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MIT blogger Kidist A. '22

a love letter to rice cookers by Kidist A. '22

and a recipe

There are two meals I’ve had consistently this quarantine: for breakfast, I have an egg sandwich with tea, and for dinner, I have the juiciest, most delicious chicken and quinoa. This blog will focus on the latter, specifically on the beautiful fact that it is made entirely with our old rice cooker. Yes, a rice cooker. 

rice cooker

Here she is in all her glory

This rice cooker holds a special place in my heart compared to our other kitchen appliances. It originally belonged to my aunt, but she sent it to my family a few weeks after we came to America. At this point, we didn’t have many other appliances save for the few plates, utensils, and other tableware we brought with us, so many of our meals were made using this rice cooker. These meals were mostly just a variation of chicken/beef, rice, and a combination of random beans and lentils. 

I’ve had the recipe I will share later for at least five years, but I’ve developed a special appreciation and intense appetite for it since coming back home. Here are some of my guesses for the reason. 

  1. A mother’s cooking is and will always be supreme. This, of course, is the primary reason, and everything else is trivial. 
  2. I always thought that what made the chicken taste good was the combination of spices. But when I went off to college and tried to make the same chicken with the same ingredients and spices, it always ended up being more on the dry side. Instead of using a rice cooker, I was pan-frying the chicken, and while it would be relatively juicy right out of the pan, it would get drier as the leftovers spent more time in the fridge. This quarantine I realized that one of the benefits of the rice cooker is that it traps all that moisture from vegetables and meat, making the final product remarkably juicy and tender. 
  3. Using a rice cooker is quick and easy. All you have to do is chop up the meat and/or vegetables, put it in the rice cooker, and press a button. This is so much easier than pan-frying where you have to actively stand around and make sure you don’t burn your food. With the rice cooker, you can walk away and do whatever you want to do while the rice cooker does its thing. And if you’re still busy by the time the rice cooker is done? The rice cooker will keep your freshly made food warm for you! Can we just appreciate the blessing that is a rice cooker? 

In short, rice cookers are amazing. I hear their younger cousin, the instant pot, has more functions, but they are significantly more expensive. Rice cookers can do the job and are the cheaper option, so they win in my book and in my heart. Admittedly, rice cookers are more expensive than pots and pans, but they’re worth the investment. Before freshman year, I got a little cute rice cooker, but I only used it a few times. I know, shameful. But trust me when I say that as soon as I am on campus, I will be using the rice cooker at least on a weekly basis. Now, I will share the delicious recipe I have been munching on for months. I think it’s especially great for busy college students because it is a relatively hands-free recipe. Also, I like this meal a lot because I’m unfortunately a vegetable-hater,01 yes, I'm a spoiled adult that still hates most vegetables and will only eat them if I don't notice it. It's embarrassing, and I'm trying to change, I promise and this is one of the few meals where I can see the onions and tomatoes go into making the food and not try to pick it out while eating. So, to my fellow vegetable-haters, I hope this can be another recipe in your limited list of acceptable vegetable-including meals. 

Before I list the ingredients, here are some disclaimers. Since my mom has been making this for ages, she doesn’t really measure out everything, specifically the spices. The day she prepared this was the only exception. This is all to say that there will always be variation and that this list is not a strict formula. If you find that ⅓ tablespoon of paprika is too much, then by all means switch it up. You can add butter if you want; the options are endless. To help quantify things a little bit, I measured the first six ingredients(it’s in parentheses) in addition to listing the quantity. Additionally, the quantity of the ingredients clearly depends on the size of your rice cooker, so take that into consideration. I don’t want to say for certain that everything is proportional, but it should be. I can definitely see how it’s frustrating to hear “listen to your gut” and “use your best judgment” in a recipe that should provide clear instructions… but listen to your gut and use your best judgment. 

A meme that says after I give cooking advice, I always end my sentence with "idk tho" so you can never say i ruined your life

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized potatoes (2 cups)
  • 2 chicken breasts (2 cups)
  • 1 red onion (1 cup)
  • 3 tomatoes (2 cups)
  • 4 green onions (½ cup)
  • 6 garlic cloves (a little less than ¼ cup)
  • ⅓ cup of oil 
  • ½ tablespoon rosemary 
  • ½ tablespoon garlic salt
  • ½ tablespoon black pepper02 The holy trinity of spices is rosemary, garlic salt, and black pepper. This is the only truth.
  • ¼ tablespoon turmeric 
  • ½ tablespoon basil
  • ⅓ tablespoon paprika 

(if you can’t tell, this household loves garlic, and yours should too)

Instruction

  1. Collect all the ingredients

    pictures of the ingredients

    the chopped up chicken and vegetables (left) and the spices and olive oil (right)

  2. Chop up the potatoes, breasts, onions, tomatoes, and green onions into sizes that you’d like. I’d recommend keeping them about the same thickness as your thumb but less than the size of your thumb. Hopefully, you can use the picture above as a reference. 
  3. Put all the ingredients except for the potatoes in the rice cooker. The potatoes cook pretty quickly, so you’ll be adding them in when there are about 6-9 minutes left till it’s ready. 
  4. Use a spoon or your hands (with gloves on, this is the better option in my opinion) to mix all the ingredients together 
  5. Put in the rice cooker and press start/white rice/cook/whatever button get things started.

    everything but the potatoes mixed together

    everything but the potatoes mixed together

  6. I can only speak for my rice cooker, but hopefully, yours will also have a timer that indicates how much time it will take to cook. When that timer indicates that there are 6-9 minutes left, add the potatoes. 

Then Voilà! The final result will hopefully be a juicy, moist, tender, and spicy chicken stew. This was enough to feed four people with some leftovers.  

gif of the meal in the rice cooker

I’ve been having this with this quinoa and spinach03 </span>look at that, another vegetable this meal has snuck in combo. If anyone actually tries this out, let me know! I hope it’s just as fulfilling for you as well.

final result of chicken and quinoa

~the final result~

  1. yes, I'm a spoiled adult that still hates most vegetables and will only eat them if I don't notice it. It's embarrassing, and I'm trying to change, I promise back to text
  2. The holy trinity of spices is rosemary, garlic salt, and black pepper. This is the only truth. back to text
  3. look at that, another vegetable this meal has snuck in back to text