All About Rice: Let's Take it Beyond White, Bland, and Boring

rice
rice | Source

I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2,000 of something.

-- Mich Ehrenborg

Yes, an individual grain of rice seems rather insignificant, but as a source of nourishment, rice has had a major effect on the population of our planet. Little things can make a big impact.

But the Grocery Store Has So Many Choices!

Long-, medium-, or short- grain; jasmine, brown, basmati, arborio.

Goodness! It’s enough to make you want to just grab a box of Minute Rice and run for the check-out line.

Wait. Please stop. I can help you through this.

Although Wikipedia tells us that there are 40,000 varieties of rice on the planet, most of them are not fit for human consumption (and although the rice section in your store might seem daunting, honestly there are not 40,000 choices to make.)

Rice can be broken down into two simple categories—brown rice and white rice. Brown rice is a whole grain; the husk is still

What Makes it So Special?

Well, did you know that...

  • One-half of the world’s population of 7 billion eats rice on a daily basis
  • Ninety percent of those people live in Asia
  • Twenty percent of the world’s total calorie intake comes from rice
  • Rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica
  • The oldest evidence of rice used as food is grains found in a rock shelter in the Hunan Province of China--they are at least 10,000 years old according to radio-carbon dating.

intact. White rice has been processed to remove the husk. I’ll explain both of these in more detail.

Now, within the category of white rice, there are several types—long grain, which cooks up as separate grains—no stickiness. Medium rice is a bit shorter and a little more starchy. Short-grain rice will be sticky and creamy.

Let me explain how each type of rice cooks and I'll give you some recipes along the way.

1 Cup of Rice--White vs. Brown

 
White Rice
Brown Rice
Calories
204
215
Protein
4.2 grams
4.99 grams
Carbohydrate
44.08 grams
44.42 grams
Fat
0.44 gram
1.74 grams
Fiber
0.6 grams
3.5 grams
Potassium
55 milligrams
84 milligrams

Brown Rice

What a complex little grain. The brief list of pros and cons of brown rice is:

  • Pros – Higher in nutrition. Aromatic. Colorful.
  • Cons – Takes longer to cook. Can go rancid if stored at room temperature.

OK, so brown rice can be a bit temperamental and is somewhat demanding. But it tastes so good, and it's good for you.

How to Cook Brown Rice

Ignore the instructions on the bag or box. The following method will insure separate grains that are not overcooked and turned to mush. You will need:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 12 cups of water
  • salt to taste
  • strainer or mesh colander
  • large saucepan with tight-fitting lid

Place rice in the strainer and rinse for 30 seconds under cold running water. Meanwhile, bring 12 cups of water to boil in the large saucepan. Add the rice, stir once, and allow to boil uncovered for 30 minutes.

Pour rice and water into strainer set in the sink; allow to drain thoroughly, and then return the rice to the hot saucepan. Cover the pot and allow to stand off heat for 10 minutes. (This will steam the rice). Fluff with a fork, season to taste with salt, and serve.

And, here are two Carb Diva recipes that use brown rice:

fresh diced mango
fresh diced mango | Source

White Rice--The Long, Medium, and the Short Fun-Loving Type

White rice is defined by the length of the grain.

Long-grain white rice

...has a long, slender kernel 4 to 5 times as long as it is wide. This type of rice cooks fluffy, with separate grains—no stickiness.

Basmati rice is a type of long-grain white rice that grows in northern India and Pakistan. It is more expensive than regular white long-grain rice, but well worth the cost if used in a dish in which it can shine as the star of the show as a simple side dish or accompaniment to a Middle Eastern, Indian, or Persian meal. Basmati has a lower moisture content that regular long-grain white rice; it needs to be soaked for at least one-half hour. Soaking allows the grains to absorb water and thus cook evenly. Cook by boiling in water.

fresh Pacific salmon
fresh Pacific salmon | Source

Foolproof Rice

  • 1 1/2 cups white rice (long- or medium-grain)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rice in colander and rinse under cold running water to wash away exterior starch and any surface dust. Drain well.

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven; add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes or until rice is translucent. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover and bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest covered, about 10 minutes. Fluff with fork.

RECIPES

I created this recipe for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. For paella you want a rice that will produce separate grains. I would not, however use basmati rice for this--the strong flavors of bacon, garlic, and salmon would overpower the delicate floral flavor of the basmati. Any other long-grain white rice will do just fine.

Pacific NW Paella

Ingredients

  • 4 slices applewood smoked bacon
  • 8 oz. fresh crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 14-oz can chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 lb. salmon filet, cut 1-inch thick
  • 1 lb. asparagus spears
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon, skinned and flaked
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

Instructions

  1. In a large deep skillet or paella pan, cook the bacon over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain bacon on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside. Reserve drippings in skillet.
  2. Stir the mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the bacon drippings. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in rice and olive oil, stirring to coat rice. Add chicken broth and water. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Stimmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut salmon into 1-inch pieces; set aside. Snap off and discard woody bases from fresh asparagus. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces; set aside.
  4. Place salmon pieces around the edge of the pan. Sprinkle the asparagus over all. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes more.
  5. Add smoked salmon, arranging in a circle inside of salmon chunks. Sprinkle the tomato in the center. Cover and simmer 5 minutes or until asparagus is tender.
  6. Sprinkle crumbled bacon over all.

chimichuri sauce
chimichuri sauce | Source

Here's another long-grain rice recipe--this rice salad is a perfect side dish with grilled chicken or fish.

.

*******************************************************************

Medium-grain white rice

...has a shorter, wider kernel (two to three times longer than its width) than long grain rice. Cooked grains are more moist and tender, and have a greater tendency to cling together more than long grain rice. Japanese-style sushi rice is a good example of a medium-grain rice. (This is not the same as Japanese sticky rice, which is used in desserts and sweet treats).

Jasmine rice is a type of medium-grain white rice that originated in Thailand. This rice has a floral aroma and is slightly sticky when cooked. Jasmine rice is cooked by the absorption method—this means that a specific quantity is cooked in a measured amount of water which is completely absorbed by the rice.

RECIPES

The first recipe is adapted from an article that was published in Cooking Light magazine. The second one I created a few years ago for my family--it is a nourishing soup that can be put together quickly for a weeknight meal.

*******************************************************************

Arborio Rice vs. All the Rest

There is one key to the creaminess of cooked arborio rice--arborio (and the other short-grain rices mentioned) have a high percentage of the starch amylopectin.

If you have ever cooked homemade jam or jellly, you will recognize the word "pectin". Pectin is the natural thickener in apple juice, and the "amylopectin" in short-grain rices serves as a thickener as well. It makes the cooked rice starchy and creamy, while still holding its shape.

Short-grain white rice

...is short, round, plump, and a little bit sassy (just like me). This is the rice that is used in Italian risotto. Arborio is the most common short-grain rice used in cooking; Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano can also be used.

Short-grain rices are not cooked like their long- or medium-grain cousins. First, the rice is gently sautéd in butter or olive oil so that each of the grains is coated. Next, a splash of wine is added to the pan; at this point the rice is stirred constantly until the wine has all but evaporated. Then the fun begins. Hot broth is added to the pan, one ladle-full at a time, and allowed to simmer into and be absorbed by the rice. This process is repeated until the rice is rich and creamy, but still holds its shape (test a grain with your teeth to see if it is done. You want al dente like "Goldilocks spaghetti"--not too hard, not to soft, but just right.

This quick video will show you exactly what I'm talking about.

RECIPE

If you are faced with your first attempt at cooking risotto, this recipe is a good one for you to begin with. The mushrooms provide lots of umami flavor and the mascarpone cheese adds a tart and creamy finish.

© 2016 Carb Diva

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Comments 18 comments

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 5 months ago Author

bravewarrior - I think one of the biggest culprits is the surface starch. Gummy sticky gooey.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 5 months ago from Central Florida

Diva, I always wondered why my rice doesn't turn out fluffy, even when following the package directions. I'm not supposed to! Who knew?

I very rarely cook or eat white rice; I prefer brown. I'll be hanging on to this hub so I can refer to the proper way to cook rice.

Thank you for setting me (us) straight!


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

Lawrence - You and I are certainly on the same page. Rice is so versatile--it DOES go with everything. (Did I fail to mention rice pudding with cinnamon and apples?). And rice does indeed have a wonderful flavor of its own, especially one of the aromatic rices. Try just a t-i-n-y bit of vanilla seed in your rice and let me know what you think of that.

As always, I appreciate your comments.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 6 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Our home always has rice on the menu and recently with my wife going 'reduced gluten' cum 'gluten free' it tends to be Brown rice but I love all kinds of rice because you can do so much with it.

Whatever you're having with the rice it will take on that flavor and that's awesome. Not only that but rice on it's own has a great flavor!

Blessings

Lawrence


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

Hi Eric - Is there any meat that would not go with rice? Hmm, I don't think I would eat rice with offal (but then, I would never eat offal at all). Hooray for your little man eating rice in the morning--it is much better than all of the sugary stuff that pretends to be cereal.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wonderful friend. Our home is never without cooked rice. My son prefers it to cereal in the morning. I prefer the steamed and then fried rice.

I wonder if there is any "meat" that does not go well with rice. Thank you for this great article. Now please excuse me while I go have a plate with Cholulla hot sauce.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

Venkat - So very good to hear from you. I love basmati rice--it is fragrant and tastes wonderful all by itself. But is even better with curry. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

Peachpurple - You are correct--brown rice is not a good choice if you are in a hurry to get dinner on the table.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 6 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Very much informative and helpful article. You have provided many unknown facts also. We, in Southern India, mostly consume sona masoori rice which is very nice and beautiful to eat. It comes after basmati which is very costly.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 6 months ago from Home Sweet Home

i love white rice compare to brown rice because it is cheaper and cooks faster.

Brown rice need soaking-3 hr s at least and suck up 2.5 cups of water.

But brown rice has more benefits


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

fpherj48 - Thank you. As you can tell, I love rice too. I think I could eat it every day and not grow tired of it. So versatile.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 6 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Diva...Thanks for the very educational hub on "Rice." We are a rice-loving family. Growing up, because our Mom loved rice, she served it in various forms and recipes....all delicious. It's a really great food!

I use both actual rice and Minute rice, depending.....there's a difference, yes.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

Rochelle - I hope that the brown rice recipe works for you. Remember, brown rice can be used in any of the recipes that call for cooked rice.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

Flourish - My goodness, I think all of us of a certain generation grew up on Minute Rice. Baked rice is wonderful. You might want to give the Rice and Cheese Casserole with Caramelized Onions a try.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 months ago from California Gold Country

I also grew up with Minute rice (cant beat it for camping), but have converted almost exclusively to Jasmine rice.

When we go to a Japanese restaurant, everyone but me chooses fried rice. I like it plain and steamed. Last night I saw a TV demo on Jambalya. I tried it and... sooo good.

Now that I see how you do brown rice, I might try that again. I think I cooked it wrong when I tried it


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 6 months ago from USA

I also grew up on Minute Rice and even the no-name generic rice from Walmart, but I will give brown rice a try. one of my favorite ever side dishes is baked rice, a recipe my mother passed down. it's delicious with chicken broth, onions and green pepper.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 months ago Author

Yay, brown rice. I love it (as you can no doubt tell because I gave it top billing). Minute Rice shouldn't even be called rice (although that is what I grew up on as well).


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

I don't see Minute Rice in this article???? LOL I grew up on Minute Rice and hot dogs....sad statement, I know, but somehow I managed to stay healthy. You will be happy to know I have reformed finally and graduated to brown rice from the Co-op. :)

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