Mesoamerican cuisine is where Mexican roots truly are. This region covered Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, and it had four main staple ingredients like different kinds of maize, squash, chili and beans. These four were usually combined by the natives with avocados, cacao, pineapple and sweet potatoes to prepare various meals.
Hernan Cortés was a Spanish conqueror who led the expedition to the Aztec Empire. When he arrived on the coasts of Mexico around 1519, he brought with him some staple foods from Spain like meats from domesticated animals which the locals did not consume, dairy products, sugar, olive oil and rice.
Rice and Spice
As a result of the Spanish conquest, rice recipes became more and more famous among Mexicans. Following Spanish influences, Asian and African rice recipes were also introduced to this amazing country. This could be the reason why we find so many dishes in Mexico that share some sort of similarity with Asian or African ones, although with their own local twist, of course!
In Spain, many rice dishes have garlic, onion and saffron as their base ingredients. In Mexico, rice dishes will always include at least one of these staple ingredients: tomatoes, tomatillos and chiles of different kinds. Chiles are an essential ingredient in Mexican cuisine, since they add heat and plenty of flavor to every recipe. Poblano chile, for example, is one of the most popular ones: they are mild and are often consumed roasted and peeled. When dried, they are called ancho chiles and they are the ideal accompaniment for rice.
Mexico and Spain mixed together
We’ve talked before about the Spanish influence on Mexican cuisine. Arroz Rojo is the perfect example to show how these two cultures are mixed together. This is a dish that has its origins in Persian cuisine; later brought to Spain. Rice is cooked with fat or oil in a skillet until brown and then cooked with chicken broth and tomato sauce, hence the name Arroz Rojo (red rice).
Keep on reading to find out a delicious and easy recipe to make a great version of Mexican rice by Mahatma® Rice, your own Arroz Rojo to delight your guests!
- 1 cup long-grain white rice.
- 1¾ cups chicken broth.
- 2 garlic cloves.
- ½ onion.
- 2½ tbsp tomato paste.
- 1½ tbsp olive oil.
- Salt to taste.
- 1 Poblano chile.
- Chopped cilantro.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the finely chopped cloves of garlic and stir briefly. Be careful on this step since garlic tends to burn pretty easily!
- Add the finely chopped white onion and let it cook until translucent. This should take you about four to five minutes. Note that translucent does not mean brown or golden, pay attention to the color of the onion, otherwise, it will have a strong, unpleasant flavor!
- Add your rice and stir again, it should be coated with the oil, garlic and onion so as to start absorbing their flavors.
- Slowly add the chicken or vegetable broth and then the tomato paste. Stir again until the tomato paste is fully dissolved and your water mixture turns red.
- Now it’s spice time! Plonk in the poblano chile: if you leave the seeds of the chile, it will be even spicier; you’ll love this if you enjoy spicy food, but be careful if you prefer gentler meals.
- Put a lid on the saucepan and bring this mixture to a simmer. Lower the heat so that the rice is cooked slowly and has time to absorb all the flavors of the water in which it is submerged. Cook until all liquid is gone (about fifteen minutes).
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and keep it covered for at least ten extra minutes. This is a key step to obtaining a fluffy and flavorful Arroz Rojo.
- Before serving this to your guests, grab a fork and break all clumps of rice. Believe it or not, this is another key step for fluffy rice. Top the rice with chopped cilantro to add a fresh touch!
This recipe of Arroz Rojo goes perfectly well with some sautéed vegetables like spinach and onions with beans, and if you eat meat, served as a side dish for roasted chicken! Give it a try and delight yourself!