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Kinds of Rice

There are many different kinds of rice that vary in size, color, consistency, and flavor. Choosing the right kind can complement or clash with a recipe or dish. White rice is what most people think of when rice is on the menu. It is good in many dishes, yet there are healthier varieties available. White rice is common recipes because it does not overpower spices and other ingredients and it makes a very good filler. Yet many people are looking for novelty in their recipes. Besides wanting something new, they also want healthy varieties. Good taste and good health are the objectives of the modern day epicurean.

Rice Varieties
Wild, Basmati, and Red Carmague Rices

Basmati rice is a favorite that is growing in popularity. This rice has a distinctive flavor and aroma that can add distinction to any recipe. Yet because Basmati rice is aged, it can be expensive. But this process is important to lend the rice its distinctive color and firm, dry texture. It is mainly grown in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.

Southern long grain rice is a variety that hails from the southern states of the USA. There are different varieties within this larger umbrella. Long grain rice has similar taste and texture to the standard white rice, but its size (as implied by its name) is longer. Thus it presents a different feel to the palate when eaten and also tends to give a slightly different tone to recipes calling for rice.

Southern medium grain rice sounds like it would be just a shorter version of the long grain variety, but it is different. "It is an indica type and so of a different origin. It is unacceptable to the palate of consumers of japonica type medium grain rice."1 This is because it is not as sticky and has a different texture. However, it is enjoyed in the Southern U.S. and Puerto Rico where it is used in spicy dishes.

California medium grain rice, also known as Calrose has a bigger following. It is only grown in very few temperate climates. Its flavor is considered clean and "bland". Bland here is meant in a positive sense in that it complements other dishes and flavors well. Because of this quality this rice is in high demand. It is shorter but wider than typical long grain rice, and the rice grains are two or three times longer than their width.

Jasmine rice is grown regularly in Thailand and is frequently used in Thai dishes. It has a rich aroma and taste that makes it a favorite for certain dishes. Jasmine rice is at its best right after it has been harvested. This preserves its unique flavor, texture, and stickyness.

There is even an Italian style rice called Arborio Rice. It is very much like California Medium in appearance. However, it has a chalky center, which when cooked gives a creamy feel to the outside of the grain and a firm bite to the inside. This is grown in Italy and California.

Wild rice has a black appearance. Is not classified scientifically as rice. It is actually the seed of a long grass that grows well in fairly deep water. It was first found in the lakes of the mid to northern latitudes of North America (U.S. and Canada). It is generally parched directly after harvest, giving it a strong flavor, especially since the outer bran is left on the grain.

Brown rice is really white rice with the bran left on (only the husk is removed). This means that more of the nutrients are preserved. The flavor, however, is slightly pungeant and similar to wild rice. Some brown rices do have other layers removed, but have not been "polished" - a process that makes the rice white. Brown rice is a source of manganese, and the minerals selenium and magnesium.2

Golden Rice is a fantastic development in rice that concentrates beta-carotene in the grain. This is a huge advancement over standard rice because it reduces "incidence of blindness, disease susceptibility and premature death of small children."3 It is yellow or golden in color (from the beta-carotene) and has good flavor and texture and can be used in many dishes as a substitute for standard white rice.

As seed companies increase their ability to provide new strains of rice, growers and manufacturers can bring more tailored varieties to market.

Next Page: Rice Cultivation


1. SageVFoods
2. World's Healthiest Foods
3. GoldenRice.org


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