A guide to choosing between different varieties of rice
When I go to the market to buy rice I'm confronted by 15 or more sacks of rice that at first glance look pretty similar, but to the people of a rice hungry nation like Thailand have subtle and even not so subtle differences; and make a big difference in the quality of the finished meal.
I feel great shame…but I confess I used to enjoy minute rice with regularity. I even though it was pretty good too, but after a number of years living in Asia, and after trying a batch when last visiting my parents, I can say with great authority that it is the vilest product ever created, and that you should immediately dispose of any and all lingering harmfully in your kitchen.
There are a great many kinds of rice available, and the differences present within taste, texture, sugar content, size and even color; and each type of rice is suited to a different form of cooking, and matched to certain types of food.
Two of the most interesting, and widely appreciated rice varietals are Jasmine rice of Thailand and basmati rice of India; and not surprisingly, both of these varieties match very well with foods from their respective countries.
As a dried product we sometimes overlook the shelf life and relative freshness of the grain, but rice does deteriorate in texture and flavor as it ages, and it is worth the effort to search out a good supplier of freshly harvested rice. In most urban areas Asian markets are the best sources for fresher rice and the busier the store the better. That rice gathering dust on the bottom shelf of an old convenience store isn’t a good bet. You wouldn’t believe how good and how flavorful freshly harvested rice from the paddy can taste!
Some of the varieties of rice are:
Brown rice, which is simply rice with more of the external bran attached
Parboiled rice, popular but flavorless rice treated to enhance the separateness of the gains after cooking. This rice is boiled or steamed before the bran is removed, and some of the bran's nutrients are passed into the white rice.
Minute rice, gross
Arborio and other short grained rice, used in European dishes such as risotto or paella
Jasmine rice, Very tasty Thai long grained white rice
Basmati, The longest grained rice with a nutty and intriguing taste
Uruchi mai, Japanese shorter grained rice used for sushi
Of course there are literally hundreds of varieties, and all require distinct cooking times and water requirements for best preparation. Paying more attention to the type of rice you select to match your cooking makes a big difference and is an easy way to eat better and more authentically.