A Panamanian Recipe for the Holidays: Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding)

Arroz con leche in Panama - with cinnamon, raisins, and lemon peel.

Arroz con leche (literally, 'rice with milk') is a popular dessert in Panama, with roots in the country's Spanish heritage. However, this dish is found the world over, with regional varieties found throughout Asia, England, Nordic countries, the Middle East, and Central and South America.  Rice pudding comes in sweet and savory varieties, but in its most basic form, is always made with rice, some type of milk,  and any number of garnishes or flavorings.  Most recipes include sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.  

In some countries, like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the Ukraine, the dish is typically served during Christmas (as well as at other times), contains whipped cream, and is served in a variety of ways, such as with almonds, a fruit sauce, or vanilla.  Much of Central America, including Panama, follows the Spanish recipe of rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and often lemon zest.  In Puerto Rico, the dessert has the addition of coconut milk and cream, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and rum-soaked raisins.  Western India gives the dish a regional twist with saffron and nuts, while the northeastern side of the country adds cardamom and pistachio.  Israelis and Egyptians add rosewater for a floral note.  

No matter where you're from, we hope you enjoy this recipe for the traditional Panamanian Arroz con Leche.  Though eaten year round in Panama, this dish sure is festive and rich, and would make a great addition to your holiday spread.  Don't be afraid to experiment and come up with your own twist, or celebrate another culture with one of the varieties noted above.  Happy holidays; may the world unite around rice pudding!

Arroz con Leche

1 pound of rice
16 cups of water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 small boxes? of raisins
1 can of evaporated milk
Sugar to taste

Bring a pot of 16 cups of water to a boil.  Add the rice and cinnamon sticks.  Stir every five minutes so that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Let the mixture boil until the rice is soft and thick.  Then, add the milk, raisins, and sugar to your preference.  Stir and let sit for 5 minutes, then put in the fridge to cool.  Serve with a dusting of powdered cinnamon.   ¡Disfrútalo! (Enjoy!)

Read the original recipe (in Spanish) here.

More resources: 
https://bluejellybeans.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/a-sleeping-indian-and-some-rice-pudding/ (and photo credit)