The Balinese Secret To Perfect Rice

Balinese CuisineFor as long as I’ve known my wife, she’s talked about travelling the world, learning to cook the local specialties at each port of call. The first stop on our world cooking tour was Bali.

Bali, for those who don’t already know, is an island in the Indonesian chain located in the south pacific. It is the only predominantly Hindu island in Indonesia. Beef would definitely not be on the menu.

Neither would much meat of any sort, were you Balinese.

The average Balinese household has a mere 50,000 Rp (around $6 US) for food and daily expenses. According to our guide, for a Balinese family, buying a chicken at market would be like you or me spending $200 US on chicken. That’s not meant as a comment on poverty or the Indonesian economy. I mention it only to make the point that there’s a reason meat doesn’t constitute a large share of the Balinese diet.

Balinese Rice TerraceDue to its low cost and availability, rice – known locally as nasi – is the main staple in Bali. Beautiful rice terraces, like the one seen here, cover the Balinese landscape. And, since it’s their main staple, you can be darn sure they know how to prepare it.

During the course of our time in Bali, I learned the secret to getting rice to turn out perfectly every time. If anyone could put that secret to good use, it would be my carbo-loading, running brethren. Therefore, as it was passed on to me, so I shall pass it on to you, Midpack Readers – along with the recipe for a fantastic Balinese rice pudding that just became my favorite pre-race dinner.

The secret art of steamed rice

The secret to preparing perfect rice actually isn’t exclusively Balinese. It’s a practice that was common across most of the world until the dawn of enriched, white rice.

To prepare perfect rice, you should wash it first for 15-20 minutes. Simply place the rice in a bowl and cover it with water. Massage the grains for 5 minutes. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Then repeat. At the end, pour the water off, and cook using fresh water.

Now, there has been an argument made that washing enriched rice reduces its nutritional content. That’s a valid argument. However, most of us, particularly in the athletic and health communities are getting our daily nutrition without some questionable additive powder.

There are more benefits to pre-washing rice than drawbacks, so I’m going to advocate you try it and see if you don’t notice a difference.

In fact, you can start with this Balinese black rice pudding recipe.

1 cup glutinous black rice
¾ cup glutinous white rice
5 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup granulated palm sugar
(optional) coconut cream, to taste


  1. Combine the black and white rice in a medium bowl and wash according to the directions above. Make sure to pour off the water when finished.
  2. Refill the bowl so the rice is fully submerged and let stand at room temperature for 8 hours.
  3. Place the rice, cinnamon sticks, and 5 cups of water into a medium stockpan. Cook covered over medium heat for 45 minutes.
  4. Add the palm sugar, and resume cooking covered over medium heat until the majority of the liquid has cooked off.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature, optionally with coconut cream.

So, that’s part of what I’ve been up to for the last two weeks. I have a bit more to say about Bali, but I’ll be sure to keep it on-topic. No one wants to see my vacation slides, right? Until next time, enjoy the rice!

As a side note, if you really do want the NRR (not running related) details about plane rides, ancient temples, tropical fish, and other Balinese adventures, leave me a note in the comments. If the demand is there, I’ll consider writing a full account of the trip. Leave me some love.

  4 Responses to The Balinese Secret To Perfect Rice
  1. Amy

    Ah yes, the secret art of rice making. That is something I too had to learn from being in a rice dominating culture. I have a great coconut rice and cilantro dish for you sometime. Who am I kidding I have a rice recipe for everything now.

    You will appreciate this one. This is from Frank DeLima as some words of advice this past year to the Hawaii graduating class of 2010.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Great speech, Amy. Thanks for the link! I’m looking forward to trying that recipe.

  2. Perfect rice has never come easy to me. I’ll have to try the washing method. Thanks!

    • Tim Woodbury

      Hi Heather,

      I’ve been surprised by how much of a difference this makes. Now that I know the secret, I had to share. If I can help even one person cook fluffier rice, I’ll consider this post a success.

      Let me know what you think, Heather!

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