Red Rice

  • , by Hannah Lee Leidy
  • 1 min reading time

"Red rice goes back to the old, old days—the days before me, my momma, and hers. Red rice is a beautiful, earthy one-pot rice dish that borrows from the traditions of my African ancestors. Sometimes called Charleston red rice, red rice really owes a great debt to the enslaved Africans who brought their knowledge of rice and vegetable farming to the United States.

Here on Edisto, Wednesdays and Fridays were seafood days. We had shrimp or fish with red rice, so it was something to look forward to. Back in my day, you didn’t use tomato paste and sauce, you used the tomatoes you’d planted in your garden. The tomato paste works just as good, though, and Gullah Geechee red rice is one of the best dishes you can enjoy. Now, red rice can be a tricky thing. If you don’t have enough rice, it will come out like mush. If you have too much rice, you can add water, but the texture will be uneven. Early in the cooking, you want to use your spoon to feel the weight of the rice, and make sure it’s cooking evenly.

Don’t let this dish intimidate you—with well-seasoned vegetables, slices of sausage, and perfectly cooked rice, you’ve just about got yourself a meal. Oh, and when you put some fatback in there? Now you’re talking.”

Excerpt from the new book Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from The Matriarch of Edisto Island, by Emily Meggett, published by Abrams. Text © 2022 Emily Meggett. Photography by Clay Williams.

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