Black rice is a heirloom variety of glutinous rice cultivated in Asia. It is typically sold as an unmilled rice, meaning the the fiber-rich black husks of the rice are not removed. The unusual color makes it very popular for desserts, and the high nutritional value is an added benefit. This rice is often served with fresh fruit such as mangoes and lychees, especially when drizzled with a fruit or rice syrup.
Soaking and cooking reveals the true color of this rice, which is actually a rich purple to burgundy, though the grains do appear to be black when they are uncooked. The natural color of the rice will dye foods added to it, such as coconut milk. It can also be eaten with entree courses, although this is less common. This grain is often used to make Chinese desserts, though it is also popular in many other Asian nations, all of which have their own special names for the product.
Several things distinguish black rice from other cultivars. It tends not to be very glutinous, although it will sometimes be treated so that it is less sticky. It also has a very rich, slightly sweet, strongly nutty flavor. The rice is naturally high in iron, which causes the dense purple color, and it is also high in fiber, since the bran is left on the rice. It is also rich in a variety of other valuable vitamins and minerals.
Like other unmilled rice, black rice takes longer to cook than traditional husked rice. It should also ideally be stored under refrigeration and used within three months, to prevent spoilage. Rinsing and soaking the rice before cooking will help to bring the cooking time down. As a general rule, black rice should be cooked with two cups of water to every one cup of rice, and it will need to cook for 20 to 30 minutes after soaking, or 60 minutes if cooked unsoaked. When black rice is used in desserts, it is sometimes cooked with a mixture of coconut milk, sugar, and water to form a sweet, sticky, pudding-like rice.