead of time. This is really a very easy meal to prepare; all the meats, carbs, and veggies are in one pot; it's colorful, and it smells wonderful!
#2 Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Minnesota)
This soup is adapted from a recipe I received from my dear friend Marge, a Minnesota native. Yes, I know that technically wild rice is a grass, not rice, but I've added some brown rice to the pot so this qualifies (fingers crossed) as a chicken and rice dish.
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
- 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
- 1 medium onion (1 cup), diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 cups hot chicken broth
- 1 cup diced chicken
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp. thyme
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 tablespoons sherry
- Combine water, wild rice, and brown rice in a saucepan. Simmer for 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Saute onion, celery, and mushrooms in butter in a large saute pan about 3 minutes or just until vegetables soften.
- Stir in flour, cooking and stirring until flour is mixed in, but do not let it begin to brown. Slowly add hot chicken broth, stirring until all veg-flour mixture is well blended.
- Stir in drained cooked rice and chicken. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Heat thoroughly. Stir in half and half. Add sherry and heat gently but do not boil.
#3 Jambalaya (Louisiana)
Creole or Cajun--is there a difference? Well, according to Louisiana Travel
"...all you really need to know is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes and proper Cajun food does not."
You can stop reading now.
Seriously, there are many jambalaya recipes on the internet that, according to the maxim above, are mislabeled as Cajun. This one is the real deal.
#4 Galinhada (Brazil)
The cuisine of Brazil is not one-dimensional. Over hundreds of years, tradition has been formed by influences from Africa, India, and Portugal. Those flavors are certainly present here.
Chickens are not indigenous to Brazil; they came from Portugal in 1500. "Galinhada" is the Portuguese for chicken and thus it is the star of the show in this dish. Fruits are important in Brazilian culture, and so the flavors of lemon and tomato are infused in the broth. Peppers, peas, and cilantro add pops of color and sweet-citrusy notes.
#5 Jollof Rice (west Africa)
I have not tasted jollof rice but my research on this dish has me moving it up in my bucket list of "foods I must prepare before I die." Who could have imagined that there could be so much controversy over something as simple as chicken and rice?
I can't think of another dish that is so revered that countries engage in verbal and viral spars over who first created it. The peoples of Ghana, Senegal, and Niger all claim bragging rights for this powerfully-flavored rice dish.
#6 Chicken and Chorizo Rice (Portugal)
What places this dish apart from many of the others is the cooking technique. Chicken and chorizo are simmered in a sauce pot until the sausage is cooked through and the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender.
The meat is de-boned and shredded, the sausage is skinned and sliced, and the pot liquor is reserved to flavor the dish. Aromatics are added, rice and meats are stirred in. And they cook. Most recipes end there. But with this dish, there is one more step that separates it from all of the rest. The cooked meats, rice, and savory goodness are scooped into a casserole dish, and everything bakes for a few minutes more. Flavors meld and mingle. Edges become golden and crispy. Yum!
#7 Chicken Paella (Spain)
Rice has been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years, but it was non-existent in Europe until the 8th century when Muslim armies invaded the Valencia region of Spain. And Romans, who had previously conquered Spain brought with them a flat cooking dish called a patella. The patella evolved to paila, and finally paella.
Thus, rice cooked in a flat-bottomed pan is paella (pah-ey-uh). This dish became so popular that in 1840 a local Spanish newspaper first used the word paella to refer to the recipe rather than the pan in which it was cooked.
Kristin (IowaGirlEats) stays true to the authentic recipe by using saffron (not turmeric) to not only color but flavor the rice. No other spice has the same bright floral flavor.
#8 Riso alla Pitocca (Italy)
Elly (EllySaysOpa) is a first-generation Greek-American cook who creates beautifully photographed, healthy, quick-to-fix meals. She put her own creative spin on this dish adapted from a recipe by Lidia Bastianich.
She minces the trinity of onion, carrots, and celery in her food processor so that they melt into the simmering chicken, rice, and broth, flavoring every bite. Grated Parmesan provides a salty, creamy finish.
#9 One Pot Chicken and Rice Pilafi (Greece)
Marzia (LittleSpiceJar) enjoys creating "recipes that are heavy on the flavor yet simple enough for anyone to prepare." This one-pan dish certainly fits the bill. Don't skimp on the lemon. It really makes the meal (and don't those lemon slices look pretty).
One thing that I would add—feta cheese. Sprinkle a little on top of each plate just before serving.
#10 Mandi (Yemen)
No, you're not seeing double, and this recipe is NOT the same as the one above for Greek pilafi. The seasonings of Yemen are bold. If you do not have curry powder in your spice cabinet, or cannot find it at your grocery store, here's how to make your own.
- 2 Tbsp ground coriander
- 2 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 Tbsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- Combine the chicken and all the ingredients for the chicken in a large resealable bag, and let marinate for at least 30 minutes (preferably overnight for more flavor).
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large oven-safe skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the skillet skin side down and cook until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes), then flip over and cook the other side until golden brown (another 3-5 minutes).
- Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Remove any black or burnt bits from the pan, and add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan over medium high heat.
- Add the onions to the skillet with the oregano, turmeric, and cumin. Saute until the onions become translucent.
- Add the garlic and basmati rice and saute for 1 minute, just until the rice begins to turn golden.
- Add the chicken broth, water, and salt and bring to a simmer. Place the cooked chicken thighs directly on top of the rice and liquid. Once the liquid has begun to simmer, cover with a lid, and transfer to the oven to continue cooking.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with grilled lemon slice, and fresh parsley.
- Serve as is, or with Greek yogurt and fresh kale that has been massaged with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
#11 Morgh Polow (Persia)
I hope that my vegetarian friends are reading this post, even though chicken is not in their diet plans. In this recipe, the chicken is cooked separately, and honestly could be disregarded. The star of the show is the jeweled rice. Cumin, cinnamon, and honey flavor the rice which is studded with ruby-colored cranberries and pomegranate seeds and green pistachios.
#12 Biryani (India)
In the early 1990s, my husband spent part of his career working for the World Health Organization (WHO). This adventure took him to India where he experienced a diversity of amazing dishes. This biryani dish creates meltingly-tender morsels of chicken and brightly colored rice.
Mila (GirlAndTheKitchen) is a professional chef and caterer, and her talent shows in her step-by-step presentation of each of her recipes. It really is like having your best friend (who is also a whiz in the kitchen) at your side showing you how to cook.
Here she shares the history of this 1,000-year old dish and exactly how to make it for you and your family. Note that this is not a dinner-ready-in-30-minutes kind of dish. Plan on about 2 hours. Maybe more but every moment spent is worth it, I promise.
#14 Chinese Fried Rice
Fuschia Dunlop is an authority on Chinese cuisine and was classically trained there. This recipe is from her book "Land of Fish and Rice" and was reprinted with permission by SteamyKitchen. Chinese fried rice is indeed a frugal dish; nothing in the kitchen goes to waste. Leftover rice, bits of pork and chicken, and what vegetables are on hand are given new life in this dish, all of which is ultimately cloaked in golden beaten egg.
#15 Claypot Chicken and Rice (Malaysia)
You don't really need a clay pot for this dish. AiPing (the author of this recipe and creator of the blog CuriousNut) shows us how to create this chicken and rice dish using a cast iron pan.
AiPing loves Southeast Asian food. She's 100 percent Malaysian but now calls the United States her home. Her recipes are authentic, the flavors are bold, and the photos themselves look good enough to eat.
#16 Adobo (Philippines)
Adobo is both the name of the food and the cooking process. Meat and vegetables are marinated (ideally overnight) in garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar. You can use either chicken breasts or thighs (I think the thighs are more flavorful). Be sure to use cider vinegar. Some other types of vinegar are too sharp.
I hope you've enjoyed this trip around the world and have discovered with me some new ways to cook the world's favorite chicken and rice.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Linda Lum