Last night I was making rice and as soon as I poured water into the pot, I noticed some tiny dark beetles float to the top. This phenomenon isn’t at all surprising, but I felt bad. Because I now knew that I was going to wash these suckers out and flush them down the drain. They would probably all die out once I washed the dishes and sent dish soap coursing through the pipes. So much for generating good karma!
For North American residents, the two bugs you’re most likely to encounter in rice are the saw-toothed grain beetle (Oryzaephilus surinamensis, last night’s guest) and the rice weevil (Sitophilus oryzae). I searched for “rice bugs” to see how other people reacted to them, and found many American sites filled with: “THROW IT OUT! THROW IT OUT!” I hate to break it to you, but these suckers (and their larvae) are probably in your rice whether you see them or not. There are a number of traditional and handy tricks that people have used to get the bugs out before cooking the rice.
My least favorite method is picking them out by hand. Too labor intensive for me, but I’ve seen others do it! Spread the rice and sift through it one centimeter at a time. A variant on this method is to sieve them out. Pour the rice into a sieve and simply shake it around and watch the critters drop out through the bottom. If you want something more efficient, but potentially less bug friendly, you can do what I did last night: wash them out. They tend to float, so I’ll simply fill the rice pot with ample quantities of water, and three or four washes was good enough for me. There’s yet another option, my honest favorite, but not much of an option at 9:30 at night. You can pour the rice into a flat pan and leave it out in the sun. The rice bugs will walk/jump/fly right out.
In most cases, the larvae (and the bugs too small for you to see and/or those embedded in the rice grains) will still be swimming around with the rice once you set it on the stove or in your rice cooker. But due to the magic of heat, they will all be boiled to death and provide you with a marginal protein supplement for the day.
Of course, many Westerners (all races included) won’t notice the bugs in their rice, if they’re there at all. Should you encounter the problem of bugs crawling all over your rice grains, now you know what to do. You don’t have to throw out 2 lbs of rice and stay on the line for hours with the FDA. Of the bug-removing methods given above, the last option is perhaps both the least lethal option and also the least labor intensive.
Naturally, throwing your rice out will probably also spare the bugs a tragic, soapy death. One way or another, you choose your karma. Bon appétit!