Different cultures have different stories about how rice came to existence. From its very humble origins, rice has evolved into Asia’s most deeply cherished heritage. Rice has its history, legacy, and so many usages that it continues to surprise us everyday. There are more than 40,000 varieties of this beautiful & bountiful grain, grown in almost every continent other than Antarctica. The origin, the climate & soil conditions, farming methods, processing methods and finally aging and quality control – all have their impact on the rice that ends up in your home.
What is in a Grain of Rice?
“When rice is harvested it is called ‘Paddy’. A paddy is a complete whole seed of rice and a single grain of paddy contains one rice kernel.
The rice grain/paddy consists of three main layers – the hull or husk, the bran and germ – and the inside kernel, or endosperm.”
The rice hull or husk is a hard, protective outer layer that is inedible. The hull is removed when the grain is milled. In addition to protecting rice during the growing season, rice hulls can later be put to use as fertilizer, insulation material, or fuel.
The thin layer of skin underneath the hull is the bran and germ layer. This layer gives brown rice its colour. Bran is mainly composed of fibre, Vitamin B complexes, protein and fat, and is the most nutritious part of the rice grain. White rice is a form of brown rice with the bran and germ layer removed.
The endosperm is the inside part of the rice grain, which is hard and white and composed of mainly starch. Rice starch consists of mainly 2 types of starches – amylose and amylopectin. The exact mixture of these determines the cooking texture of the rice.
“There are no hard and fast rules for which type of rice to use in any particular recipe; it’s simply a matter of personal preference. Here’s a quick guide to the many types of rice, with endless menu possibilities!”
Classification of Rice based on it's Length
Short Grain Rice
Rice grains are less than twice as long as they are wide. It has more amylopectin in the grains as compared to long and medium grain rice. It releases lots of starch during cooking and is sticky and creamy when cooked. Short grain rice is best suited for sushi, puddings and desserts.
Medium Grain Rice
When compared to long grain rice, medium grain rice has a shorter, wider kernel. Medium grain rice has more amylopectin in the grains and a softer outer layer. Cooked grains are more moist and tender, releases more starch during cooking and has a greater tendency to stick together.
Regular Long Grain White Rice
This rice has milled grains that are at least three to four times as long as they are wide. Owing to its starch composition, it is separate, light and fluffy when cooked. Long grain white rice is grown in Australia and also imported from Thailand, USA, Spain, Italy, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Classification of Rice based on the way the Paddy Grains are processed
Brown Rice / Wholegrain Rice
This type of rice has a distinctly nutty flavour. Brown rice undergoes only minimal milling, which removes the husk but retains the outer bran layer. As a result the rice retains more vitamin, mineral and fibre content than regular white or parboiled rice. The cooked grains have a chewy texture, which many people enjoy.
Regular-milled white rice or polished rice is the most common form of rice. The outer husk is removed, and the layers of bran are milled until the grain is white. This processing of white rice reduces some of its fiber, vitamin, and mineral content. But some types of white rice are enriched with additional nutrients and it’s still a popular choice.
Parboiled / Easy-Cook Rice / Sella Rice
In this case the paddy crop is steamed under pressure prior to milling. This process toughens the grain and reduces the risk of over-cooking. It also helps to retain much of the natural vitamin and mineral content present in the milled layers. Parboiled raw rice grains are creamy to golden in colour but turn white when cooked.
Classification of Rice based on its unique properties
“The first class of rice that is classified as “Speciality” are the aromatic rice varieties. These contain a natural ingredient – 2- acetyl 1-pyrroline, which is responsible for their fragrant aroma and delightful taste.”
Basmati Rice is renowned for its delightful aroma and sweet taste. Often referred to as the ‘pearl of North India’ this very fine variety of long grain, highly aromatic and semi-translucent rice can only be grown in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains of India and Pakistan. The grains are very long and slender and when cooked, they expand more than two times the length and produces a light, fluffy texture that is ideal for absorbing the flavours of your cooking. A drier rice, Basmati grains will remain separate, which makes it a staple of Indian and middle eastern cuisines.
It’s excellent for cooking Biryanis and tastes great with Indian, Chinese or Thai Curries. Basmati Rice is also available as Parboiled Basmati and Brown Basmati Rice. Contrary to common belief, not all packaged Basmati Rice are the same. Characteristics such as length of the Raw Basmati Rice Grains, elongation on cooking, natural aging of rice, percentage of broken rice, immature grains and presence of non-basmati rice varieties directly impact the quality and price.
Named after the flower of Southeast Asia, Jasmine rice has a natural distinct aroma, released during the cooking process. Jasmine rice is subtler than normal basmati rice and is native to Thailand. For centuries, this rain-fed Jasmine rice has been cultivated for the royalty of the kingdom of Siam. The slenderness and the length of Jasmine rice grains suggest that they should remain separate on cooking but it differs from grain to grain. Jasmine rice has a soft and slightly sticky texture when cooked and a delicate floral and buttery fragrance. It is extremely rich in a number of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Known for its aroma and whiteness, Jasmine rice is available as both white and brown types, and offers more nutritional benefits in this organic/brown state, with the rice retaining its nutritious bran and fiber content. Brown Jasmine rice has more amounts of nutrients such as phytic acid, polyphenols, selenium and manganese. When Brown Jasmine rice is steamed instead of cooked, it provides more amounts of niacin, potassium, calcium and phosphorus.
Other Speciality Rice
Glutinous or Sticky Rice
Glutinous, sticky or sweet rice is used for dishes in which the rice’s stickiness is necessary, and that includes snacks, sweets and desserts. Glutinous rice is actually gluten-free. The misleading name arises from the fact that glutinous rice becomes glue-like and sticky when cooked. Glutinous rice must be washed thoroughly and soaked overnight before steaming. Glutinous or sticky rice is used to make rice cakes, or mochi. Black glutinous rice is used to make Malaysian sticky black rice pudding. Thai sticky rice is usually used to make sticky rice with coconut milk and mango.
These types of rice have plump long grains, and more starch than other rice types. Three main varieties of risotto rice are Arborio, Vialone and Carnaroli, all grown in the Po Valley in Italy. As the rice cooks, the starch is released, which gives the risotto its creaminess. The starch thickens the liquid as it cooks, creating that creaminess which is its signature style. Carnaroli Rice belongs to the same family as Arborio rice but with a larger grain. Arborio rice can also be used in a Spanish paella or other creamy Mediterranean recipes.
Called as the “Caviar of all grains” wild rice has a slight nutty flavour and a chewy texture, and takes longer to cook than brown rice. It cooks up fluffy and separate unless you cook it until it pops, or the outer covering disintegrates, rendering the rice less softer and less separate. Nowadays, wild rice has been garnering a lot of attention due to its vitamin B6, high antioxidant, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, niacin, protein and dietary fibre content; considerably greater than traditional white rice.
Sushi Rice is a variety of short-grain rice originating mainly from Japan but also grown in Australia and America. It is moderately sticky when cooked, and thus is perfect for preparing rolled and hand-shaped sushi. You can choose white sushi rice, which has all of the bran removed, or wholegrain or brown sushi rice, which has the natural bran in it
Black rice is a type of sticky (glutinous) rice variety originating from Asia. It is mainly grown in Bali, China, Thailand and few other Asian countries. It has a delicious nutty taste, soft texture and a beautiful deep purple colour that makes it a striking presence in any dish.
Green rice is a type of short grain unpolished rice, infused with bamboo extract. The infusion of the bamboo extract enriches the rice with a lovely subtle green-tea flavour and aroma, with a mild nutty texture. The beautiful leafy green colour is retained when cooked.
Red rice is a variety of unpolished long grain rice originating from China, Thailand, Bhutan, Bali and few other Asian regions. Red rice is growing in popularity for its nutty texture, unique taste and richness in nutritional properties. In some countries red rice is often labelled as cargo rice.