An interview with Francesca Bray, who has spent many decades researching the global importance of rice. Beyond the methods of cultivation, Francesca is continually fascinated by the part rice plays in politics and trade networks, modern society and human civilisation.
Rice and fine dining: A celebration of recipes and ideas from top chefs around the world
Rice, as we’ve discovered in researching its value across various corners of the world in this special issue, is a staple in many billions of peoples’ diets around the world. In West Africa, the Indian subcontinent, large parts of East and Southeast Asia and even parts of Europe, it’s integral not only to sustenance but also to culture and society.
Rice also has a place in the fine dining world, everywhere from Bangkok to London, Mumbai to Tokyo. Here, we talk to renowned chefs who take inspiration from a huge variety of different of cuisines from around the world: Massimiliano Alajmo shares tales of risotto from his native Italy and chef Jeremy Chan celebrates rice with the flavours of West Africa at Ikoyi in London. Elsewhere, we learn about a traditional Thai rice dish grilled in fig leaves from Tam Chudaree, a young female chef and rising star from Bangkok, we taste Quique Dacosta’s signature crispy rice, Indian Accent’s chef Manish Mehrotra’s Indian Gobindo bhog kheer. Finally, though not a recipe, we hear the story of Kazutoshi Endo’s relationship with rice, which shines through in his Japanese restaurant Endo at the Rotunda.
As if the sheer variety and versatility of all these different rice dishes isn’t enough to inspire you, read on to hear our chefs sharing their secrets on how to make these signature recipes at home.
Chef Massimiliano Alajmo is the youngest chef in history to have been awarded three Michelin stars. Max started learning about food by cooking in the kitchen of Le Calandre with his mother Rita from an early age. He studied at the acclaimed culinary school Istituto Alberghiero di Abano Terme and then worked with top Italian and French chefs, including Alfredo Chiocchetti, Michel Guérard and Marc Veyrat. Currently, Max runs restaurants, café-bistros, and various food products with his family.
Max tells Luxeat: “This recipe is dedicated to my wife Mariapia and the land she’s from, Calabria. The root and the flower, represented by liquorice and saffron, are the most extreme parts of the plant; one low, deep and hidden, the other tall, seductive and luminous, almost like a dialogue between opposites: origin and growth, birth and rebirth. The colours reflect the contrast, at the same time maintaining a hidden truth. This is a strong analogy for a dish with many reassuring aspects.”
Risotto with saffron and liquorice powder
Ingredients for 4
For the saffron reduction
190 gr. hen broth
4 gr. saffron powder
For the risotto
2 lt. hen broth
320 gr. Carnaroli rice
80 gr. grated Parmigiano
70 gr. dry white wine
60 gr. butter
50 gr. saffron reduction
15 gr. white onion, minced
12 gr. extra virgin olive oil
5 gr. fresh lemon juice
4 gr. dark liquorice powder
1 gr. saffron threads
Pinch of salt
Hint of castor sugar
- For the saffron reduction, simply dissolve the saffron in hot hen broth.
- Simmer until reduced to a third of the original quantity.
- Toast the rice in a wide pot with extra virgin and onion, add wine and evaporate.
- Add salt and saffron threads and continue cooking.
- Next, add 30 grams of saffron reduction and then vegetable gelatine broth, one ladle at a time.
- Once cooked, remove from heat and vigorously stir in the butter, parmesan and lemon juice. Emulsify with a little vegetable gelatine broth and ladle onto a flat plate, allowing the risotto to spread.
- Sprinkle with liquorice powder and garnish with a few drops and brush strokes of the saffron reduction.
- The quantities of saffron and liquorice used may vary according to intensity.
- To make a different variation, stir in a little grated orange zest and parsley after cooking, and garnish with drops of a blood orange reduction instead of the liquorice powder.
Having trained in international restaurants such as John Jorges and Blue Hill in New York, rising star Tam Chudaree came back to her homeland Bangkok to open her own restaurant. With a modern take on Thai cuisine and a rebellious streak, she defies people not to love her innovative take on cooking. Thailand has over 5000 varieties of rice, and she chooses for this recipe rice from the northernmost tip of the country, an upland rice which grows on the hilltops in Chiang Rai province. It’s super short grain called Khao Mao Doi, which is very sticky and young, with a bouncy and resilient texture which holds the shape beautifully.
Tam tells Luxeat: “We sneak in rice in every course, even in a cracker or roti. For this recipe we stir fry it very quickly in a hot wok so it absorbs all the flavour of the smoke, then add fermented fish sauce to give umami, and then wrap it with a fig leaf and put it on a grill. So it’s barely seasoned, but cooked in the leaf, and that smokiness from the pan and the leaf are like a parcel of love.”
Recipe for Fig leave grilled “Khao Mao Doi” (Hilltribe Rice)
Upland Rice (Khao Mao Doi) 100g
Southern-style fermented fish sauce (Budu) 10g
Coconut sugar 5g
Jasmine rice vinegar 5g
White pepper (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
1 Fig leaf.
- Soak the rice overnight at room temperature. Drain.
- Heat up a wok or frying pan on a high heat.
- Add 1 tablespoon of lard.
- Once the lard is smoking, add the rice, but do not stir immediately. Let the rice brown in the pan and then quickly stir.
- Add the sugar, fish sauce and vinegar and make sure you hit the hottest part of the pan with the fish sauce to get the caramelization. Once the rice has some colour move the pan around to cook the rice. Remove from heat.
- Wrap the rice in the fig leaf before putting on a charcoal grill. Spray with water and cover with a lid or a bowl to steam the rice further in the leaf without drying it out.
- Serve with a side of fish sauce, chillies and lime.
Kazutoshi Endo is the sushi master at Michelin-starred Endo at the Rotunda in London. He was born in Yokohama Japan and at the age of 22, followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to begin his culinary career in his family’s restaurant. Endo-san has worked with world-renowned chefs in Madrid, Bilbao, Hong Kong, New York, Istanbul, Dubai, and London where he joined the world-famous Zuma Group in 2006. He is now focusing on developing his own brand, ENDO, which he founded in August 2015.
Although he doesn’t share one particular recipe, Endo-san gives us more insights into the versatility of rice in Japanese cuisine. He tells Luxeat: “For a sushi chef it’s never “just rice” – it’s the heart of every single bite, which is why there is quite a story to our rice.”
The story of the restaurant starts back in 1940, Yokohama where Endo-san’s grandfather opened a sushi restaurant after training in the sushi-capital Tokyo. After his grandfather retired his father took over and continued to run the family business and therefore Endo-san was also destined to take over the family profession of becoming a sushi chef. With this heritage, and as more restaurants in the western world start to embrace a “new wave” of sushi, Endo-san have been looking more in the other direction, going back to the traditions and culture that is tied to it.
“Because of the family history it’s not only knowledge that has been handed down from generation to generation, but also relationships with craftsmen and farmers.” Endo-san comments.
This is also reflected on the sushi rice. The rice itself is a blend of two different types, coming from two different farmers, which is a long-standing relationship Endo-san’s father started. Even today Endo-san is often in dialog with the farmers, discussing how the harvest looks.
There is a lot of tradition bound to the rice, and some of these details date back almost a hundred years, from Endo-san’s grandfather. Endo-san explains the meticulous processes he goes through: “Since rice is very delicate in its preparation, it often undergoes a lot of changes, even on a daily basis there is changes made to how it’s made, so every tool available to use to help adjusting the process is used, down to the “Kama” it’s cooked in, which is a traditional aluminium pot, forged with a little wing around it, to help catch the heat of the flame it’s cooked over, and closed with a heavy wooden lid, is being utilised to make the rice Endo-san wants his guests to experience.”
In 2008 when Endo-san left Japan and moved to London, his mother gave him three notebooks. Busy and consumed in his work, he never got round to actually reading them until lockdown started in spring 2020 and he stumbled upon them by chance. What he found he almost couldn’t believe: they were filled with records of how to store and age fish, a logbook with notes about rice cooking, and scores of recipes. There were three recipes that particularly stood out, for three different types of sushi vinegar used throughout the family’s history. During lockdown, Endo-san started to experiment with the recipes and found the oldest of them to be the one matching his rice the best. Out of curiosity he started to look into how the weather was in Tokyo around the time where this sushi vinegar recipe was used and to his big surprise found that the temperatures of Tokyo almost a hundred years ago was quite similar to the temperature of the UK in 2020.
“This discovery made perfect sense, since the human’s feelings are intertwined with nature, and as climate and weather changes so does the mode and feeling of a person,” Endo-san tells Luxeat. “For example during hot summers people often tend to like food that is a bit more salty, compared to winter time.”
Due to the constantly changing nature of rice, even regular guests of Endo-san feel the rice changes with the season and weather each time they come back to the restaurant, making every single meal a once in a lifetime experience.
Chinese Canadian philosopher turned chef Jeremy Chan was running Ikoyi by the age of 30, and the restaurant gained its first Michelin star within a year. He takes inspiration from West Africa because he believes there are “countless possibilities of interpretation and creativity”. Before opening Ikoyi, he researched for a few years as well as worked at Noma and Hibiscus.
Jeremy tells Luxeat: “This crab jollof rice is the ultimate comfort food and the best way to cook rice, in my opinion. The grains are sticky but separated, due to the fact that we pre-steam and then cool the rice before roasting it in hot beef fat. We use the jollof rice broth as a vehicle for deep, mouth-watering flavours and spices. The paste is similar to something you would eat with Hainan style chicken, and adds another level of smokiness, but with fresh zinginess from the ginger. I love how the crab custard coats the rice in a decadent silky texture, so you feel like you’re almost eating a risotto. It’s a rice dish that transcends cultures and techniques, blending them together to create the most delicious, satisfying result possible.”
Crab Jollof Rice
Roasted Chicken Wing Stock 2.5kg
Grapeseed Oil (to cover pan and vegetables)
Red Pepper 1.5kg
Red Onion 1.5g
Scotch Bonnet De-Seeded 30g
Black Garlic 100g
Crayfish Powder 90g
Chipotle Pepper 50g
Hot Paprika 90g
Black Pepper 60g
Madras Curry 90g
Fish Sauce 30g
Worcester Sauce 30g
- Heat grapeseed oil until hot and add the tomatoes, the pan should smoke. Do not touch the tomatoes for several minutes, allow them to slightly burn and smoke on the bottom.
- Turn over after 5 mins and continue to cook on a high heat until reduced and broken down. Meanwhile, cut the peppers, red onion, garlic and ginger into large chunks.
- Toss in some oil and grill until very charred. Be sure to char the garlic and ginger for less time as they can become bitter.
- Place all the charred vegetables into the reduced tomato along with the spices and other condiments, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat until soft.
- Blitz very well, adding more liquid if necessary, and then strain through a sieve. The final consistency should be a loose but smooth sauce.
Wok Hei Paste
Spring Onion x 4
Scotch Bonnet Chilies x 2
Vegetable Oil 125g
- Blitz the garlic, ginger and spring onion to a smooth paste. Place into a deep pot.
- Heat the oil to over 280 degrees Celsius and carefully pour over the paste and stir quickly.
- Finely dice and de-seed the scotch bonnets and then fold into the cooled paste.
Crab Brown Meat 900g
Egg Yolks 200g
Scotch Bonnet x 1
Whipping Cream 300g (+ if needed)
- Blitz the whipping cream, milk, the crab, egg yolks and finely chopped ginger, garlic and scotch bonnet for 2 minutes until totally smooth.
- Gently heat the custard while whisking and scraping the edges with a spatula until coating the back of a spoon.
- Strain the custard and season well with smoked salt.
To cook rice and finish the dish:
Rice Broth 3kg
Jasmine Rice 3kg
Grapeseed Oil (to measure)
Beef Fat (1tbsp per serving)
Wok Hei Paste (1 tsp per serving)
- Warm up the broth to near boiling. Rinse and wash rice then drain until dry.
- Toast the grains in grapeseed oil and then place into a flat large tray. Pour over the broth to equal weight of the rice. Loosen each tray of rice with some filtered water if
- necessary and then steam in the oven for 20 mins.
- Pull out the rice and cook for a further 5 mins if necessary, until al dente. Leave rice to cool at room temp, breaking it with your hands and adding some cold butter to separate the grains.
- Heat up the rice in a frying pan to order with the beef fat and wok hei paste. Warm the crab custard and pour over the rice.
Celebrity Indian chef Manish Mehrotra has won several awards, including American Express Best Chef of the Year, and runs fine-dining Indian Accent restaurants in New Delhi and New York. He works to promote his country’s cuisine internationally, and Indian Accent was ranked 60th in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2020, and 13th in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in March 2020.
Manish tells Luxeat: “Rice is special in Indian cuisine and definitely in the Indian Accent kitchen. We serve it as a side dish with almost every meal, and we do it in different ways – we even use different rice for desserts, and there is a special kind of rice which comes from Bengal which we serve with different sorbets. The types of rice we have in India are very unique and very flavourful.”
Gobindo bhog kheer, nuts, sorbet, air dried fruits
35g Gobindo Bhog Rice
500ml Full Cream Milk
100g Condensed Milk
White Chocolate Sticks
30g White Chocolate
30g Cooked Kheer (Thick)
1 scoop Pistachio Ice-Cream
1 quenelle Mango Sorbet
1 quenelle Black currant Sorbet
Air Dried Strawberries
Air Dried Blackcurrant
Air Dried Mango
Air Dried Raspberries
Roasted Cashew nuts
For the Kheer:
- Wash the rice a couple of times and soak it in water for at least an hour, strain and reserve.
- Bring the milk up to a boil in a saucepan and add the soaked rice to the milk.
- Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and the rice is completely cooked.
- Cool the Kheer and add condensed milk. Check for sweetness.
- Reserve 30g of the cooked Kheer for the wafer and reserve the rest until needed.
For the Kheer Wafer:
- Preheat the oven to 150oC
- Cook the reserved Kheer further until it thickens.
- Chill and then puree the Kheer until it’s smooth.
- Spread the Kheer puree on a non-stick baking sheet using a palette knife until a thin layer is formed.
- Bake for 8-10mins until the wafer gets a light brown color.
For the White Chocolate Sticks:
- Melt the chite chocolate in a bain marie – temper the chocolate if needed.
- Pipe in straight lines over the parchment paper and leave it to set at room temperature.
- Once set, store it in an airtight container until needed.
- Spoon the Kheer in a plate and spread it in a circle.
- Spread the Air Dried Fruits, Nuts and Mint leaves randomly all over the Kheer.
- Place the Pistachio Ice-Cream Scoop at 12 o’clock, the mango sorbet at 5 o’clock and the blackcurrant sorbet at 7 o’clock.
- Break the kheer wafer into shards and arrange three of them at different angles over the Kheer.
- Top it with chite chocolate sticks by making them stand with support from the wafer and serve.
Quique Dacosta Restaurante opened its doors in 1981 under the name of El Poblet and slowly developed into one of the world’s most creative restaurants. Quique is one of the new leaders of avant-garde cuisine in Spain, using only locally sourced ingredients from within 75 km of his restaurant.
Quique tells Luxeat: This crispy rice dish is a signature of ours. It’s the essence of fisherman’s rice (arroz a banda), as well as the essence of the most traditional dish in the city of Denia. We also suggest eating it with your hand, with your fingertips, so you can notice the crunchy texture of the caramelized rice. The best part? It’s the crispy rice at the bottom of the pan! The crunchy layer, that adds texture and chewing time to the experience of eating rice.
Dry arroz a banda in paella
25 g garlic and cayenne pepper oil*
1 g Spanish paprika
200 g diced cuttlefish
200 g monkfish cubes
90 g ripe tomato sofrito*
225 g Senia-variety rice
12 strands of saffron
1.2 l fish stock*
- In a paella pan (with a base measuring 35 cm in diameter), add 25 g of garlic oil. Heat over medium-high heat and brown the cuttlefish for 1 minute. Next add the cubes of monkfish, brown well and lower the heat. Add the paprika, sauté for 4 seconds and add the tomato sofrito on top of the paprika. Fry gently for 1 more minute. Add the rice, sauté everything together for 1 minute and then add the strands of saffron.
- With the broth boiling in a separate pot, “moisten” the rice. Stir with a wooden spoon for 1 minute to prevent the rice from clumping and then never touch the rice again with the spoon. Keep over high heat for 6 minutes.
- After 6 minutes, lower the heat for the next 4 minutes to medium heat and then for the last 5 minutes to minimum heat. Then during the last 2-3 minutes, turn up the heat to the maximum to create the socarrat (crusty rice at the bottom). During the last 15 seconds, add a thin stream of garlic oil to speed up the carmelisation.
- Turn off the heat. Let rest for 3 minutes away from the heat before serving at the table.