Many people think of rice as being white, or sometimes brown. Rice is actually available in a stunning palette of shades, from white to brown to red, to a deep purple-black color. Forbidden rice is one type of black rice, which turns to a deep purple when it is cooked. Its rich color makes an impressive addition to any dish, and turns the water it is cooked in a dark purple.
The black color of uncooked forbidden rice is due to its outer coating of black bran. This also gives the rice a rich nutty flavor when it is cooked, and adds to its nutrition, as the bran provides important dietary fiber. Also known as Chinese black rice, this food is especially popular with vegans and vegetarians, but is beginning to gain popularity with a larger demographic.
Forbidden rice provides other nutrients, including the amino acids common to most rice varietals. It contains phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, which provide antioxidants and other health benefits. In addition, this rice provides many minerals important for human health, including iron.
This black rice is a type of heirloom rice, meaning that it is open-pollinated, was grown at earlier times in history, and not grown on a large scale in modern agriculture. Forbidden rice can be found at many health food stores or organic food stores. It can also sometimes be found in Asian markets.
Forbidden rice may have gotten its name because only emperors in ancient China were allowed to eat it, due to its rarity and high nutritional value. Another possibility for the origin of its name is the possibility that the Greeks banned the rice when they conquered the Middle East. They may have done this believing that the rice somehow helped their enemies in battle. The alternate name of emperor's rice seems to back up the first theory, but the name may have followed the theory.