Get to Know the Grain: Rice 101

Rice Pudding

Rice is a versatile pantry staple that is equally at home in a variety of cuisines from around the world. Years ago, American households were typically only familiar with American long-grain white rice. Who can forget those cheesy chicken and rice casseroles at the dinner table?

But as ethnic foods have gained popularity, Americans have embraced a variety of rice, from Arborio to sushi rice and everything in between. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite examples of this satisfying starch.

American long-grain white rice is the all-American staple. Cooked on the stove top, the rice has a dry, fluffy texture with distinct grains. Its counterpart is American long-grain brown rice, which is simply the whole-grain version, before the bran and germ layers have been removed. Chewier than white rice, it has a nutty flavor and more nutrients.

For authentic risotto, Arborio rice is a must-have ingredient. Its characteristic plump grains have more starch than other kinds of rice, which helps give risotto the creamy stick-to-your-ribs texture for which it is known.

Basmati rice is often used in Indian dishes, where it is commonly seasoned with spices like cumin and cardamom. The grains are longer, slender, and the rice has a nutty flavor and fragrance. Basmati rice should be soaked in cold water for an hour or more before cooking for best results.

Japanese-style rice or sushi rice is firm yet slightly sticky when cooked. It is often used for sushi, but is also served alongside a meal, as well.

Hailing from Thailand, Jasmine rice has long, translucent grains which when cooked, have an aroma similar to popcorn. Jasmine rice should be rinsed thoroughly prior to cooking to remove excess starch.

Like Arborio, short-grain brown rice has a higher level of the starch, amylopectin, which makes it a bit stickier than other rice. As with the American brown rice, the grain’s outer-layer of bran gives it a hearty, chewy texture.

By the way, wild rice really isn’t rice at all. Rather, it is a seed of a native North American grass variety. Often paired with long-grain brown rice, it is chewy and adds color and texture to other rice dishes.

For a quick rice side dish, we like this rice pudding. Enjoy!