Hugas bigas or rice wash is a common ingredient in the lacto-fermentation of vegetables. You can use it for burong mustasa, fermented French beans, and the like. The milky-colored liquid has starch that helps activate the fermentation and serves as additional food for the microorganisms.
There are three ways to make hugas bigas for your ferments, all of which are very simple.
We like to use this method when we have time to make ferment while the rice is cooking, and when using organically grown rice.
- Place rice into your cooking pot.
- Add enough water to wash the rice. Swirl the rice and water using your clean hand.
- Drain the water into a basin or jug. The first wash usually has dirt or rice hulls from milling so do not use this. Do a second wash if needed.
- Add water to the rice and let it soak for 10 minutes, swirling it a few times to get the starch to rise to the surface. Transfer this milky starchy liquid to a clean cup or glass. This is your rice wash for fermentation.
You may now proceed to add filtered water to your rice and cook it.
There are two techniques for making porridge. The first one is with glutinous rice flour.
- 2 cups vegetable broth (or water or dried mushroom soaking liquid, drained of dregs)
- 2 Tbsp glutinous rice flour
- 2 Tbsp muscovado or coconut sugar
- In a saucepan or pot, heat 1 ½ cup of the liquid to a gentle boil.
- Dissolve sugar and rice flour in the remaining ½ cup of liquid. Add to the pot.
- Stirring constantly, let the mixture cook until it is thick and bubbly.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
If you don’t have glutinous rice flour, you can use the second technique which uses leftover cooked rice.
- In a pot, put ¼ cup cooked rice with 1 to 2 cups of water, depending on how much you need for the recipe.
- Let it boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until it turns into a mushy porridge.
- Let the porridge cool to room temperature.
Use the porridge as is for a zero-waste version, or separate the starchy liquid from the mushy rice using a fine mesh strainer. Some people prefer straining the milky liquid because it looks better than having rice bits on your fermented greens. Compost the strained rice.
Alternatively, you can puree the cooked rice with the water in a blender and then let it boil then simmer for five minutes.
This process is more time consuming given it takes a while for the rice to break down and for the boiled starchy liquid to reach room temperature.
What to do with leftover hugas bigas
There’s a chance you will have extra rice wash especially if you used the uncooked method.
Do not throw that precious liquid away!
We like to leave it in a jar in the garden to ferment until it begins to smell slightly sour. This usually takes around several days.
This fermented rice wash can be used to water your plants. It has nutrients that make it a beneficial fertilizer and enhances soil bacteria.
You can also store it in the freezer for the next time you will make a ferment. Just make sure to label properly.