My daughters like to give samples of their home cooked sweets to their friends, and the friends’ families get to enjoy them too. In reciprocal moves, we find ourselves on the receiving end too. It’s amusing, really, that although Speedy and I haven’t personally met the parents of many of our daughters’ friends, we feel that we know them, in a manner of speaking, because of these food exchanges. It may sound like a cliché but it is nonetheless true that food is a social medium—a means for strangers to get to know one another by learning how and what other people eat.
That was how my family was introduced to adlai, also called Job’s Tears, a grain that looks like cracked rice but, when cooked, has the texture of pasta cooked al dente.
It was just another Thursday and it would have been a Thursday like all the rest but, before noon, Speedy woke me up to sign a delivery receipt. I wasn’t sure where it came from but I was too sleepy to ask. The next time I opened my eyes, there was a heavy package on the couch beside the bed. I tore it open and inside were two bags of Arabica and a bag of adlai. Alex said they were from her friend’s mom. Alex was making cauliflower casserole for lunch and, instead of cooking rice to go with it, I asked Speedy to try the adlai instead.
How to cook adlay / adlai (Job’s tears)
The cooking instructions were right there on the label—boil one part adlai and two parts water, and cook it just like rice.
While the adlai was cooking and the cauliflower casserole was in the oven, I read up on adlai. Although I had heard of it before, I was surprised to read that as early as 2010, the then Secretary of Agriculture, Proceso Alcala, had been promoting adlai as a cheaper and a healthier alternative to rice and corn.
It can also be made into breakfast cereal and wine. In fact, in Zamboanga de Sur where locals have been consuming adlai for a long time, they make vinegar and the native wine called pangasi from adlai grains.
Health benefits of adlay / adlai (Job’s tears)
But, perhaps, the most significant thing about adlai is that it has more health benefits than rice. In folk medicine, it is used for headaches, fever, inflammation and arthritis. For the modern generation suffering from “lifestyle diseases”, adlai is gluten free and has a low glycemic index which makes it a good choice for gluten-intolerant people and those suffering from diabetes.
The question, of course, is whether adlai tastes good enough to be a real alternative to rice. I’ve described the texture of cooked adlai earlier—it’s more like pasta cooked al dente than rice. There is a subtle chewiness in the grains. It is also more filling than most white rice varieties. If you’re used to eating a cup of rice every meal, half a cup of boiled adlai will make you feel just as full.