BROWN RICE or HULLED RICE - Brown rice is unpolished rice, milled to remove the hull from the kernel but retain the rice bran layer and the germ, which give it a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It also has a lower glycemic index and is more nutritious because the bran contains most of the vitamins, minerals and fiber rich in minerals and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamin group. (In contrast, white rice is milled to remove the bran layer for a milder taste and texture, and brown and white rices have similar calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein). The light brown color/dark beige of brown rice is from the bran. Brown rice takes about twice as long to cook as white rice. Any rice—long-grain, short-grain rice or sticky rice—may be harvested and milled as brown rice. Because of the Asian aesthetic for finely-polished white rice, brown rice was traditionally denigrated, associated with poverty and wartime shortages, and in the past was rarely eaten except by the sick, the elderly and as a cure for constipation. Today, it is more expensive than common white rice, partly due to its low consumption and much shorter shelf life (because the oil in the germ will turn rancid).
BASMATI RICE - An aromatic, long-grain, slender, non-glutinous rice from India and Pakistan. When cooked it swells only lengthwise, resulting in long slender grains that are very dry, light and separate—not sticky. Basmati has been cultivated for centuries at the foot of the Himalayan mountain ranges. The rice is long-grain and scented; literally translated from Hindi, it means ”queen of scents” or ”pearl of scents.” For centuries, it has been exported to the Arab countries, where many traditional rice dishes are cooked with basmati rice.
ARBORIO RICE - This medium-length, round-grained rice is named after the town of Arborio, in Italy’s Po Valley, where it is grown. The grains have a more tan color with a characteristic white dot at the center of the grain. Primarily used in risotto, Arborio rice develops a creamy texture around a chewy center and has exceptional ability to absorb flavors. The creaminess comes from a high starch content. Arborio is a japonica cultivar, the same variety that produces the other “sticky rices,” including mochi and sweet rice.
CALROSE RICE - Calrose rice is a medium-grain rice developed at the Rice Experiment Station at the University of California at Davis (“U.C. Davis”) from the japonica variety. The cooked grains are softer, moist, sticky and absorb flavor well. Calrose is an all-purpose table rice as well as a rice for specialty Mediterranean and Asian cuisine such as paella, risotto, pilaf and rice bowls. The cooked grains are soft and stick together, making it good for use in sushi (most sushi restaurants use Calrose). Calrose is now grown extensively in the Pacific Rim and Australia.
CONVERTED RICE or PARBIOLED RICE - Converted rice is pressure-steamed and dried before it is milled (husked), which causes the grains to absorb nutrients from the husk. This partially compensates for the removal of the bran and the germ, so is a good choice for people who want more nutritious rice but don’t want to eat brown rice. It has the same color and flavor as white rice.
INSTANT RICE or MINUTE RICE - Instant rice is white rice that has been parboiled (precooked) and dehydrated to enable a faster cooking time. It is cooked by adding one cup of boiling water to one cup of rice; then stirred, covered and allowed to stand for one minute to reconstitute. It is more expensive due to the convenience, but less flavorful than regular rice.
JASMINE RICE - Grown in Thailand, jasmine is an aromatic long grain rice that has a distinctive jasmine aroma after cooking and a faint flavor similar to that of popcorn. The cooked grains are soft, moist and cling together. Jasmine is the most popular rice in Thailand and Southeast Asia. This excellent white rice cooks in similar fashion to basmati but possesses a rounder, more starchy grain (i.e., it’s sticky, where basmati is not). It can be interchanged with white basmati rice in recipes. It naturally lends itself to coconut dishes and seafood dishes. Jasmine rice is a good source of B vitamins and complex carbohydrates.
(see The Nibble for more rice information)