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We here at We Know Rice do know about rice. But also, we love sharing our knowledge with our readers! While rice may be widely consumed all over the world, there are still a lot of individuals who find themselves clueless once they arrive in the rice aisle of the grocery store.
There are different types of rice – short grain rice, long grain rice, and medium-grain. Add to that, there are numerous varieties — these can range from Basmati rice, Jasmine rice, Wild rice, and so on. Today, we’ll be discussing the different types of rice to help you distinguish which grains are perfect for all the rice recipes that you have on hand.
Brown rice and White rice are the most common grains that people consume, but there is a difference between them. Brown rice is less processed and considered whole grain. It has all the parts of the grain, including the endosperm, fibrous bran, and germ layers. The only thing that is removed from brown grains is the hull of the seed.
On the other hand, white rice is milled rice with the husk, bran layer, and germ removed. Without the husk, germ, and bran layers, the texture, appearance, flavor, and shelf-life of the grains change. After the milling process, white rice is polished, removing more of its nutrients but resulting in its pearly white appearance. White rice may be enriched with the nutrients it lost due to the removal of the bran and germ layers. These nutrients include B vitamins and iron.
One of the most important qualities in a rice variety is the makeup of its starch content. Amylose and amylopectin make up the two types of molecules in starch. Each of them react differently when introduced to water at cooking temperatures.
Amylopectin is water-soluble and once cooked, it produces a solution that does not gel. It is the molecule responsible for making cooked rice glutinous or sticky. Amylose, on the other hand, tends to cook up into distinct grains.
Indica varieties are mostly of the long-grain length, but there are also short-grain kinds. Indica usually contains amylose and less amylopectin. Meanwhile, japonica are usually short-grain, but long-grain kinds do exist as well. Japonica has more amylopectin and less amylose.
Grains vary in types, length, cooking techniques, and even texture after cooking. Here are the main types of rice to help you out in figuring which one to use for your recipes.
Short-grain rice are grains that are almost round in shape. This type of rice is very starchy and tends to clump together when cooked. Short-grain tends to absorb more liquids than medium or long-grain varieties of rice.
It’s essential to rinse the rice a few times to remove the excess starch on the grains. Short-grain rice can be used for dishes such as paella, sushi, rice pudding, mochi, rice balls, and the like.
Unlike short-grain types, medium-grain rice types have a lower starch content. Depending on the cooking method and the variety of medium-grain, a dish can result in a creamier texture rather than a sticky one.
This type of rice is mostly used in risotto. It’s also usually served in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean restaurants. Aside from risotto, medium-grain types are also used in dishes such as arancini, rice salads, table rice, and fried rice.
Long-grain rice is mainly cultivated in South and Southeast Asia. This type of rice has the lowest starch content. This results in dry grains that don’t stick to each other, unlike the other two main types of rice.
You can easily recognize long-grain rice by its length, which is three to five times its width. It’s also very aromatic. This rice is the best for dishes such as pilaf, biryani, curry, Indian, Palestinian, and Thai cuisine.
Now that we’ve established the types of rice, it’s time to get down to the varieties of grains. These grains can vary anywhere from short to long grain rice, and their textures also differ once cooked. Check them out.
Indica rice is usually long-grain and aromatic. It is more widely consumed than the usual short or medium-grain rice of the japonica variety.
Popular in India, Basmati rice cooks in a soft, fluffy, and distinct way. It has an aroma that is reminiscent of pandan leaves. Basmati rice is usually used in pilaf, biryani, or served as part of thali as a side dish of chicken tikka masala. Basmati rice can be purchased in brown or polished white rice varieties.
Jasmine rice is a variety that is primarily grown in Thailand. Jasmine rice grains are slightly shorter and slightly plumper than basmati grains. Its aroma is similar to that of basmati, however, it is far more pronounced. This rice is served along dishes such as wet curry, Thai-style fried rice, or coconut rice.
Jasmine rice can be purchased as polished white rice, brown rice, or red rice. Red rice is distinguished from brown rice in the way that only the husk has been removed.
Calasparra and bomba rice are usually used in paella recipes. While calasparra and bomba rice are short-grain varieties, they are indica rice cultivars as they have the ability to absorb a lot of liquid and remain un-sticky even when fully cooked, thanks to their pretty low amylopectin content.
Rice grains of the japonica rice variety are short to medium-grained and have very little overt aroma. They also have a distinctly sticky texture when cooked due to their relatively high amylopectin content. Japonica rice is grown around the world, however indica varieties are more consumed worldwide than japonica.
Also called Japanese rice, sushi rice are short to medium-grained cultivars of rice that’s preferred in Japan. This rice is the type that sticks together, making it ideal for sushi-making.
Sushi rice is also usually polished and pearly white, but there are also brown rice versions of it. In the United States, much of the short and medium-grain Japanese rice is produced in California and generally is of the Calrose or Koshihikari variety.
Hailing from Italy, Carnaroli and Arborio rice are varieties that are famously used in dishes such as risotto or even a creamy rice pudding. Due to the high amount of amylopectin in Carnaroli and Arborio rice grain types, they have a characteristic creaminess to them.
Known as glutinous rice or sweet rice, sticky rice is a short-grain japonica variety that has a large amount of amylopectin in it and a low amount of amylose, making it incredibly sticky.
This is grown mainly in Southeast Asia and East Asia. Glutinous rice is primarily used in Asian cuisine, both in sweet dishes, as a side dish, or even as a main dish.
For sticky rice to be evenly cooked, one must soak it first in water. One can also soak it in cold water overnight before cooking. Sticky rice is also used to make toasted rice powder, providing a nutty taste to some Thai dishes. Glutinous rice can also come in an unpolished form. However, unlike rice varieties that keep their bran layer, sticky rice can come in purple or black rice. Typically, black rice is used to make desserts.
A type of rice belonging to the species Oryza sativa L. Some black rice varieties also belong to the glutinous rice kind. Sometimes, black rice is also referred to as forbidden rice and it gets its signature color from a pigment called anthocyanin, which is a potent antioxidant that can also be found in blueberries and blackberries. Black rice has the highest amounts of protein, iron, and is almost always whole grain.
Originating in California, Calrose rice is of the medium-grain variety. Available in white or brown, Calrose rice maintains its flavor and becomes soft and sticky when cooked. It makes for an ideal option when making sushi or adding it to soup or stew.
A variety of rice that looks red in color due to its anthocyanin content. It comes with a red husk instead of a brown husk that is more common in other varieties of rice. Red rice is usually eaten with its hull intact or with a partial hull. Out of all rice types eaten with the hull intact, red rice has the highest nutritional value.
In the United States, wild rice isn’t actually rice. Wild rice found in the grocery store is made of harvested seeds of a cultivated water-loving grass. Wild rice has a chewy texture when cooked and has a vegetal, seedy, yet pleasant flavor. It can be used in rice dishes such as a wild rice salad, but can also be used in other recipes like wild rice soup, turmeric broth soup, and such.
Also known as converted rice, parboiled rice are grains that have been partially pre-cooked in its inedible husk before being processed for eating. This is due to the belief that parboiling rice can improve texture, storage, and even health benefits.
The three main steps to parboiling include soaking, steaming, and drying the rice in its husk after harvest but before milling. When cooked, parboiled rice is dry and firm.
There you have it! We hope that we were able to help in distinguishing the multitudes of rice types that you can come across in your local market. Ready to make some amazing rice dishes? Check out our collection of rice recipes.