Mexican Rice Two Ways

Persian estamboli polo, arroz rojo, red rice, tomato rice – are all similar versions of exactly the same dish- rice pilaf with tomatoes. Made from white rice, tomatoes, onions and garlic, the rice is first fried to a nutty brown and then cooked in chopped tomatoes and broth.

From the Mexican perspective, where it’s simply known as arroz rojo (red rice) or just arroz, like many other foods, it can be traced back to the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century. Rice was introduced to Mexico via the Spaniards returning to the New World from another Spanish colony, the Philippines. For 250 years afterwards the Spanish Manilla Galleons, know in Mexico as La Nao de China, opened a trade route between Manilla and Acapulco to transport goods between China and Acapulco, including rice. The Spaniards eventually found the lush tropical climate around Veracruz ideal for growing rice and it soon became an essential part of Mexican cuisine.

Rice in Mexico is more than just arroz rojo, however. All kinds of vegetables are often added with-or-without tomatoes, but almost all fry the rice before finishing cooking with a liquid. A stunning version from Puebla called arroz a la poblano can be found below. It has been adapted from the Rick Bayless’ cookbook masterpiece “Authentic Mexican, Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.” The first recipe offered below is for the more familiar arroz rojo.

Arroz a la Mexicana (Red Rice) and Arroz a la Poblana (White Rice Pilaf with Poblanos and Corn))

Both rice dishes below are easy to make and reflect a distinctly Mexican take on rice. Either goes well with almost any main dish and a side of beans.
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Course: Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Central Mexican, Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: My Hungry Traveler

Equipment

  • 4-quart saucepan with lid
  • Food Processor or blender
  • 2 quart saucepan (for making Arroz con Poblano)

Ingredients

Mexican Rice (Arroz a la Mexicana)

  • 2 cups White rice (long or medium grain), rinsed.
  • 1 cup Chicken or vegetable stock
  • 14.5 oz Can of diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • 2 small Serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ small White onion, minced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Frozen baby peas
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Arroz a la Poblana (White Rice with Corn, Chiles and Fresh Cheese)

  • 1 small White onion, minced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup White rice, Long or medium-grain
  • cups Chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 small Can of chile strips
  • 1 cup Corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned
  • 3 oz Crumbled queso fresco, feta cheese (rinsed), or farmers cheese

Instructions

Mexican Rice (Arroz a la Mexicana)

  • Prepare Liquid – Combine tomatoes with juices and broth in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth..
  • Finish Rice – Heat oil in a 4 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and chilis and cook, stirring until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in rice and cook until golden brown, another 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in tomato mixture and peas. Lower heat, cover, and cook 15 minutes more. Liquid should be absorbed and rice kernels tender. Remove from heat and let sit 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and either scoop onto individual plates or into a serving bowl to bring to the table.

Arroz a la Poblana (White Rice with Corn, Chiles and Fresh Cheese)

  • Cooking the Rice – Heat oil In a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice, onion, and garlic. Stir often until onion becomes soft, about 7 minutes. Warm broth separately by adding 1 tsp salt and bringing to a simmer. Add broth, chilis and corn into the rice Cover and simmer over medium-low for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for another 10 minutes.
  • Finish Dish – Add crumbled cheese and thorough fluff up rice with a fork. Serve on individual plates or in a serving bowl to bring to the table.

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