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How to make good Mexican restaurant style rice at home?

How to make good Mexican restaurant style rice at home?
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  • How to make good Mexican restaurant style rice at home?

    Post #1 - December 5th, 2017, 7:46 pm
    Post #1 - December 5th, 2017, 7:46 pm Post #1 - December 5th, 2017, 7:46 pm
    Hi,

    This is something I've experimented with and looked into for many years. I'm looking for that perfectly orange, flavorful rice with evenly cooked grains that look like glistening jewels.

    I have not found any recipes in cookbooks or online that come close to this. Rick Bayless has a good recipe for "red tomato rice" but it's not at all like what I'm looking for. He uses medium grain rice and cooks it with a chunky homemade bright red salsa to get a red-tinged, somewhat dense end product. It tastes good, but not the same as the fluffy orange rice I mentioned above.

    Most Mexican restaurants don't even do a good job, but one that comes to mind is Mas Alla Del Sol in Edgewater.
    o.jpg Mas Alla Del Sol Rice
    I once asked them how they make it but didn't get a clear answer. I think they use the Knorr tomato bouillon w/chicken flavor, but they said something about adding it at the end?

    I've tried using the bouillon, tomato juice, and chicken broth, in many different combinations with different cooking techniques. Any attempts I've made come out pink, not orange, and the texture isn't right. It's too mushy or unevenly cooked.

    Does anyone know the secret to making perfect Mexican restaurant rice?

    Fyi, I make regular steamed rice and rice pilaf all the time, and they turn out great.
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #2 - December 5th, 2017, 8:00 pm
    Post #2 - December 5th, 2017, 8:00 pm Post #2 - December 5th, 2017, 8:00 pm
    Have you tried frying the uncooked rice first? I've found that this coats each grain with oil. You fry in a generous splash of oil on high heat for maybe 5-10 minutes, until the rice looks white and chalky. You can then add diced onion and tomato (fresh or sauce). Definitely do not overdo the tomato, the pulp can interfere with the rice cooking evenly.

    And honestly for that true restaurant-style flavor you gotta use a bouillon product with heavy salt and even MSG. That Knorr tomato one works. Goya sazón is probably the most authentic. Annatto lends the orange coloring. There's an annatto sazón that would probably yield exactly what you are looking for.
  • Post #3 - December 5th, 2017, 8:01 pm
    Post #3 - December 5th, 2017, 8:01 pm Post #3 - December 5th, 2017, 8:01 pm
    THANK YOU for posting this--I don't know why I never thought to do it, considering that almost every time I make Mexican food at home (at least a few times a month), my husband makes a comment about how much he pines for the rice at Mexican Inn (the rest of the un-uttered-sentence being, "and yours DOESN'T taste like that" :roll: ).

    Like you, I've tried a million different variations and, while he says they're good (or "fine"), they aren't "right".

    So I'll be watching this thread and hoping for an answer to this dilemma!!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #4 - December 5th, 2017, 8:16 pm
    Post #4 - December 5th, 2017, 8:16 pm Post #4 - December 5th, 2017, 8:16 pm
    +1 on the Goya sazon. I think it will turn the trick for you.

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #5 - December 5th, 2017, 10:18 pm
    Post #5 - December 5th, 2017, 10:18 pm Post #5 - December 5th, 2017, 10:18 pm
    Jefe wrote:Have you tried frying the uncooked rice first? I've found that this coats each grain with oil. You fry in a generous splash of oil on high heat for maybe 5-10 minutes, until the rice looks white and chalky. You can then add diced onion and tomato (fresh or sauce). Definitely do not overdo the tomato, the pulp can interfere with the rice cooking evenly.

    And honestly for that true restaurant-style flavor you gotta use a bouillon product with heavy salt and even MSG. That Knorr tomato one works. Goya sazón is probably the most authentic. Annatto lends the orange coloring. There's an annatto sazón that would probably yield exactly what you are looking for.


    I've tried frying in oil first, did not get the results I'm looking for. I don't want to add any chunks of onion or tomato, the end result I'm looking for has a perfectly even color/texture. (Also, I am personally against any sort of carrot, corn, or green beans being added).

    I made some tonight using 1/2 tomato juice that I drained off a can of crushed tomatoes, 1/2 water, with a 1/2 cube of calories de tomate bouillon and some fresh garlic blended in as my cooking liquid. Using a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice, I boiled the liquid in a 5 qt pot and added the rice, then stirred, covered with a piece of parchment and a tight fitting lid, and baked at 335 F for about 18 min.

    There was not enough liquid, it dried up before the rice cooked. I think Jefe is correct, the tomato solids from the juice caused this. I had to add some more water and bake it longer. It did eventually cook, but came out an uneven pale red, and not the right flavor, and obviously the texture wasn't right.
    20171205_205606-1-1.jpg



    I have a feeling the annato Sazon will give it the brighter orange I'm looking for. The texture issue is still elusive.

    In high school a friend's mom (she was Mexican) once made us some really good rice that had the 'right' texture and color, but I didn't ask how she made it. I did see she used a wide skillet with a lid and cooked it on the stove, not in the oven...

    A young coworker who is half Mexican told me his family has a really good rice recipe that he will get for me, so I'll report back if that happens. He said he once went to Mexico with his mom as a kid, and waited several hours while she spent the day learning a salsa recipe from an old woman. There are still some things you can't find online.
    Last edited by bnowell724 on December 5th, 2017, 10:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #6 - December 5th, 2017, 10:24 pm
    Post #6 - December 5th, 2017, 10:24 pm Post #6 - December 5th, 2017, 10:24 pm
    Oh! My coworker mentioned that his family soaks the rice first to get rid of the starch.

    I haven't gotten a definitive answer on the type of rice used.
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #7 - December 5th, 2017, 10:36 pm
    Post #7 - December 5th, 2017, 10:36 pm Post #7 - December 5th, 2017, 10:36 pm
    bnowell724 wrote: Using a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice, I boiled the liquid in a 5 qt pot and added the rice, then stirred, covered with a piece of parchment and a tight fitting lid, and baked at 335 F for about 18 min.


    That's a new one for me! Only time I've ever heard of baking rice was to make something like Chicken Supreme (the old college standby--rice topped with cans of Campbell's cream of mushroom, cream of celery and cream of chicken, baked with chicken on top lol!!)

    For me, texture isn't the issue--my rice comes out with the same texture as the restaurant version--I just use a rice cooker. But the flavor and color are what I'm struggling with. I've used the Goya packet but only once and I don't remember the verdict but it wasn't "right." I'm sure it was proportions that were off. Curious to hear what others chime in with!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #8 - December 5th, 2017, 11:11 pm
    Post #8 - December 5th, 2017, 11:11 pm Post #8 - December 5th, 2017, 11:11 pm
    boudreaulicious wrote:
    bnowell724 wrote: Using a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice, I boiled the liquid in a 5 qt pot and added the rice, then stirred, covered with a piece of parchment and a tight fitting lid, and baked at 335 F for about 18 min.


    That's a new one for me! Only time I've ever heard of baking rice was to make something like Chicken Supreme (the old college standby--rice topped with cans of Campbell's cream of mushroom, cream of celery and cream of chicken, baked with chicken on top lol!!)

    For me, texture isn't the issue--my rice comes out with the same texture as the restaurant version--I just use a rice cooker. But the flavor and color are what I'm struggling with. I've used the Goya packet but only once and I don't remember the verdict but it wasn't "right." I'm sure it was proportions that were off. Curious to hear what others chime in with!


    I've wondered if a rice cooker would give better results, but I didn't think most of the restaurants used them. I need to buy one so I can try it out.

    I like to cook rice in the oven because it provides a more even heating environment-comes from all sides rather than just from the bottom.

    All the different tomato products I've tried - bouillon cubes, juice, canned puree, fresh puree - and they all give the rice a pink color, not orange. I really think annato is the answer. Sazon makes a powdered form that would disperse easily in the cooking liquid. Two sources have recommended the tomato chicken bouillon cubes though, including Mas Alla Del Sol, so maybe the answer is a combo of tomato AND annato?
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #9 - December 5th, 2017, 11:29 pm
    Post #9 - December 5th, 2017, 11:29 pm Post #9 - December 5th, 2017, 11:29 pm
    Color wheel moment: Pink (red with white) mixed with yellow will give you a shade of orange color, which puts you on the right track.

    Regards,
    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #10 - December 6th, 2017, 9:26 am
    Post #10 - December 6th, 2017, 9:26 am Post #10 - December 6th, 2017, 9:26 am
    I cook my Spanish rice like I cook all my other rice, a technique that hasn't failed me in 20 years– 1.25 parts water to 1 part rice. I usually rinse, but the frying step cooks off the excess starch. The liquid boils, I reduce to the lowest simmer, put a lid on it, and cook for 12 minutes. I never remove the lid. And after cook time I pull it off the heat immediately and let steam for another 10 mins.

    In terms of getting that yellowness & saltiness from your Sázon, follow the instructions on the box and though your inner food snob might balk at the use of this industrial product, don't skimp. I wouldn't be surprised if many Mex joints simply cook their rice only with the cubes and no veg. I have a fondness for the more tomato-y Spanish rices of my 80s suburban youth, so I add tomato and onions.
  • Post #11 - December 6th, 2017, 10:30 am
    Post #11 - December 6th, 2017, 10:30 am Post #11 - December 6th, 2017, 10:30 am
    boudreaulicious wrote:That's a new one for me! Only time I've ever heard of baking rice was to make something like Chicken Supreme (the old college standby--rice topped with cans of Campbell's cream of mushroom, cream of celery and cream of chicken, baked with chicken on top lol!!)

    I've used a Bayless white rice recipe where it cooks in the oven. It's kind of this recipe although without the spreading it on a rimmed pan step.
    -Mary
  • Post #12 - December 6th, 2017, 11:11 am
    Post #12 - December 6th, 2017, 11:11 am Post #12 - December 6th, 2017, 11:11 am
    I, too, have struggled for years to make Mexican restaurant style rice. I can finally do it thanks to a family friend. The secret is the Goya Sázon with Coriander and Annatto. She uses three or 4 packets with a double recipe.

    I pan fried the rice. Sauteed onions and added a tablespoon or so of tomato paste to the onions and sauteed a bit longer. Added the rest of the ingredients, including Sázon, using chicken stock as liquid. Eureka.

    She adds Goya Sazon to many other dishes. It is a kitchen cheat right up there with gulasch creme.
  • Post #13 - December 6th, 2017, 1:35 pm
    Post #13 - December 6th, 2017, 1:35 pm Post #13 - December 6th, 2017, 1:35 pm
    Jefe wrote:I cook my Spanish rice like I cook all my other rice, a technique that hasn't failed me in 20 years– 1.25 parts water to 1 part rice. I usually rinse, but the frying step cooks off the excess starch. The liquid boils, I reduce to the lowest simmer, put a lid on it, and cook for 12 minutes. I never remove the lid. And after cook time I pull it off the heat immediately and let steam for another 10 mins.

    In terms of getting that yellowness & saltiness from your Sázon, follow the instructions on the box and though your inner food snob might balk at the use of this industrial product, don't skimp. I wouldn't be surprised if many Mex joints simply cook their rice only with the cubes and no veg. I have a fondness for the more tomato-y Spanish rices of my 80s suburban youth, so I add tomato and onions.


    I will try this technique and report back.

    Is there a particular type rice you use?

    Do you use a pot or a skillet?
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #14 - December 6th, 2017, 1:39 pm
    Post #14 - December 6th, 2017, 1:39 pm Post #14 - December 6th, 2017, 1:39 pm
    funkyfrank wrote:I, too, have struggled for years to make Mexican restaurant style rice. I can finally do it thanks to a family friend. The secret is the Goya Sázon with Coriander and Annatto. She uses three or 4 packets with a double recipe.

    I pan fried the rice. Sauteed onions and added a tablespoon or so of tomato paste to the onions and sauteed a bit longer. Added the rest of the ingredients, including Sázon, using chicken stock as liquid. Eureka.


    Thanks! I will try this technique.

    What are the cooking instructions once you add the stock? Do you have measurements for the ingredients?
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #15 - December 6th, 2017, 2:01 pm
    Post #15 - December 6th, 2017, 2:01 pm Post #15 - December 6th, 2017, 2:01 pm
    bnowell724 wrote:
    Jefe wrote:I cook my Spanish rice like I cook all my other rice, a technique that hasn't failed me in 20 years– 1.25 parts water to 1 part rice. I usually rinse, but the frying step cooks off the excess starch. The liquid boils, I reduce to the lowest simmer, put a lid on it, and cook for 12 minutes. I never remove the lid. And after cook time I pull it off the heat immediately and let steam for another 10 mins.

    In terms of getting that yellowness & saltiness from your Sázon, follow the instructions on the box and though your inner food snob might balk at the use of this industrial product, don't skimp. I wouldn't be surprised if many Mex joints simply cook their rice only with the cubes and no veg. I have a fondness for the more tomato-y Spanish rices of my 80s suburban youth, so I add tomato and onions.


    I will try this technique and report back.

    Is there a particular type rice you use?

    Do you use a pot or a skillet?


    I would use medium grain for this, though a run-of-the-mill long grain would work fine too. And I use a pot.
  • Post #16 - December 6th, 2017, 5:32 pm
    Post #16 - December 6th, 2017, 5:32 pm Post #16 - December 6th, 2017, 5:32 pm
    If anyone is interested here is a Metafilter thread from 2008 where someone asks the same question -Rice, Rice, baby

    Multiple people offer their family recipes. Most call for sautéing the raw rice in oil or lard first. One person said she saw a Mexican restaurant pouring a quart of oil in a pan, to fry the rice grains. Also most recommend sautéing the tomato product with the rice before adding cooking liquid. Long grain seems to be the preferred rice size.
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #17 - December 7th, 2017, 10:55 am
    Post #17 - December 7th, 2017, 10:55 am Post #17 - December 7th, 2017, 10:55 am
    funkyfrank wrote:She uses three or 4 packets with a double recipe.


    What constitutes a "double recipe?" How many cups of rice?
  • Post #18 - December 7th, 2017, 11:01 am
    Post #18 - December 7th, 2017, 11:01 am Post #18 - December 7th, 2017, 11:01 am
    Kid Charlemagne wrote:
    funkyfrank wrote:She uses three or 4 packets with a double recipe.


    What constitutes a "double recipe?" How many cups of rice?

    Two cups of rice
  • Post #19 - December 7th, 2017, 11:16 am
    Post #19 - December 7th, 2017, 11:16 am Post #19 - December 7th, 2017, 11:16 am
    bnowell724 wrote:
    funkyfrank wrote:I, too, have struggled for years to make Mexican restaurant style rice. I can finally do it thanks to a family friend. The secret is the Goya Sázon with Coriander and Annatto. She uses three or 4 packets with a double recipe.

    I pan fried the rice. Sauteed onions and added a tablespoon or so of tomato paste to the onions and sauteed a bit longer. Added the rest of the ingredients, including Sázon, using chicken stock as liquid. Eureka.


    Thanks! I will try this technique.

    What are the cooking instructions once you add the stock? Do you have measurements for the ingredients?

    I generally make two cups of rice at a time. I follow the instructions on the rice. I generally use Lundberg rice - Jubilee, Basmati, or short brown. I fry/brown the rice in a small amount of avocado oil. Sometimes, I will add a couple of TBs of Goya Sofrito to the tomato paste and onions.

    It is all a riff on a theme. Rice, onions, tomato paste and Sázon are the constants in the equation.
  • Post #20 - December 8th, 2017, 12:51 am
    Post #20 - December 8th, 2017, 12:51 am Post #20 - December 8th, 2017, 12:51 am
    Everyone who recommended sautéing the rice in oil, then sautéing the tomato product with the rice before adding the cooking liquid was spot on. I saw this method recommended so many times that I tried it yesterday and this was the result:
    20171206_220759-1.jpg


    No issues using pureed fresh tomatoes either, frying the pulp with the raw rice makes it disappear into the finished product. Adds some nice flavor, which is needed because the achiote is for color only.

    Here is the recipe I sort of improvised, in a 4 qt heavy duty pot w/ tight fitting lid(turns out it's pretty much the same technique Rick Bayless uses for his "red tomato rice", which I've made many times, but it looks and tastes much different - I'm guessing because his calls for medium grain rice, and uses a fully prepared salsa as the tomato product) :
    1. Sauté over medium heat to coat rice and turn it chalky:
    1 cup long grain rice w/
    1 T. oil

    2. Puree and add to rice; sauté over medium heat until most of liquid has cooked off:
    1 roma tomato
    1-1 1/2" chunk of raw onion
    1 clove garlic

    3. Mix; add to pot and stir to make an even layer:
    1 3/4 cups chicken stock(Progresso brand has good flavor)
    1/2 packet Goya sazon con culantro y achiote
    1/2-1 tsp sea salt

    4. Bring everything to a simmer. Cover surface of liquid with a piece of parchment cut to size of pot, with a small hole cut in the center. Place lid on pot. Turn heat to very low and set timer for 17 minutes. After 17 minutes turn off and let steam ten minutes or so before removing lid.

    This was much better than any previous efforts, although I will continue to experiment with several of the variables. I'll try out medium grain rice, and adjust amounts of oil and cooking liquid to see how that affects the texture. This came out fluffy with separate grains due to sautéing the raw grains in oil I believe, and I might even like it a bit "stickier" and/or softer. And I definitely want to make it with homemade gelatinous chicken stock sometime. Also now that I know the achiote adds nothing flavor-wise, I'll probably leave it out in the future. Anyway, I've got a solid framework to work with.

    Thanks for all the tips everyone, they were super helpful!

    P.s. I made one batch using TWO WHOLE packets of the achiote seasoning... Wayyy too much... Here is what that looks like:
    20171206_210826-1.jpg
    Logan: Come on, everybody, wang chung tonight! What? Everybody, wang chung tonight! Wang chung, or I'll kick your ass!
  • Post #21 - December 9th, 2017, 10:36 am
    Post #21 - December 9th, 2017, 10:36 am Post #21 - December 9th, 2017, 10:36 am
    P.s. I made one batch using TWO WHOLE packets of the achiote seasoning... Wayyy too much... Here is what that looks like:
    20171206_210826-1.jpg


    [img]20171206_210826-1.jpg[/img]

    My family likes the orange. Thanks for being the test kitchen on this thread.

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