Rice: Get beyond white!

Types of rice

If you are one of those people that thinks rice is either white or brown, and both are boring, you are mistaken. There are so many different kinds of rice, each with a unique flavor and many with a unique use. You would serve yourself well to venture out and try some of the different varieties. Several are mentioned here with brief descriptions and suggestions for use.

  1. Basmati

An aromatic, long-grain rice from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It comes in brown or white. It has a distinct flavor, “nutty” might be a word to describe it. It is a tender, fluffy rice and does not stick. It is used in curries and stir fry, but can also just be served as a side dish.

  1. Brown

This is available in short, medium, or long varieties. It is higher in magnesium, selenium and fiber than white rice. Can be eaten as a breakfast cereal, used in sushi and puddings, and can be substituted for white rice most of the time.

  1. Arborio

This is a medium or short grain rice with a high starch content. It is used to make risotto. (Risotto is an Italian rice dish that is stirred and cooked slowly in a broth to a creamy consistency) Arborio is also used for pudding and other desserts.

  1. Black

Sometimes also called “purple” or “forbidden” rice. It is dark due to the anthocyanin content. It is a whole grain rice and comes in long and short grain varieties. The short grain type is often used to make sticky rice, porridge, and rice pudding.

  1. White

This comes in short, medium and long grain varieties. Most white rice in the U.S. in enriched with thiamin, niacin, folic acid, and iron. Don’t rinse white rice before or after boiling to prevent washing the nutrients away.

  1. Jasmine

This is originally from Thailand and has a very distinctive floral aroma and nutty flavor. It pairs well with Mediterranean food. It is light and fluffy, and can be white or brown. Steaming works better than boiling with this grain.

  1. Wild

Wild rice is actually not rice at all. It is a semi-aquatic grass species grown in North America. It is dark, long and slender with a nutty flavor. The texture is chewy and it is higher in protein than white or brown rice. This is usually mixed with other rices or bulgur wheat. It goes very well with red meats, stews, soups, pilafs, and fruit.

  1. Red

This is a whole grain rice, very rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.  It is a long grain rice from Thailand or a medium grain from Bhutan. It is nutty, chewy and great to add to pilafs, rice salads, and stuffings. Plus it’s beautiful!

All rice varieties have carbohydrate, a little protein, a tiny bit of fat, and all are gluten free. Whole grain rice will have more protein, vitamins, and fiber than white rice. Colored rices will have more antioxidants.

The shape and length of the rice determines its texture when it has been cooked, as well as what dishes to use it in. Long grain rice generally cooks light and fluffy. It is good for adding to rice salads, jambalayas, curries, and stuffings. Medium grain rice is moist and tender. It is better suited for things like paella and risotto. Short grain rice is much moister and stickier, making it a great option for rice puddings and eating with chopsticks.

Rice is a great way to make soups and casseroles even heartier, as well as stretch the food budget.

Get out there and try some rice that isn’t white!

Mary Cabral, Fight Dietitian