Mexican Style Rice – A Popular Side and Staple

Whenever a Mexican dish is seasoned with tomatoes and onions, it might fall in the category of “a la mexicana” (Mexican style). Some examples are: the raw tomato salsa now popularized as pico de gallo, which used to be called salsa Mexicana; or huevos a la mexicana, consisting of scrambled eggs mixed in with sautéed tomatoes and onions. It easily follows that the reddish, veggie-studded dish pictured at the top of this post – omnipresent on every platter at Mexican restaurants – would be called Mexican style rice, or “arroz a la mexicana.”

In traditional Mexican fashion, a mid-day meal with three or four courses would be the norm; after a soup or appetizer, and before the main dish, either this rice or a small portion of pasta would be served as a course, on its own.  Other families might opt for rice as a first course, instead of regular soup, labelling it back in the day as “sopa seca” (“dry soup”).  It is a little bit of an oxymoron (see my featured word), but we even used to call this dish “sopa de arroz” (rice soup), and I remember it as one of the tastiest staples to come home to, after a day at school.

Mexican Style Rice – Arroz a la Mexicana

Printable recipe: Mexican Style Rice

Ingredients

2 small tomatoes, such as Roma
¼ onion
1 cup long grain rice
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 cups hot water, or broth
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic; peeled
¼ cup peas, fresh or frozen
½ cup carrots; washed, peeled and cut into small cubes (approx. 1 small carrot)

Wash tomatoes, remove stem end and cut into large chunks; process in the blender with the onion, until very smooth, and have ready by the stove:

Rinse rice in a bowl with warm water, drain, and repeat at least twice, until the water looks mostly clear.  Drain one more time through a strainer, and let dry completely.  Have the rest of the ingredients set up:

003 ingredients

004 heat oil test with a few grainsDissolve salt in the hot water (or broth); keep ready by the stove.  In a wide pot over medium heat, warm up the oil; it must be nice and hot to fry the rice, so test readiness by adding a few grains and looking for a strong sizzle:

 

 

 

 

Add rice, stirring constantly to avoid excessively fast browning; it should sound and look like it is getting fried, not steamed.  Continue cooking and monitoring carefully, until crispy and light golden brown. The photos below show stages at three and six minutes; it may be appreciated how fast it browns:

Immediately add the reserved tomato blend, and stir until rice is completely coated; reduce heat to simmer for about two minutes:

Add garlic, and continue cooking for one minute; add reserved salty hot liquid to the rice (photo left); increase heat to high,  and add veggies (photo, right):

012 15 minutes simmering check bottomBring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Uncover and check if the surface has dried out; check bottom of the pot very carefully with a fork, it should not have any liquid left:

 

 

 

 

Taste one grain; it should be completely cooked.  Turn off the heat and let the pot rest on the burner, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes (photo left); fluff very lightly with a fork, folding from the edges towards the centre of the pot (photo, right):

The final product should be fluffy, tender and each grain should be separating easily:

016 rice close-up

Many people nowadays serve this rice as a side, restaurant style, but when served on its own, it would not be unusual to find it topped with a fried egg:

017 rice with fried egg on top

A portion of restaurant Mexican style rice might seem like a boring side without a trace of innovation, but I am always very keen to cook this dish at home, and getting it just right.  The flavour and freshness are definitely good enough reasons, but the scents produced while the rice is frying, and the tomato and aromatics are incorporated, bring back comforting memories of my mom‘s little kitchen, just like the pleasant smell of rain on dry ground, at the end of a long day in sunny Mexico.

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18 thoughts on “Mexican Style Rice – A Popular Side and Staple

      1. Aaah, I see, that makes sense; maybe I did not read the recipes carefully enough. I think those alternatives would work with my recipe, I should try one of these days …

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Konjac rice didn’t appeal to me but as far as suppressing the appetite goes, it is very good. Cauliflower rice is good but one has to be careful not to overlook it.

        Liked by 1 person

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