Learn More About Rice And Its Varieties
We all know the old reliable white rice that we usually use as a side dish for grilled meat or as a base for a shrimp fried rice. Perhaps we have also used it to stuff vegetables, to give body to a soup plate or even to prepare a refreshing drink. The rice we already use is very versatile, and for this very reason, we do not stop to think if there are other varieties with other qualities.
Did you know there are more rice varieties than those you usually buy and eat? In the following lines, we will briefly tell you about them.
Classifications of rice
There are several ways to classify the different rice species and varieties, including the botanical classification. We will leave this one aside, so as not to make things more difficult with scientific terms from biology, and we will focus first on the classification of rice by its shape. Rice varieties are usually categorized this way for commercial and culinary purposes.
Long-grain rice varieties are characterized by their remarkably elongated grains—three or more times longer than wide. A typical example of long-grain rice is Jasmine rice, a delicious variety which you can learn about in more detail at mahatmarice.com/products/jasmine-white-rice/.
Long grains are very rich in starch, so they require more cooking time, and, depending on the type, tend to clump together in boiling water. However, if cooked correctly, they do not form a compact sticky mass, but the little lumps formed, when cooled, separate from each other and do not stick together. This makes them easy to eat with chopsticks, which is why the long-grain varieties are widely consumed in East and Southeast Asia.
As they are very rich in starch, which contains various aromatic compounds, long-grain varieties are also very tasty. Depending on the varieties, the flavor, especially when the grains are hot, can be similar to nuts, popcorn or even mushrooms.
Medium-grain rice varieties have grains that are about twice as long as they are wide. Their starch content is lower than that of long-grain rice. If properly prepared, medium-size grains do not form lumps and remain quite loose. This is why medium-grain varieties are the most consumed outside Asia and Africa, especially in tropical and subtropical America, the Caribbean and southern.
Europe, where loose grains are preferred for the rice dishes cooked in those regions. A typical medium-grain rice is the one used to make paella.
As it contains less starch, medium-grain rice is usually less flavorful, but it serves perfectly well as a side dish or as a base for a meal with plenty of seasoning and some pieces of meat or fish.
Short-grain rice varieties produce grains that are almost as wide as they are long, making them practically spherical in appearance. These grains are usually rich in a form of pectin, and because of this, they tend to stick together to form compact masses. For this reason, they are technically called ‘glutinous rice’—from the Latin word gluten, meaning ‘glue’. However, we should not be misled by this name, since short-grain rice varieties, like all others, lack the characteristic protein of wheat grains called gluten.
Because they tend to stick together in compact masses, short grains are widely used in far northeast Asia to cook sweet dishes and anything else that requires grains stuck together in more or less large portions.
A typical variety of short-grain rice is the so-called Japanese rice, used to prepare sushi.
Brown rice and white rice
Of course, rice varieties can be classified by other criteria, such as level of processing. Thus, we obtain the following kinds:
• Brown rice: grains from which the fiber layer covering them—called bran—has not been removed. Due to bran, brown rice grains have their characteristic color.
• White rice: grains from which the bran layer has been removed, leaving only the starch reserve.
• Semi-brown rice: white rice with bran residues.
• Rice with germ: grains from which the plant embryo has not been removed.
Now you know there are more varieties of rice than the one you always buy and eat, and you can choose the more suitable rice to try a new and delicious dish.