We all have them. There are times when the rest of the world has gone to bed, but your stomach hasn't filled its chow quotient and wants something good. When these times hit, one looks for comfort and solace, one perfect dish that you can make with your eyes closed. For some, it may be the finest cornflakes, topped with fresh-from-the-vine raspberries and organic milk. Another may choose ultra-premium vanilla ice cream, dressed only in a voluptuous, dark, hot fudge sauce, accented with roasted almonds. I find my midnight specialty to be jasmine rice with shoyu.
It starts with a little peanut oil, about two teaspoons of it. I heat it over a medium flame while I get out the rice. Ah, the rice. Only the finest jasmine rice, imported from Thailand, will do. One cup of rice is more than enough, but I know that if I make less it won't come out quite right. Sometimes I'll rinse it, usually I won't- something about dragging out the strainer seems like too much work. I have at the ready a cup and a half of water; I draw it from the bottle while I wish our tap water was something I'd want to drink. I check the oil, and usually by now it's got that distinctive shimmer, telling me it's ready. In goes the rice, and as I stir it around so no one grain has to feel the heat for too long, potent aromas of honey and jasmine tease my senses, making me weak in the knees. I think to myself that there are few scents more beautiful than this, and keep stirring for a couple of minutes. When the time is right, in goes the water along with a pinch of salt, which gets swirled in the pan to combine the ingredients. I wait patiently for the water to boil, then turn down the heat so it can simmer low and slow. On goes the pot's lid, lined with a towel if it isn't tight enough (and it never is).
At this point, I get to wait. You see, good rice takes time. I have learned that if I wait anything less than fifteen minutes that the rice will come out a bit mushier than I like it. Sometimes I'll read through cookbooks to figure out what's for dinner next Tuesday, other times check e-mail. My timer goes off to let me know the rice wants my attention again. All it needs is to be taken off of the heat. I pull the pot off the burner, and let the rice prepare itself for another 15 minutes. Once this second quarter-hour has passed, my repast is ready. I pull off the lid, and a plume of steam greets me with the wonderful aroma of freshly cooked rice. I fluff the rice up with my fork, and gently pour as much as I feel like having into a hand-cast porcelain bowl. Waiting for me on the counter is a bottle of fine organic shoyu soy sauce- it complements the flavors of the food better than tamari soy sauce, which adds its own flavor to a dish. A light drizzle goes over the top, and my perfect midnight snack is ready to eat.