What is rice water?
Let’s head to Ghana with this porridge made from rice called rice water. Rice water is a recipe that is well known to locals in Ghana and exists under different names around the world.
Rice water is eaten for breakfast or as a snack, accompanied by milk, sugar and nutmeg. It’s delicious and so easy to make. But this simple porridge has its own story.
Ghana is a former British colony known as the Gold Coast. 67 % of this Commonwealth country speak English.
Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) was the politician who led Ghana to its independence. He mobilized the local population to boycott and civil disobedience, which earned him imprisonment by the British authorities for three years from 1948 to 1951.
Upon leaving prison, Nkrumah was appointed prime minister and worked closely with the British authorities. He militated mainly for Pan-Africanism. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed the independence of Ghana in a communiqué.
In 1960, Nkrumah naturally became the first president of the country and the founder of the first republic of Ghana. The school system expanded, private schools became public and the enrollment rate multiplied by 7.
As early as the 1970s, Ghana achieved one of the best literacy rates in Africa, with over 60% of children, boys and girls, enrolled and literate. On February 24, 1966, while Nkrumah was traveling to China, a coup d’état was started. The first republic was abolished.
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In several menus of Ghanaian restaurants, there are mentions of “Ghanaian rice”. Is there really a Ghanaian rice? While Ghanaian cuisine is based on sticky foods, Ghanaian people are not particularly fond of rice or even an exporter of this product. For an explanation on Ghanaian rice, we have to go back to Kwame Nkrumah.
Ghana had made several alliances with neighboring countries. Nkrumah also tried to send military forces to support the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, then facing separatist attempts backed by Belgium. The “post-independence” period of the Congo Leopoldville was really hectic, with the assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the secession of Katanga and the secession of Kasai.
Before his assassination, Lumumba appealed to the UN peacekeepers to calm the Katangan secession. Swedish and Ghanaian peacekeepers were sent to Congo to help the Congolese army recapture Katanga.
“Ghanaian rice” was part of the military ration. On the field, the logistics were led by the Americans. The ration rice began to take over market stalls and other stores, far from the field of operations, which quickly seized the opportunity and hastened to forge solid relations with the Ghanaian military, the purveyors of this rare commodity. Ghanaian rice came from Thailand or India. It was nicknamed loso ya ghana and became part of Ghanaian culinary culture.
The same story is found in other African countries with other products. This is the case of Elengi eye, the big box of corned beef from Angola. These were military rations that were diverted to markets from the front.
Rice porridge around the world
Rice porridge is consumed all over the world. In France, riz au lait is a sweet dessert traditionally prepared in a saucepan. It is boiled or baked, sometimes molded like a cake. It can be mixed with beaten eggs, topped with caramel, flavored with vanilla, cinnamon or accompanied by raisins.
Congee or canja (Portuguese) is a rice porridge. The terms canja or congee come from Tamil kañji which means “rice with water”. This is one of the traditional dishes of Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries, such as Brazil. When garnished, it can be a quick dish eaten on the run.
Congee is widely consumed in several East Asian countries. In China and Japan, rice porridge is often served to sick people, in the same way that chicken broth or chicken noodle soup is served to people who are bedridden or have colds in Western countries.
In Denmark, risalamande is eaten at the traditional Christmas meals. It is a rice pudding with added whipped cream, vanilla, chopped almonds, and z cherry liqueur called Heering. This dessert is also popular in Norway in a more special version named riskrem usually served with a raspberry coulis.
Sütlaç is the Turkish variant of rice pudding. Sütlaç is very much eaten as a dessert by the Turkish population. You will find it at many restaurants in Istanbul. In the composition of sütlaç, you will find milk, rice, water, sugar, cinnamon powder, lemon zest, vanilla sugar and rice cream.
The taste of nutmeg in the Ghanaian rice water makes it special. We warmly invite you to try this recipe.
- 1 cup rice
- 5 cups water
- Salt (to taste)
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- Sugar (or honey), to serve
- Evaporated milk , to serve
- Hot water (boiling)
- Wash the rice until the water is clear, then drain.
- Place the rice in a bowl and add 5 cups of water.
- Cook the rice until tender, about 15 minutes. Use more water, if necessary, to obtain a soft and sticky rice.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Using the flat side of a wooden spoon, crush the rice until it is soft and flattens into a ball.
- Add boiling water to soften it to the desired thickness and consistency.
- Serve the hot rice water with a pinch of nutmeg, evaporated milk, sugar (or honey), toasted nuts and coconut flakes or other ingredients of your choice.