Rice has over 40,000 varieties and even more ways to serve it. It comes from multiple regions, which opens the door to creating a wide range of cultural dishes.
It is one of the most versatile foods in the world. Along with being nutritionally sound, it is affordable, easy to cook, and can be eaten for any meal. It makes delightful desserts and produces a tasty milk product that can be used for cereal, whipped into a fruit smoothie, or added to coffee and tea.
Most people are familiar with white, sticky, and brown rice. This basic staple can add substance to nearly any meal and is ideal for bulking up soups, stews, and casseroles.
Three sizes of grains exist
Rice is either small, medium, or large. Short grain is quite sticky and is often found in Sushi. medium grain has a slightly wider kernel and produces a softer texture than short grain, yet still has a sticky quality.
Long grain is cylindrical in shape and approximately twice as long as short grain. It features Amylose starch which alters its ability to absorb water and swell during the cooking process. This produces light and fluffy rice with a low level of stickiness.
Let’s explore some of the more popular and readily-available types, along with ways to prepare them.
Ten Popular Rice Options
Arborio is high-starch, short-grain rice originally cultivated in Italy. Today, it is also produced in California and Texas. Arborio is best cooked al dente (soft to the tooth). The grain becomes soft and plump with a bit of crunch in the center. It is commonly used to create risotto, a creamy Italian dish, and puddings.
Most people are used to boiling water and adding rice, then simmering until it is cooked. Arborio is cooked in three stages; adding small amounts of liquid and constantly stirring to release the starch and achieve the creamy texture.
Basmati is fragrant, long-grain rice cultivated primarily in Pakistan and India. It is known for its nutty flavor and buttery mouthfeel. It is available as brown or white rice and is often used in Indian and vegetarian dishes.
Basmati has a high level of starch and should be thoroughly washed prior to cooking. This can be accomplished by soaking it for thirty minutes, draining and rinsing, or by holding grains in hand over a colander and rinsing with cold water for five minutes. Once cooked, basmati grains stretch out rather than plump up.
Black Japonica has an earthy, sweet, and spicy flavor profile. Developed by California-based company Lundberg Family Farms, Black Japonica is a combination of Asia black and medium-grain mahogany rice grown together in the same field.
Black Japonica is very versatile and marries well with other types of rice, making it an excellent choice for rice pilaf. Its earthy flavor pairs well with sweet and sour soup, mushroom soup, stir fry dishes, and stuffing.
Brown rice is unmilled or partially milled with only the outermost husk removed. It can be short, medium, or long-grain and is used in many culinary dishes. It contains more nutritional value than milled white rice and offers a nutty flavor that marries well with beef, chicken, pork, seafood, soups, and salads.
Because brown rice is not processed, it can turn rancid more quickly than white. It is recommended to store brown rice in an amber-colored glass jar. Place a piece of tape on the jar and jot down the expiration date. If no expiration date is printed on the bag, record six months from the date the bag is opened.
Instant rice is dehydrated and pre-cooked. This process allows the boiling water to reach the center of the grain faster and substantially reduces cooking time. In the culinary world, instant rice is frowned upon. However, it can be a lifesaver when you’re short on time.
Precooked rice has an extremely mild flavor on its own. Many people add butter and salt or soy sauce to spruce it up enough to serve as a stand-alone side dish. It can be added to soups during the final minutes of cooking and offers an easy way to bulk up burritos.
Jasmine is nutty-flavored long-grain rice. Originally from Thailand, it is often referred to as ‘Thai fragrant rice.’ Jasmine can be somewhat expensive in grocery stores, with prices hovering around $4 per pound. It can be purchased in bulk at Asian food markets for about half the price. One disadvantage is cooking directions are not printed on bulk packages.
Many types of rice use the 2 to 1 ratio, meaning two cups of liquid for every cup of rice. In order to achieve proper consistency, Jasmine requires more water than other types of white rice. A good rule of thumb is to use about 1/4 cup extra liquid per rice measurement. For example, 2-1/4 cup water to 1 cup uncooked rice.
Saffron isn’t actually a type of rice. Instead, it is a dish usually made from Jasmine or Basmati and seasoned with saffron spice.
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, but fortunately, a little goes a long way. It is derived from the dried stigmas of the Saffron Crocus. When cooked, the bright orange-red threads provide foods with a golden yellow color and honey flavor.
Homemade saffron is oftentimes made with chicken stock or beef broth and requires 30 to 60 minutes of cooking time. It’s easy to make and requires few ingredients. The flavor is amazing, and your home will be filled with the scent of saffron during the cooking process.
Sticky rice is sweet, short-grain Asian rice that sticks together when cooked. A more appropriate name is ‘glutinous.’ It is cultivated in China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and other Asian regions. It is most often used in stir fry, fried rice dishes, soups, and casseroles.
It’s best to prepare it by soaking it overnight and steaming it in a rice cooker the following day. At a minimum, it should be soaked in warm water for two hours, then rinsed. The longer it soaks, the more tender and flavorful it becomes.
White rice is actually brown rice in which the husk, bran, and germ have been removed. The seed is polished, and certain B vitamins and iron are added to enrich the grain. It has about two-thirds less fiber than brown. It requires less time to cook and yields fluffy rice with minimal flavor.
Cooking it requires little work. The ratio is two cups of water per one cup of uncooked rice. A pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil or butter can be added to the water prior to boiling. Once the water comes to a boil, the white rice is added and gently stirred. Heat is reduced to simmer, and the pot is covered for about twenty minutes. It should not be stirred during the cooking process.
Wild rice is packed with nutrients, including protein, fiber, potassium, and niacin. It grows in the shallow water of lakes and rivers and is cultivated in Asia, Canada, and the United States. Its musky flavor pairs well with beef, bison, chicken, seafood, and soups, and it’s often used for stuffing bell peppers, as well as in casseroles and salads.
The perfect anti-inflammatory food source
Regardless of your choice, rice offers an affordable option for adding gluten-free grains to your diet that provide fuel for your body and boost metabolism. It’s also known for improving cardiovascular health and memory while lowering cholesterol and controlling blood pressure. You can easily cook it on a stovetop or in an Instant Pot.