Types of Rice
In the Western hemisphere, rice is used in a variety of dishes, from the European risottos to the Latin American staple beans and rice. However, Asia is home to more varieties of rice than any other continent in the world. The most common species of rice used in Asian cooking differs from region to region. Some of the most popular include basmati rice, jasmine rice and sticky rice.
Important Rice Characteristics
Rice is usually classified according to its characteristics. The main distinguishing features of rice include grain length, grain shape, texture, color, translucence and aroma.
Grain Length and ShapeRice Varieties
Rice is either long-, short- or medium-grained. Most long-grain varieties come from the indica cultivar and feature long, cylindrical shapes and a dry and fluffy texture when cooked. Short-grained varieties usually come from the japonica cultivar and often have oval grains and a sticky texture when cooked. Medium-grained varieties are either indica varieties or indica-japonica hybrids with an indica-dominant genome. These varieties usually adhere more closely to long-grained rice characteristics.
Stickiness and Texture
There are two components of starch: amylose and amylopectin. Stickiness in rice is determined by the starch content of the grain. Cultivars of rice that are high in amylose (usually long-grained) do not break down during cooking and retain their shape. On the other hand, rice varieties with a high amylopectin content (usually short-grained) break down and become sticky or mushy when cooked.
There are two things that affect the color of rice: the pigmentation particular to a species of rice and the processing the rice undergoes.
- Brown rice. After rice is harvested, the next step in the process is to remove the outer chaff or husks of the rice with a rice huller. Unless the rice has a unique pigmentation, the result is brown rice, which is high in thiamine and other nutrients.
- White rice. If desired, hulled rice can undergo removal of the bran – the inner part of the husk and germ. This turns brown rice into white rice, which cooks more quickly and stores for longer than brown rice but loses some nutrients in the process.
- Red, black or purple rice. Red, black or purple rice is rice with a red or dark purple bran. The colorful bran is the result of additional pigmentations in the plant. As with brown rice, if the rice were to have the bran completely removed, it would become white rice. However, these rice varieties are usually prized for their color and nutritional value, so brans are usually only semi-milled or unmilled.
In addition to color, translucence is another distinctive characteristic of rice grains. Within one species of rice, there may be a wide variation in translucence of the grain. However, some cultivars are more likely to produce translucent kernels, while others usually manifest as chalky, cloudy or opaque grains. In general, opaque or “chalky” grains are softer, denser and heavier than translucent grains. They also cook more quickly than translucent rice varieties.
Aromatic rice varietals are medium or long-grained types of rice that have a nutty aroma or flavor. They are generally members of the indica culivar. Popular examples include basmati and jasmine rice. The nutty aroma stems from the same aroma compound that is present in white bread. There may also be floral aromas present in some rice varieties, such as ambemohar rice, especially after cooking.
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|Country/Region||Rice Type||Length||Shape||Clarity||Texture||Colors Available||Additional Details|
|Japan||Koshihikari||Short-grained||Oval||Translucent||Sticky||White or brown||Popular variety for sushi rice|
|Mochigome||Short-grained||Round||Cloudy||Sticky||White||Used to make mochi, or Japanese rice cakes|
|Yamata Nishiki||Short-grained||Pebble-shaped||Opaque||Fluffy||White||Aromatic, with a soft, balanced flavor; used primarily for making high-quality sake|
|India, Sri Lanka and Himalayas
||Basmati||Long-grained||Cylindrical||Cloudy||Fluffy and dry||White or brown||Popcorn-like aroma; a highly prized rice varietal in India and Pakistan, so much so that when the US issued a patent for basmati rice lines and grains to a biotech company in 1997, it caused an international crisis|
|Patna||Long-grained||Narrow||Opaque||Fluffy; retains grain shape||White||Less aromatic than basmati rice; a popular rice for eating with curries, and one of the first rice varieties cultivated in America|
|Sona Masoori||Medium-grained||Oval||Translucent||Firm; retains grain shape||White||Aromatic; great for fried rice or rice porridge, since it remains firm after cooking and will not lose its texture or shape as much as most varieties|
|Ambemohar||Short-grained||Oval||Cloudy||Very sticky; grains break down quickly||White or brown||Aromatic, with a fragrance of mango blossom; the ambemohar rice grain is prized in Maharashtra, India for its unique sticky texture and its floral scent when cooked|
|Bhutanese Red Rice||Medium-grained||Pellet-shaped||Opaque||Sticky and soft||Pinkish red||Earthy taste; usually semi-milled; the traditional rice of Bhutan, with many of the nutrients of brown rice yet the fast cooking time of white rice|
|Samba||Short-grained||Small and oval||Cloudy||Dense and firm||White or brown||Starchy or corny flavor and an unpleasant fragrance that can be reduced by cooking with the pandan leaf, which is known for its appetizing aroma; great for biryani and seafood curries|
|Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos||Jasmine||Long-grain||Cylindrical||Cloudy||Somewhat sticky, but grains retain their shape||White||Most popular Thai rice variety and can be found in almost any grocery store in the US|
|Sticky Rice||Short-grained||Oval||Cloudy||Very sticky||White or brown||Sticky rice is popular in China, Korea, Northern Thailand, Laos, the Phillipines, Vietnam and Japan, where it is known as “mochi rice” (mochigome), and should be distinguished from other varieties of rice that may have a “sticky” texture|
|Black Rice||Short-grained||Seed-shaped||Opaque||Somewhat sticky, but retains its grain shape||Black; deep purple when cooked||Known in the US under the trademarked term “Forbidden Rice”; used in Chinese cooking and in Thai mango sticky rice, viewed as a luxurious food that was only available to emperors in the past; high in fiber and iron|
|Nang Thom Cho Dao||Long-grained||Cylindrical||Cloudy||Fluffy and dry||White||Aromatic when cooked; a traditional Vietnamese rice resembling basmati or jasmine|
|Americas and Europe
||Texmati||Long-grained||Cylindrical||Translucent||Light and fluffy; retains shape when cooked||White or brown||Popcorn-like aroma; the first strain of basmati rice to be grown in the US, a popular replacement for basmati or jasmine rice|
|Arborio||Short-grained||Oblong||Opaque||Sticky, creamy and soft||White||Grown in the Po Valley in Italy; mostly used for rice pudding and risotto, often prepared al dente|
|Carnaroli||Short-grained||Cylindrical and small||Opaque||Firm and fluffy, retaining grain shape||White or brown||Considered the best rice for making risotto, retaining its firm texture throughout cooking and less likely than Arborio rice to grow mushy|
|Calrose||Short-grained||Cylindrical and small||Cloudy||Sticky and soft||White or brown||A Californian rice that is one of the most popular varieties in the United States, used for all kinds of cooking, in particular excellent for sushi rice|
|Africa and the Middle East||Domsiah||Long-grained||Cylindrical and small||Opaque||Firm and fluffy||White or brown, with one end of the grain black||Traditional Persian or Iranian rice with a unique look, one end being black; prized as the highest grade of rice in Persia|
|African Rice||Long-grained||Cylindrical and large||Cloudy||Firm||Brown||Drought-resistant rice that has been cultivated for several millennia and grows wild in Africa; member of the species oryza glaberrima – a completely different species from the typical rice, oryza sativa; cannot be interbred with Asian rice but currently undergoing hybridization|
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