What are the different types of rice?
Rice, Orzya sativa, a cereal grain, is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s population. A starchy seed of a semi-aquatic plant, rice is divided into three categories by size: long, medium and short grained.
Rice can be, and is, grown practically anywhere, and is well-suited to countries and regions with low labor costs and high rainfall. American rice farmers grow approximately 19 billion pounds of rice in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. Long, medium, and short-grain rice, as well as “specialty” rice varieties, are grown in the United States, and nearly 85 percent of all rice consumed in America is grown here.
Aromatic rices like Thai fragrant rice, Basmati, and Jasmine are popular today, as are Indonesian red and black rice, and a host of hybrid American cultivars including Texmati and Jasmati. The popular Italian short grain Arborio rice, from the Po Valley, and medium grain Carnaroli rice, whose high levels of amylose cause them to create their own sauces are essential when making a proper risotto.
Aromatic rices add a unique scent and flavor to a meal, while the various starchy Italian rices are best when you need a creamy, slightly chewy texture. Red and black rices are nutrient-dense and add a splash of color to dishes.
Here’s a more detailed rundown:
- Aromatic Rices:
- Thai Fragrant Rice: Also known as Hom Mali, is a long-grain variety of rice that has a distinctive jasmine aroma and a slightly sticky texture when cooked. It’s commonly used in Thai cuisine, particularly for dishes like Thai fried rice or as an accompaniment to spicy Thai curries.
- Basmati: This long-grain rice is native to the Indian subcontinent and is a staple in Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern cuisines. It has a delicate flavor and light, fluffy texture when cooked, which pairs well with robust and spicy dishes like biryanis, pilafs, and curries.
- Jasmine: Jasmine rice, often found in Southeast Asian cuisines, has a slightly sweet flavor and a stickier texture compared to basmati. It is excellent for dishes like Hainanese chicken rice and sticky rice desserts.
- Indonesian Red and Black Rice: These are whole grain (unhulled) rice varieties known for their nutty flavor and high nutritional content. They are often used in traditional Indonesian and Filipino desserts, but can also be used in salads and side dishes. They’re rich in antioxidants due to their color.
- Texmati and Jasmati: These are American variants of traditional basmati and jasmine rice, respectively. They were bred to mimic the flavors and textures of their counterparts, so they can be used interchangeably in recipes calling for basmati or jasmine. Texmati has a slightly popcorn-like flavor and works well in pilafs, while Jasmati has the aromatic qualities of Jasmine rice.
- Arborio Rice: This short, fat grain is traditionally used in Italian cooking, particularly for risotto due to its high starch content. When cooked, Arborio rice becomes creamy and chewy, making it perfect for dishes that require a bit of stickiness.
- Carnaroli Rice: Also used in risotto, Carnaroli is sometimes preferred over Arborio by chefs because it has an even higher starch content, yielding a creamier risotto, and it’s less likely to become overcooked.
All types of rice are available in various degrees of processing such as brown or white or polished rice. The main differences between brown, white, and polished rice are in their processing, nutritional content, cooking times, and shelf lives. The choice between them depends on the desired texture, flavor, nutritional needs, and cooking time.
- Brown Rice is whole grain rice, with only the outermost layer (the husk) removed. The bran layer and the germ remain, giving it a nuttier flavor, a chewier texture, and a brown color. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, as it contains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It takes longer to cook than white rice and has a shorter shelf life due to the oils in the bran and germ.
- White Rice has had the husk, bran layer, and germ removed, leaving only the starchy endosperm. This gives it a lighter flavor, a softer texture, and a longer shelf life. It cooks faster than brown rice but has less fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Some white rice is enriched, which means that some of the vitamins and minerals that were lost during processing are added back in.
- Polished Rice is white rice that has been further processed to improve its appearance. This process, often involving glucose or talc, gives the rice a shiny finish. It doesn’t affect the nutritional value but can make the rice less sticky when cooked. Polishing also helps to extend the shelf life of the rice because it removes any remaining bran that could become rancid.