Buttery Arroz Arabe (Arabic Rice) or Syrian Rice
Some call it Syrian rice and probably for good reason. Arroz Arabe is how it was known to us grandchildren growing up in Abuelita’s house. It was often paired with Kafta patties and salad or Salpicón. It's distinguishing attribute is the warm tone it acquires from the butter-browned vermicelli noodles. When we moved to Lebanon, my husband keenly observed that rice is not commonly served at most restaurants in Beirut. At dining establishments throughout the city, delicately prepared potatoes in varying forms feature in most menus and rice is not often offered. But when visiting homes in the Levant, you will almost always find rice served as an accompaniment or main. There is just something so comforting about the delicious scent of piping-hot buttery Arroz Arabe. It's my preferred starch and (almost) as delicious as to a warm hug from my Abuelita. She lives on in my memory.
2 cups Basmati rice
6 Tbsp melted butter or ghee
1⁄2 cup of approximately 2 to 3-inch vermicelli noodles
4 cups of cold water for rinsing the rice
2 -3 teaspoons salt, depending to taste
4 Tbsp toasted slivered almonds
Fresh mint leaves for garnish
Arabic rice, unlike Asian style rice, is not meant to stick together. A key step in ensuring that your rice doesn’t stick is to begin by rinsing it in cold water and soak for 5-10 min. Drain the rice and set aside. In a medium pot, on a stove top, add melted butter of ghee and vermicelli. Stir often ensuring not to burn the vermicelli but keeping it on medium heat until it is medium brown in color. Reduce to low heat, then add the rice, tossing it together with the vermicelli and butter for about 5 minutes, making sure to coat all grains. Then add water and salt and increase the heat and wait for the rice to boil. After reaching a rapid boil, reduce heat to low and cook until all the water is absorbed. In a shallow pan, roast slivered almonds until light brown. Spread rice pilaf over a serving dish and garnish with almonds and fresh mint leaves.