Rice is nice

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It’s no secret: I love rice.

I can eat it plain, topped with furikake, paired with Spam and nori, smothered in brown gravy, and even with garlic salt.

It’s the first thing I like to eat when I come home after a trip. And it’s often the last thing I eat before I go to bed.

Yes, I love it.

So when I was asked to contribute to a new book devoted to my favorite food group, I jumped at the chance.

“The Hawaii Book of Rice” ($15.95, Watermark Publishing), by Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi features 101 recipes — or “rice-ipes” — and chapters on the history of rice in Hawaii, rice legends and anecdotal stories from rice-loving folks (like me).

Tsutsumi, who dedicated the book to her late father (who grew up wearing clothes made from rice bags in Waialua), has roots in Kauai, where her mother’s family had farmed rice in Huleia. But even this award-winning freelance writer who has seen it and done it all learned a few new things editing this book.

“Most people don’t know that in 1899 Hawaii ranked third in the U.S. in rice production after Louisiana and South Carolina,” she said. “People will learn so much by reading this book. It’s not just a cookbook.”

But there are 101 recipes, including a full chapter devoted to fried rice.

Are you hungry yet?

“Because of our large Asian population, it’s natural for rice to be a staple here,” said Tsutsumi, who admits her rice habits include stew and rice, chili and rice and mochiko chicken musubis. (I concur.) “Heck, nearly all kamaaina, no matter what their ethnicity, grew up with rice and know how to cook it.”

So I’m throwing it out there: how much do you love rice? How do you eat it? And what’s your favorite or most interesting rice dish?

I need to know!

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Portion of sales from the book will benefit the Hawaii Foodbank — how fitting! — in feeding more than 183,000 people annually.

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Book-signings

1-2 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at Barnes & Noble, Kahala Mall
11 a.m.-1 p.m., May 22, Longs Drugs, Windward City Shopping Center
4-6 p.m. Monday, May 23, Longs Drugs, Kailua