If you thought Rice was Rice was Rice – all the same – I’ll bet you were shocked by my post in this space yesterday, giving the lowdown on how to cook the two main types of rice and how to kick them up with colours and flavours. Let’s look, now, at the different kinds of rice you’ll find in the store…
Rice is universal…
Everywhere you go in the world, you’ll find that cooks know and love Rice. Rice has been cultinated for thousands and thousands of years. It’s the single most important food source on Earth and science is forever looking to breed new, more disease-resistant, higher yielding varieties. Yup. Even with some 40,000 known varieties in cultivation, we still have to make improvements to feed the exploding populations of tomorrow.
While the purists insist that there are three kinds of Rice – Long, Medium and Short Grain – there are really just two, for practical purposes. Long Grain Rices cook up light and fluffy with separate grains. Short Grain Rices tend to be starchy and sticky – great for dishes like Sushi, Risotto, Paella and Pilaf. Any recipe that calls for Medium Grain Rice will turn out just as good with a short Grain Rice.
Long Grain Rices
This group comprises Plain Long Grain White, Basmati, Jasmine and similar Rices.
Long Grain White – The usual stuff, served plain as a bed for Mediterranean dishes, Fish and Seafood entrées. Also as a simple side with dishes that have a nice sauce that the Rice can soak up.
Brown – The same thing as While Rice, but with the Bran left on to give it a nutty, earthy, umami flavour.
Basmati – An Asian variety which has a distinctive mild, Nutty flavour.
Jasmine – Another Asian variety which has a unique floral (Jasmine-like) aroma and delicate flavour.
Short Grain Rices
Arborio & Others – Classic Rices for Risotto. Can be substituted for Spanish Rices and vice versa. I always have Arborio in stock for all but my most specific Short Grain Rice recipes.
Chinese Sticky Rice – An Asian specialty, used in Sushi, Rice desserts and dishes calling for Rice Balls or patties.
Granza & Valencia – Spanish Rices, most often found in Spanish Rice dishes and Paella.
Short Grain White – Sticky, to a point, but not nearly as sticky as Chinese Sticky Rice. Good for Rice Pudding and, if necessary to substitute, in Sushi.
Forbidden – An Asian rice that looks black when dry, but cooks up plump and soft with a unique purple colour.
Instant – This stuff is really just regular White Rice that’s been par-cooked and then dehydrated, so it cooks up much faster than plain, untreated Rice. Flavour and appearance are similar to regular Rice, but some folks complain that it tastes bland.
Wild – Not really a member of the Rice family at all, but cooks and serves according to the same rules. A wonderful, rich, wild earthy flavour. Often mixed with Long Grain White Rice to stretch it. Wild Rice is very expensive, as Rices go.
All you really need…
…Is Arborio, Jasmine, Basmati and Plain White Long Grain. If you crave whole grains, keep Brown Rice handy, as well. Together, they’ll cover 90+ per cent of your Rice recipe needs. For details on substitutions, check out this website. When you run into a Rice you don’t already know, look it up in this Thesaurus and you’ll get at least one, if not many, substitution suggestions.
~ Maggie J.