During a recent trip with my husband to New Orleans, I had the most wonderful surprise at dinner one evening. I had ordered blackened fish, which was delicious and perfectly cooked, and it was served with a side of popcorn rice. I had never heard of popcorn rice but instantly fell in love with the scent and taste of it! Yes, it really smells like popcorn!

The next day I scoured the French Quarter looking for a bag of it to bring home. I bought two 2-pound bags which will have to last a while. When going through airport security on my way back home, I packed the rice in a small bag thinking that it would alert the agents. Of course, the dense rice did cause the agent to pull the bag aside and inspect the contents. I told the agent that I couldn’t buy this variety of rice at home. She let me go with the rice. I think she felt sorry for the crazy tourist and had a story to tell when she got home.

What is popcorn rice? It is a variety of long-grain rice, grown in Louisiana, which has a wonderful rich, nutty aroma and flavor that really does smell like popcorn. This variety is considered an artisan grain and is a hybrid of basmati rice, with the same texture. It even pairs well with curries and meat dishes. Popcorn rice is cooked in the same way as other rice varieties. It is delicious and has become a staple in my kitchen.

This special variety of rice inspired by recipe for Baked Spiced Popcorn Rice. It is based on a basic spiced Indian rice recipe.

Baked Spiced Popcorn Rice

Popcorn rice is delicious when prepared with Indian spices, formed into cakes and baked until the outside is golden.

The first step is to season a little olive oil and butter with whole spices including cumin, bay leaf, cloves cardamom and cinnamon. I fry some white onion and garlic so it can become tender before adding the rice. The popcorn rice is fried in this oil for just a few minutes to bring out the flavor of the grain before the broth is added. I boil the rice in the broth until it is tender.

When the rice is ready, I form individual rice cakes using a small ramekin and bake them briefly in the oven just before serving so they keep their shape.

These easy to make Baked Spiced Popcorn Rice cakes will impress everyone at your table. They are as much fun to eat as they are to make. Enjoy!

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