When I was living in China, the kitchen was never without rice. Long grain, short grain, jasmine, or brown, a sack or bulk bin bag would slouch in the corner, just waiting to be cooked. I would steam it, fry it, or boil it to a pulp for congee. And one day, out of severe homesickness, I decided to make horchata.
A Chinese friend was over and watched me pull a plastic carton from the fridge, which I had filled the day before with pulvertized rice grains and water to soak overnight.
"What is that?" she asked. I explained that Mexicans make a really nice icy drink out of rice water.
"But that's just like the leftover water from washing rice," she said."We dump that stuff down the drain."
"Um, true," I paused. "But when you add tons of sugar and vanilla and cinnamon, it's a great drink to go with your tacos."
"I'll stick with margaritas."
I couldn't convince her to try it, which makes sense. The Chinese think anything raw is for barbarians and marvel at how Westerners down large bowls of salad, so why would they go for milky water from soaking raw rice? Come to think of it, none of the Mexican restaurants in Shanghai (all operated by Chinese-Americans) served horchata either. The only time I encountered the drink in China was at a Mexican-run Mexican restaurant in Beijing, and its clientele was predominantly Mexican embassy workers.
Which was good that the drink was as easy to make as a Crock-Pot meal. I made so much half the fridge was full of IKEA bottles and jars of cinnamony horchata.
The only things missing, sadly, were the tacos to go with them.
- 1 cup uncooked rice, rinsed
- 2 quarts hot water (just under boiling temp)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- In a blender, pulverize the rice grains to get the mixture as smooth as possible. In a big bowl, stir together the water, rice, and sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon and let sit in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, strain through a cheese cloth. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.