Naked Rice "Chinese Char Siu": What is it & How is it?
Big taste in a little cup? Or is it a disappointment that will meet the bottom of my trash can?
I can't say I have the most sophisticated palate nor do I know my soup fork from my salad knife. But what I can say, is that I love rice. When I saw this cup of Naked Rice with "Chinese Char Siu" flavor for $1.98 at my local Walmart, I knew I had to try it.
An initial sniff gave me a noseful of spices, but in the best way. The directions on the cup said to "remove the lid and pour boiling water to the fill line." Interestingly, the inside had three different fill lines: one for a more "intense" flavor, a recommended line, and one for a "less intense" flavor. Being the daredevil that I am, I went for the more intense flavor line.
After allowing it to cool down for a bit so the risk of third-degree burns was lower, I went in for a taste. I want you to imagine a very exotic, spice-filled, and meaty taste similar to something you'd get from an Indian dish. That was this. Every spoonful was a journey that I would be willing to embark on any day of the week. Much to my dismay, the ingredients list simply mentions "spices", soy sauce, ginger, and nothing more so I can't tell you exactly what caressed my taste buds in such a tantalizing way. What I can tell you is that it was so good, I forgot to take picture of it but that spoonful of it on the front of the cup looks identical to how it does in person.
This would probably be a good time to tell you what char siu actually is. It's a popular way to flavor and prepare barbecued pork in Cantonese cuisine. It is usually seasoned with a mixture of honey, five-spice powder, red fermented bean curd, dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and also sherry or rice wine but those last two are optional.
Upon further research, "five-spice powder" is commonly made of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds. Connecting that back to the explosion of flavor I felt when I ate the Naked Rice, I'm fairly certain it was the five-spice powder that did most of the work. Thanks five-spice!
So what's the Gabe Review? I'd give it a hell yeah out of 10, especially for the money. It's a very robust flavor that spreads to your entire mouth very quickly. If you're a fan of Asian or Indian cuisine, I would say that Naked Rice with Chinese Char Siu flavor would be right at home in your pantry, trunk, or wherever you store non-perishable food. I bought two more varieties of Naked Rice so if you like this one, you should stay tuned for later this week when I write about those!