When it comes to pantry staples, rice is the number one ingredient I always have on hand. Growing up, there was never a question of whether there would be a pot of rice at dinner. But rice salad? That’s the upgrade I never knew I needed. Until now, of course.
Many nights at the end of dinner, with a little ceremony and a bit of flair, my dad would bring a fresh pot of rice to the table to eat alongside the remaining dal or sabzis on our plates. And while I love rice as an accompaniment, I love it even more as my main meal.
One of my go-to weeknight meals is mattar rice. Basically, peas in rice. We ate it growing up on lazy dinner nights with a big spoonful of yogurt in the middle. It was such a favorite in fact, that I’ve been known to eat the leftovers cold and straight out of the fridge with my hands. (I said what I said.)
While I was eating mattar rice leftovers a few weeks ago, I decided to get a little creative in making it a full meal by frying an egg to put on top. And then I wanted something pickled. And then I thought some fresh herbs would be nice. From there, the toppings didn’t stop. Everything on my plate just worked so well together, that I made the same thing for dinner every night for a week.
This is a pseudo-salad with lots of veggies and tons of fresh herbs. The rice, eggs, and avocado keep it hearty and protein-packed. And the zingy helping of lemon and ACV just tie it all together. This rice salad is my new favorite. And it’s about to be yours, too.
Why rice salad is the best salad
Perhaps I’m taking liberties with the definition of a “salad” here. But rice salads are, in fact, totally a thing. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in the Midwest for so long now, but I’ve become a huge fan of a wild rice salad in the fall, studded with roast veggies and cranberries. But in the spring, I want something fresh and I want it to taste vibrant. This salad? Ticks every box.
How to cook the rice for your salad
I used jeera rice (cumin rice) as the base for my salad. All you have to do is quick-toast some cumin seeds in ghee in a pan, then toss in thoroughly-washed grains of rice. I grew up with basmati rice, my favorite fragrant kind. But you could get away with another type of rice if you needed to.
Quick-toasting the rice in the ghee and cumin gives it a nice extra nuttiness. After that, you add the water. I usually do a 2: 1 ratio of water to rice, plus a little more water. When it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover until done. Trust me, I’ve burned more than my fair share of rice pots, but this formula works well for me.
Let the rice cool slightly before serving, but once the rice is done, you’re ready to assemble!
How to make the perfect soft-boiled egg (plus the easiest peeling method!)
Eggs are the other star of this salad that makes it hearty and filling. I love a soft jammy egg for the luscious yolks and flavor. What I don’t love is peeling them. I always butcher them and end up with cracks and crevices that are visually lacking. But recently, I discovered a method that actually works.
Eric Kim recently posted on Instagram about a method he uses for easily peeling boiled eggs. Of course, I had to try it immediately. Essentially, you add cold eggs to already-boiling water, I do this with a slotted spoon, and let them boil. I let mine go for about six minutes. Then using a spoon, I just tapped each egg around all the sides so that the shell cracked but the egg remained whole. Just tap tap away until the shell looks like a “snakeskin.”
This method allows the hot water to seep into the shell and causes the egg whites to shrink slightly. Trust me, it makes peeling your eggs so much easier! I’m a huge fan of the method, and once you try it, you’ll be making boiled eggs all the time.
This salad’s secret ingredient? Quick-pickled shallots.
The make-ahead star that really brings everything together in this salad is pickled shallots. I make a jar early in the week and use them to top bowls, eggs, salads, and toasts. It adds a nice brightness and slightly acidic sweetness that’s downright addicting. I don’t use an exact formula for pickled onions but will scale this version up or down depending on how many shallots I have around.
When paired with the shallots, the other ingredients sing. Crunchy cucumbers add freshness, the peas add a burst of sweetness, chili oil adds that creeping heat, and fresh herbs add so much flavor.
I usually top everything off with a big squeeze of lemon juice, which keeps it light and from drowning in dressing. But this is your salad — and you’re welcome to add whatever you’d like.