Rice is a staple in any kitchen, and with so many different types, it lends itself to a limitless number of recipes. Before you add the same type of rice to every recipe you prepare, however, think twice. Substituting one type of rice for another can really alter the result of a recipe. Each type of rice has its own taste, texture, and unique properties that work well with different cooking applications. So how do you know which one to choose? This guide examines factors that differentiate types of rice, from nutty basmati to fragrant jasmine and more!
There are more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice (the grass species Oryza sativa) said to exist. But the exact figure is uncertain. Over 90,000 samples of cultivated rice and wild species are stored at the International Rice Gene Bank and these are used by researchers all over the world.
Hull – Each grain of rice is enclosed in a tough outer hull, or husk, that needs to be removed before it can be consumed. This layer is removed in all rice types.
Bran – Under the hull, the bran layer is not removed in all rice types. This nutritious whole grain section is usually tan-colored, but it may be reddish or black depending on the pigmentation in the bran layers. The bran layer may be consumed, but it is often removed when further processing rice.
White Rice – Once the bran and germ layers are removed, white rice remains. Known as the endosperm, this is the part of the rice that is most commonly consumed.
Germ – Found under the hull, the germ, or rice kernel, is nutrient-dense. Full of B vitamins, minerals, and proteins, it helps give rice its color and added nutritional benefits.
Rice is often characterized as one of three varieties – long grain, medium grain, or short grain rice. These varieties refer to the length and shape of the grain. Simply speaking, long grain rice will have a longer cylindrical shape, whereas short grain rice will be shorter and wider.
Polished Rice – The term “polished” simply refers to white rice that has had its outer brown layer of bran and germ removed. Rice that has shed its bran layers can also be referred to as “milled rice.”
Brown Rice – This healthful rice sheds its outer husk and retains its bran and germ layers that give it a characteristic tan color. Though brown rice takes a little longer to cook than white rice, the nutrient-dense layers are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Forbidden Rice – High in nutritional value, this rice is also known as black rice and has a mild nutty flavor. Slightly sticky when cooked, it is used in a variety of Chinese or Thai dishes, including Chinese black rice cake and mango sticky rice. Mix it with white rice, and it also adds color to any rice pilaf or rice bowl.
Wild Rice – Wild rice grains are harvested from the genus Zizania of grasses. High in protein, wild rice adds a colorful, exotic flair to any rice dish. Serve it with stir frys, mushroom soups, or casseroles for something new.
American long-grain white rice is the most familiar rice in American kitchens. It’s often cooked by the absorption method—in a tightly covered pot with a measured amount of water, which gets completely absorbed by the rice—for a dry, fluffy texture with distinct grains.
American long-grain brown rice is the whole-grain version of its white counterpart—that is to say, the bran and germ layers are left intact, giving the rice a nutty, grainy flavor and a chewy bite. The pasta method (cooking the rice in a large pot of boiling water until tender, then draining off the excess water) is a quick way to cook brown rice evenly.
Basmati, the predominant rice in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, is marked by its extra-long grains and subtly nutty fragrance and flavor. It needs to soak for half an hour or more before cooking.
Jasmine rice, from Thailand, has long, translucent grains. When cooked, it has a seductive, slightly floral aroma and a soft, clingy texture. It should be washed before cooking to remove excess starch.
Bomba is the rice of choice for the Spanish classic paella. It absorbs up to twice as much liquid as long-grain rice, but without getting sticky, like short-grain rice.
Wehani rice is a whole-grain, reddish-brown American hybrid of basmati and long-grain brown rice. Its intense chew and deep color make it popular for mixing with other rices in a pilaf. Or cook it solo via the absorption method.
Kalijira rice is a medium-grain rice from the Bengal region of India, often called “baby basmati” because of its diminutive size. It’s traditionally cooked with the pasta method, and makes an intriguing alternative to basmati in a pilaf.
Arborio rice is the most widely available variety of Italian superfino rice, used to make risotto (the other types include carnaroli and vialone nano). All of them have plump grains and a high proportion of amylopectin, a type of sticky starch that’s responsible for the trademark creamy texture of risotto.
African rice has been cultivated for 3500 years.
Today, the majority of all rice produced comes from China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Korea and Japan. Asian farmers still account for 87% of the world’s total rice production.
Nearly half the world’s 7 billion population eat rice as part of their staple diet and demand is expected to grow by 50 per cent by 2030.
World rice production is approximately 660 million tonnes with over 114 countries growing rice.
Most of the world’s rice is consumed in the area in which it is grown, just 6% is traded internationally.