Rice pudding is a sweet treat made at a minimum with rice and sugar, although several other ingredients such as milk and spices are usually added as well. This dish originated in Asia, along with rice itself, and it is widely eaten all over the world today. Many cultures have their own version of rice pudding, and the dish is often served during holidays as a special treat. In Europe, for example, it is made with milk and cinnamon and served around Christmas.
The rice in rice pudding can be quite varied. Polished white rice is often used, but it may be short, medium, or long-grained. It is also possible to make this dish with brown rice, red rice, forbidden rice, or other rice varieties. Typically, the rice is cooked along with the rest of the pudding, although some recipes call for old rice.
Rice pudding can be cooked in water, but most people like to use milk or cream. In Asia, coconut milk may be used, since it is more readily available than cow milk, and vegans sometimes make this dish with soy, rice, or nut milks. Two parts milk and one part rice are combined in a pot with a sweetener such as sugar or maple syrup, and cooked together for 20 minutes or until the rice is done. Some cooks add eggs, turning their pudding into a rich custard.
Other ingredients can also be added to rice pudding, including fruit, spices like cinnamon, orange water, vanilla, lavender, lemon zest, nuts, and so forth. Some ingredients may be added at the beginning of the cooking process so that they percolate through the whole dish, while others may be added in at the very end so that they are not spoiled; this pudding can also be topped with fresh fruit, a sprinkle of nutmeg, or some other garnish.
Depending on the culture, rice pudding can be served hot or cold. Some people greatly enjoy eating it cold as a snack, especially when it is the rich custard style, while other people prefer it hot, served with whipped cream or ice cream to make it richer. Rice pudding with fresh fruit is often on offer in Asia as a refreshing treat, and it can also make an interesting breakfast food, for people who like to start the day with sweet food.
Because rice pudding is soft and easy to eat, it is sometimes used to tempt invalids into eating. It can also be a useful food to have on hand after oral surgery.