A Rice Pudding is a dish made of rice with water or milk as its base.
Asian rice puddings such as Chinese congee are usually referred to as porridges or sticky-rice porridges, and are usually served with savoury foods. Japan and Korea are the exceptions; they don’t make rice into porridges (or puddings.)
In the West, Rice Pudding is typically sweetened and treated as a dessert. Sweeteners used can include honey, sugar (white or brown), syrups, and fruit. Flavourings can include cinnamon, fruit, ginger, nutmeg, raisins, rosewater, etc. Eggs and milk are used to enrich the puddings.
Rice Pudding can be made by simmering or baking. Baked rice puddings develop a crust on top, which most people like as it provides a texture contrast.
Some versions of Rice Pudding can be runny, needing a spoon to eat them with, or solid enough to cut with a knife, or in between. Some recipes call for leftover or pre-cooked rice; others call for uncooked rice.
Rice Puddings can be served hot or chilled.
Some people see Rice Pudding as a comfort food. For others, Rice Pudding has become a symbol for bland, boring food that is to be endured. Other people won’t touch it — they don’t like the texture of it, or the look of it — they say that the grains of rice look like white maggots.
You can buy Rice Pudding tinned and ready to serve.
If a rice pudding recipe calls for “Carolina rice”, a short-grain rice is meant.
Rice Puddings were introduced into India by the 1300s.
The Middle East is credited with introducing Rice Pudding to Western Europe, though that’s not entirely accurate. The Romans made Rice Pudding, though for them, it was a medicinal food to be given to the sick.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, only the rich could have afforded rice pudding, as rice was a luxury item. Recipes called for the pudding to be put into intestines, and simmered in water. The resultant pudding would look like sausages, except inside would be rice instead of meat. After simmering, they would later be toasted and browned, in their skins still, over coals.
Literature & Lore
Take halfe a pound of Rice, and steep it in new Milk a whole night, and in the morning drain it, and let the Milke drop away, and take a quart of the best sweetest and thickest Cream and put the Rice into it, and boyl it a little ; then set it to coole an hour or two, and after put in the Yolkes of halfe a dosen Eggs, a little Pepper, Cloves Mace, Currants, Dates Sugar, and Salt ; and having mixt them well together, put in great store of Beef suet wel beaten, and smal shred and so put it into the farms, and boyl them as before shewed and serve them after a day old. — From: Gervase Markham. The English Housewife. London: 1615.
Clifford-Smith, Stephanie. Rice pudding. Sydney Morning Herald. 9 June 2009.