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A Quick Guide to Rice

If you’re the person in your household that does the shopping, you’ve probably noticed the increase in the kinds of rice available at your local supermarket. It used to be that you had only a few choices when it came to buying rice. There was brown or white, converted or instant, and perhaps another variety or two. These days, however, the consumer is faced with myriad of additional choices.

In general, the choice of rice has gotten a lot more exotic. Today, you’ll find specialized types of rice from India, Thailand, and a number of other countries. And besides eating it plain, there are all sorts of ways to fix these rice varieties, making them the perfect side dish or even the ideal main course.

If, however, the choices of rice seem a bit confusing to you, you’re not alone. Many shoppers are overwhelmed by the varieties offered and merely opt for the standard types, wary of making cooking errors or other mistakes that may affect how the rice turns out in the end. That’s too bad! If you haven’t tried some of the new rice varieties now available, you’re missing a lot. Here’s some basic information to help you make the right choices.

Grains

As you peruse the types of rice available, you’ll find that it’s divided into three grain sizes.
o Long Long grain rice is probably the most versatile of all rice types and is probably what you’re most accustomed to eating. It’s light and fluffy and includes long, slender kernels. In its white variety, it has a very subtle taste. Brown long grain rice, on the other hand, has a bit of a nutty flavor. In the U.S., long grain rice is grown in the South in states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

o Medium – Rice that is marked “medium grain” is plump and stickier than long grain rice. Because it tends to stick together, it’s ideal for creamy rice dishes and risotto varieties.
o Short - Short grain rice is almost round in appearance and is the most popular choice for things like Japanese sushi and other Oriental favorites. Like medium grain, it sticks together easily. The most popular variety of short-grained rice in today’s supermarkets is Arborio, which is often used in risotto dishes.

Types of Rice

o Converted – This is the variety most used by those who live in the U.S. You’ll find it in large quantity on your grocery store shelf. The most common brand name is Carolina®. This kind of rice is steamed and then milled before it hits your supermarket. Milling means the grain is harder and you’ll be less likely to overcook the rice.

o Instant – If you need rice in 5 minutes, here’s your answer. Instant rice is pre-cooked, dehydrated, and then packaged. More expensive than converted rice, this variety is also less tasty so you won’t want to eat it by itself, but it is okay to use it if you’re pouring something over it.

o Aromatics – Generally imported from the Far or Middle East, aromatic rice varieties are new to many homes in the U.S. Their name comes from the fact that they do have a distinct aroma and taste, unlike converted or instant rice, which doesn’t have an aroma at all. Types of aromatic rice include jasmine, a long grain rice from Thailand that’s stickier than most long grain varieties; basmati, used often in Indian dishes and grown in the Himalayan Mountains, available in brown or white; and Texmati, an unusual pairing of white and basmati rice. It’s long grain and quite fluffy.

Nutrition

Rice is a low-fat, low-calorie food that is an excellent source of fiber. Both brown and white rice have plenty of nutritional value. They contain potassium, Vitamin B, and phosphorus, all important vitamins and minerals for your diet. If you’re trying to increase fiber, brown rice has more of that, but it also has more fat. Nevertheless, they’re both good for you!