What is Rice?
Similar to other grains, rice is an edible seed of a grass. The most common factor of rice is that it comes from Oryza sativa or Asian rice. All rice grains or seeds has the following parts:
A stiff outer hull: It is widely called the husk. It should be removed before the rice is eaten. Moreover, the hull is removed from all rice types.
Bran: An extra layer that is right beneath the hull, the bran layer is only removed in specific kinds of rice variants like white rice. Moreover, the bran is basically the nutritious whole-grain part of the rice. It is generally brownish-tan in color, but often appears to be red or black too based on the pigmentation of the bran layer.
Endosperm: The piece after the outer hull and bran layers are peeled off. This part is widely known as white rice. However, it is the most commonly eaten part of rice, it is also the least healthy.
Germ: It is present beneath the hull. However, germ is not exactly a layer, but a small kernel. Most importantly, it is full of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and proteins, which accords to the entire rice color.
Generally, the white rice you buy from any grocery store or supermarket has been milled or washed off the hull, bran and germ, leaving behind just the endosperm.
Types of Rice
Here are the three major types of rice available in the market:
- Long-Grain Rice
Long-grain rice is widely known to have a good length that is about three to five times its width. The two most common and popular long-grain rice variants are basmati and jasmine rice. When cooked properly, long-grain rice should be fluffy, delicate and non-sticky.
- Medium-Grain Rice
As the name suggests, medium-grain rice is somewhere between long-grain and short-grain or glutinous rice. Moreover, it is shorter than long grain but less starchy than short-grain rice. This rice is typically fluffy and moist right after cooking, but clumps and hardens as it cools down. It builds a creamy consistency perfect for risotto, kheer, and rice pudding.
- Short-Grain Rice
Short-grain rice is starchy, round, and chubby, and it swells and sticks together in clumps. It is usually considered glutinous because of its glue-like or sticky texture. This type of rice is mostly eaten with chopsticks or even your bare hands. People commonly use short-grain rice to cook sweet desserts, sticky rice and sushi rolls.
Varieties of Rice
After discussing the types of rice, let's move to certain varieties of rice. Keep in mind that each of the following varieties comes under the long-grain, short-grain and medium-grain rice categories:
- Basmati Rice
One of the most widely consumed long-grain rice varieties, basmati was traditionally cultivated in the lush green foothills of the Himalayas. It is predominantly used in Indian and Pakistani cuisines like biryani, jeera rice, pulao and kheer. Slender and delicate, basmati rice may triple in length after cooking, making the grains appetising. This rice is popular because of its light, nutty flavor and slightly floral aroma. However, it is suggested to soak basmati rice for about 30 minutes before cooking to minimize cooking time by 20%.
- Wild Rice
Wild rice is literally grass. Widely cultivated in wetlands in and around lakes, rivers and bays, this rice has originated in the upper Great Lakes areas of the United States. When it is cooked, the skin unravels, and the grain curls up to expose a white interior, which results in a distinctive texture. Moreover, this rice has a toasty flavor similar to black tea. It is suggested to cook vegetable pulao or mix this rice with nuts and dried fruits for a stunning side dish.
- Brown Rice
Brown rice comes in both short and long-grain varieties. It is milled to remove the outer husk but preserves its bran layer, which is filled with nutrients. When cooked, it has a slightly chewy texture and nutty flavor that elevates any dish. Besides, you can switch to this healthy alternative for your everyday consumption that you would consume white rice.
- Long Grain White Rice
One of the most consumed grains, long grain white rice is used in various cuisines around the world. It is milled to remove its outer husk and well-polished to get rid of any bran remnants, which results in less nutrients than red or brown rice. After cooking, this rice stays separate and fluffy. As it's a versatile ingredient, you can experiment with this grain by cooking pulao, fried rice, or topping it with your favorite curry, chicken, or veggies.
- Black Rice
Black rice, popular as 'forbidden rice' or 'emperor's rice,' was an exclusive food meant only for emperors in China. It gets its color from the high level of anthocyanin, the same antioxidant found in blueberries, eggplant and purple corn. Packed with nutrients, this flavorful medium-grain rice is typically used in Asian cuisine. You can try to cook it into a mushroom saute accented with fragrant cilantro or mix it with brown rice to make a coconut rice pudding.
- Jasmine Rice
Originally grown in Thailand, Jasmine rice is known for its floral scent and aroma. It is a slender and long grain that cooks up soft and slightly sticky. This rice is an ideal choice to eat with Persian jeweled rice dotted with dried fruits. Besides, you can also eat it with some chicken or a spicy curry.
- Sushi Rice
Sushi rice is basically white or brown Japanese short-grain rice. Moreover, the rice has a high starch content, which adds to the stickiness required to make any type of sushi. Apart from rolls and hand rolls, you can also use this rice like your regular white rice. Pair it with a dipping sauce poured over generously, some seafood, or a sweet rice pudding.
- Parboiled Rice
Parboiled rice is well-processed in its husk by soaking, steaming and drying. Thus, all the essential nutrients from the husk are transferred to the grain before it's removed. Moreover, the starch content changes in the process, making cooked parboiled rice less sticky compared to regular white rice. This rice majorly goes well with thick curries as it absorbs them perfectly.
- Red Rice
Red rice is a not commonly consumed rice variety but it's one of the healthiest ones. This rice owes its color to the presence of anthocyanin. Most importantly, it comes with a red husk, instead of the typically brown husk seen in other rice varieties. Red rice is mostly eaten hulled or partially hulled. Red rice's high nutritional value and intact germ make it different from other varieties.
All in all, there is a huge variety of rice that's available for consumption. Despite such an enormous number, people widely consume white, brown, basmati, and jasmine rice on a daily basis as it's unlikely to eat all the rice varieties or have them stored in your pantry. Considering that fact, if you want to experiment with your cooking or start a new diet plan, you can switch to other rice varieties that suit your taste, preference and health requirements.