Mexican rice is a staple food in Mexican and Latin American cuisine. Different regions of Central and Southern America make an variety of rice dishes, all of which generally share the common ingredients of vegetables, toasted rice, and broth such as chicken or vegetable stock. The end result is a rich, hearty rice which pairs well with a number of traditional foods. The preparation technique for Mexican rice is similar to that used for risotto, and the two dishes may in fact be related.
Depending on where one is eating it, Mexican rice can be found in burritos and mixed plate dishes, or it might be served on its own. A wide range of ingredients are used, but Mexican rice frequently includes chilies, tomatoes, onions, and garlic, along with spices such as cumin, fresh coriander, and salt. The dish is meant to compliment the foods it is eaten with, rather than overwhelm them.
Rice is an old world export, and was not a part of Latin American cuisine until it was brought to places like Mexico by European explorers. The recipes for dishes like risotto were probably brought overseas as well, and these dishes were adapted for their new environment. In some parts of South America, rice dishes are almost like thick soups or gruels, while others are much more dry and fluffy. Generally, these differences are accomplished by manipulations in the amount of water and heat used in the cooking process.
To make Mexican rice, start by rinsing and briefly soaking medium grained white rice. Next, toast the rice in a heavy saucepan with olive oil and a small amount of butter. The grains of rice should start to turn golden and translucent, at which point chopped vegetables such as onions, garlic, tomatoes, and chilies should be added to the mixture. As the vegetables start to soften, add salt, finely chopped fresh coriander, and ground cumin, along with two cups of stock for every cup of rice. Chicken stock is a traditional choice for making authentic Mexican rice but vegetable stock can be used just as easily.
Stir the mixture and cover the saucepan for 15-20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid. Fluff the Mexican rice lightly with a fork and allow it to sit for five to 10 minutes before serving. It goes very well with Mexican cuisine, and can easily be used to make fusion cuisine, combining foods from several culinary traditions. Mexican rice can also be used in recipes which call for Spanish rice, a very similar food made throughout the American Southwest.