Adlai, also known as adlay, Chinese pearl barley, or Job’s Tears, is a gluten-free grain that grows primarily in Asia. Similar to rice, the grain grows on long stalks of grass, then are milled into ivory-colored beads with streaks of black or light brown.
In China, adlai has been used for medicinal purposes: this high-fiber and protein-packed grain shows promising results in anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and blood sugar-lowering properties. In the Philippines, the grain has become a prospect for an alternative food source for rice. The crop is easy to grow, highly nutritious, and according to our Department of Agriculture, has the potential to address our national food security problem.
“I see more and more restaurants using it in Manila, and communities in Mindanao, like Bukidnon and Zamboanga, are actively producing adlai,” says Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. “We also have research centers in Lipa and Isabela who have it.”
These research centers test adlai’s adapdability and growth patterns in different locations, and are run by the Bureau of Agricultural Research.
Cooking with adlai is easy: all you have to do is throw it into a pot, one part adlai and two parts water, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until cooked. It will be slightly chewy with a firm bite—similar to an al dente noodle, and will not absorb all the water. It also cooks beautifully in a rice cooker!
Adlai’s taste profile is similar to boiled white corn, which makes it a perfect addition to soups and stews, warm salads, and grain bowls. Here’s a quick recipe to try: sauté chopped white onions, chopped bell peppers, and chopped fresh mushrooms in a pan. Toss cooked adlai grains in, add a spoonful of pesto sauce into the salad, season with salt and pepper, and serve warm.
Source your adlai from your local groceries—the grain has been picking up in popularity recently and is most likely already available in the dried beans and grains aisle of your local grocery. Or, pop into Healthy Options for your adlai fix.