Can its origin be traced back to Spain, to Latin America? To arroz amarillo, Spanish for yellow rice? A staple of Hispanic households, from Cuba to Colombia.

Or does it bear a tinge of Indonesian influence, judging from its name? Is it somehow related to the festive nasi kuning? The dish is nasi, Indonesian for rice, cooked in coconut milk with garlic, shallots, and curry leaves. Turmeric is added to lend a festive color — kuning, which means yellow in Indonesian. The yellow rice is piled pompously high in a towering heap on a platter, reserved for special occasions.

But java rice isn’t made with gata. Java rice is day-old cooked rice that’s fried in achuete oil with garlic and shallots. The achuete oil bleeds onto the rice, dressing the grains with its stunning yellow-orange hue. Java rice, with its garlic flavor and hints of sweetness from the fried shallots, pairs perfectly with Filipino-style grilled chicken or pork barbecue skewers. One is inseparable from the other, in my book.

And so, is java rice Indonesian? Is it Spanish?

Java rice is Filipino. It is a fusion of ideas and ingredients, which makes Filipino cuisine Filipino.


Java Rice Recipe, makes four to six servings

2 tablespoons achuete oil
2 shallots or a small red onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups leftover cooked rice at room temperature (1 cup uncooked gives roughly 3 cups cooked rice)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a wok or large pan over high heat. Saute garlic until lightly browned. Add shallots and saute until fragrant and softened. Mash the rice gently with clean hands, breaking apart clumps of rice. Pour rice into the hot wok and stir well, again breaking apart clumps of rice with a spatula. Stir fry until grains are separated and dry, and coated with achuete oil.


Java Rice

Java Rice

  • Sely

    Fantastic! This would go great with the Java chicken (with a side of atchara) that Aristocrat restaurant in Manila would serve. You wouldn’t happen to have that recipe would you?

  • joey

    This is truly a classic! This brings me back to high school when my friends and I would eat at Aristocrat restaurant and have barbecue with java rice and tons of their special sauce!

  • Jun Belen

    Sely, stay tuned. Aristocrat-style chicken barbecue is coming very soon.

  • Sely

    Hooray! My mouth is watering already.

  • Aileen Suzara

    Thanks Jun! I’ve always wondered about java rice’s origins, and what’s in a name. I’m remembering eating it paired with chicken inasal…mmm. :)

  • mjskit @

    This rice looks absolutely delicious! I can almost smell it. Love the achuete oil even though I’ve never heard of achuete seeds, the color is gorgeous so it’s got to be good.

  • Ann Mah

    This looks delicious — in my family, a big pile of savory rice is total comfort food. And I love your pretty blue and white bowls, too!

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  • Kris C

    I love those bowls… where can I get them??
    And of course, as always your photos are amazing.

  • Faye

    In this country it’s usually called achiote seed- you can get it from spice companies, Latin markets, and often the grocery store.

  • Anonymous

    This is beautiful! I have never heard of this rice but am definitely adding this to my rice repertoire. Looks so good! Thank you!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Kris. I got them from in San Francisco’s Chinatown but I think they are available in other asian stores that sell plates and bowls.

  • debbie

    at last I found the recipe for java rice!!!! thanks

  • Food Taste and Recipe

    Lovely recipe, I wanna try this at home!

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