Rice is easily available and cheap throughout the world. I must struggle to think of a place in the world that I’ve traveled to where dry rice is sold for over a dollar a pound. It is also a highly nutritious grain that can serve as a base for just about any meal. For the traveler, rice takes on a whole other meaning, as you literally live off the stuff as you move from place to place around the world. It is also easy to make, and can be done up in hundreds of different ways to fit the parameters of many meals. Thus being, the basic dish of rice with meat and vegetables is at the heart of the vagabond cookbook.
It almost feels like a parody to write instructions for cooking the simple meals of the Vagabond Cookbook, and many of these recipes are added to provide a list of ideas for those who wish to cook for themselves as they travel through the world. I hope everyone who reads this already knows how to cook rice — I will just add some pointers on how to cook it with limited facilities along with how to spice it up into a good, balanced, and delicious meal.
While it is often cheap to buy rice dishes at restaurants when traveling, it is usually far cheaper to cook them yourself at the hostel, in your hotel room, or in camp. Asking around about local preparation methods for rice dishes (what spices they use, cooking strategies, etc…) can add many dimensions to your culinary repertoire. My own cooking style is a mix of USA, Mexican, Southeast Asian, and Chinese influence prepared with back country American sensibility. In point, my rice dishes are straight forward, heavily spiced, very filling, and nutritious.
What follows are ways of making simple rice based meals on the road for under $1 per person.
How to make boiled rice with vegetables
- Figure around a half cup of dry rice per adult. Pour into a bowl.
- Add two times the amount of water per the amount of rice (2 cups water for 1 cup of rice). Pour the water into a pot.
- Put the pot on a stove and boil the water.
- Once the water boils, add in the dry rice. Cover the pot, reduce heat, and simmer for around 20 minutes.
- When the rice is almost cooked, throw some vegetables into the pot. The idea here is more to “steam” the veggies than boil them. If you have multiple pots and burners at your disposal, you may want to cook the veggies separately, but it’s OK to cook them with the rice if you’re doing some single pot cooking.
- The rice should be cooked once it has absorbed all the water.
- Flavor to taste, combine with meat (or another protein source), and serve. I usually add hot sauce, soy sauce, pepper, salt, or other spices to the mix depending on local availability.
How to make friend rice
- Previously cooked rice (2 to 3 days old is best)
- Onions (if wanted)
- 2 eggs (if wanted)
- Soy sauce, salt, or other seasonings
- Fire up a frying pan with oil.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl.
- Add onions to pan and saute, then add eggs, scramble them, then fry until cooked but not dried out.
- Remove eggs from the pan, then add more oil and the previously cooked rice.
- Stir fry in vegetables with the rice.
- Cook for around five minutes.
- Return the eggs to the pan, add in sauces and/ or spices, and stir.
- If adding in meat (beef, chicken, pork, mutton etc…), remove the rice, veggies, and eggs, from the pan, add more oil, then cook the meat.
- Combine all together and serve.
Multi-meal rice cooking strategy
It is a good strategy to plan for preparing multiple meals from one set of food supplies. Like with traveler pasta, rice dishes can be spread out to make different meals for a few days in a row. When making rice on day 1, make way more than what you could ever eat. On day 2 you can add some of the extra rice to a soup. On day 3 you can make fried rice as is directed above.
Cooking meat to go with rice
Unlike some noodle dishes, rice/ meat/ veggies mixes is a little difficult to do with only one pot. If I only have one pot and one stove/ burner, I will cook the rice and veggies first, then the meat afterwards. I currently travel with two pots, so even if I only have one burner I can make the rice/ veggies in one, then cover and set it aside while I cook the meat in the other. Though I must admit that this meal is better suited for the hostel kitchen, where you generally have simultaneous access to multiple burners, than the camp, where you only have a simple stove.
Travelers and rice conclusion
I have seen travelers make magnificent rice dishes that contained multiple vegetables, meat, and an array of spices. I have also seen them just boil up a cup of rice and then add ketchup as the only amenity. The range of dishes that can be made from this grain is almost endless, its distribution and use is almost worldwide: rice is truly the traveler’s base food.
For more recipes and to find out what to add to your rice, visit the Vagabond Cookbook.