Why Black Rice Is Verboten

What's so forbidden and forbidding about black rice?

After all, it's delicious. "I really love black rice for its nutty taste," Cheeryvisage says. "Supposedly, the name 'forbidden' comes from the fact that in ancient China, only royalty (i.e. the emperor) could consume black rice. Commoners were forbidden to eat black rice."

Cheeryvisage says that the rice is easy to prepare, and the cooking water can be reserved for other uses. "You should rinse and soak the black rice for a couple of hours first to soften it up, then cook it as you would white rice," Cheeryvisage says. "The soaking water will turn a deep purple—that's normal. You can discard the water, or just reserve it as a natural food dye. I like to use the water for bread and pastries to turn them purple."

The grain's lasting stain is another potential reason black rice might be considered a culinary outlaw. "My family used it from time to time," says jumpingmonk. "Most notably in the infamous 'black death paella incident.' ... [T]hat water really will turn into a dye. It will stain cloth and more importantly, [it] will stain the inside of the pot if it's at all scratched. It will also dye any other food you cook in there the same color. That paella I mentioned came out the color of blueberry-pie filling and that included the shrimp, the chicken, and the water chestnuts."

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