What Is Forbidden Rice and How Forbidden Is It, Really?

Nobody can tell me what rice I can or can’t eat! Sorry, as soon as I hear about forbidden rice my mind goes into petulant teen mode. Calling it forbidden makes me want it more. It’s like that old Simpsons episode in which Bart befriends Ralph and Chief Wiggum catches them going into his closet. Wiggum says, “What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?” I’m the same way with forbidden rice. What is forbidden rice? Why is it called forbidden rice? Is forbidden rice gluten free? Let’s get to the bottom of what is forbidden black rice!

What is forbidden rice? 

Forbidden rice is black rice. Okay, so what is forbidden black rice? It’s a kind of rice from the Oryza sativa L. species. In addition to the name forbidden rice and black rice, it can be called purple rice or emperor’s rice. Uncooked forbidden rice looks black but after cooking, the color turns a deep shade of purple. 

Forbidden rice was originally a natural genetic mutation that was then bred for its benefits, which are plentiful. It gets its dark color from a pigment called anthocyanin, the same stuff that gives color to blueberries and purple sweet potatoes. Anthocyanin has shown to be a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It’s even been associated with having anti-cancer properties. Black rice has more protein than any other type of rice and is a great source of iron. 

Why is it called forbidden rice?

It sounds like a marketing ploy to get you to want to eat that off-limits rice, but there’s actually an old story behind it. Black rice has been eaten in Asia for thousands of years. The legend goes that it was thought of as almost medical, ensuring health and long life. Because of this, it was highly valued in ancient China and could only be eaten by emperors or the rich and powerful. Also, this heirloom rice variety produces a rather low yield crop compared to other types of rice. So, it was a much rarer commodity, especially in the days before industrialized farming. Thankfully, you can usually find some black rice at most grocery stores. It’s a little less forbidden these days.

Is forbidden rice gluten free?

Not all forbidden black rice is the same. There is some variety in the black rice family. There’s Indonesian black rice, Thai jasmine black rice, black glutinous rice, and Italian black rice to just name a few. Fortunately for the gluten sensitive among us, all varieties of black rice are gluten free. Yes, even black glutinous rice is free of gluten. Ofte, when a rice is called glutenous, it’s in reference to its sticky texture. I used to think the owner of my local grocery store was calling me glutenous. It turns out he was actually calling me gluttonous. That guy was a jerk so I didn’t feel bad about stealing all his forbidden rice.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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