Down the street from where my pops grew up, on the corner of Idaho and El Cajon in San Diego, the little taqueria El Tio Alberto Taco Shop serves up a divine cup of horchata in a styrofoam cup. It came right out of a fountain the way Coca-Cola does, yet it was incredibly smooth, creamy and brain smashing delicious.
Horchata doesn’t typically keep me awake at night the way thoughts about Daemon Langdon’s brownies do. However, this horchata awoke my senses to an entirely new possibility. Sweet rice, I can’t forget you or your surprise.
Unfortunately, this taqueria requires a flight to San Diego and a drive from the airport. Though I think the wait in line at the Dollar Rent A Line takes longer than both. Literally. The staff said it can take two hours to get through the line.
I’ve tried three other places to see if they could deliver on the horchata. Nope. Even my beloved Picante in Berkeley delivered the same bland, overly sweet white colored water.
After not being able to purchase a decent cup of horchata at a restaurant, my first attempt at making horchata involved buying a carton of Rice Dream and Almond Breeze from Andronico’s in North Berkeley–the gourmet ghetto being the inspiration for all delicious goodies. It didn’t work. Too watery. So much for inspiration.
Looking to Google for a lot of answers to my question “Can I make amazing horchata?”, I got about 481,000 answers. None of them quite right. That’s Google. Lots of answers. Maybe one of them will work. I poked a stick at the 481,000 answers.
A vegan website offered a way to make rice milk from scratch. The web site protested the ills of Rice Dream as an imperialistic attempt to impose Walmart and Monsanto on hapless consumers. Maybe so. The recipe said that it actually made a kind of rice cream. The rice cream needed to be thinned out into rice milk. Rice cream. Revolution aside, that’s what I wanted.
The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of salt to 8 cups water and 1 cup rice. Too much salt. Way too much. Didn’t Ghandi protest against salt and British imperialism? The creaminess of the rice milk came much closer to my tiny taqueria horchata in the non-recyclable industrially produced bad for the environment styrofoam cup.
Straining the rice milk felt tedious. Two quarts took nearly half an hour to strain. I discarded the resulting rice bran.
While I poured the pureed glop through the strainer, it occurred to me that this process is exactly what needs to happen to make rice meal for my boys from scratch. Yes, the first food of infants is the precursor to really good horchata. Perhaps, ancient baby formula actually was rice milk.
My friends Doug and Katie Spangler said that they tried making baby food from scratch. They said it wasn’t worth it. Considering my boys go through one quart of formula to supplement their breastmilk almost every day, I think the Spangers may have proven themselves wise once again.
4 cups water
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt
Boil water. Pour in rice. Simmer rice for 3 hours until mushy. Put in a blender until smooth. Strain out the hard bits.
1 cup almond milk
1 – 2 large spoonfuls of sugar or brown sugar
1 small spoonful of cinnamon
Pour a little milk on top of the sugar and cinnamon in a 2 quart pot. Turn on the heat. Make a slurry. Mix thoroughly. Pour in rest of the milks. Let cool in fridge.
I didn’t make the almond milk from scratch. I used the Almond Breeze. That may form the lynchpin as the Almond Breeze may be too watery. Creamy, people. We need creamy. One recipe called for 1/4 cup of sugar. Too much sugar? Don’t know. Since my kitchen is much closer, and less costly, than a trip to San Diego, I’ll just have to keep experimenting.