Everyone needs a few no-brainer dishes in their cooking arsenal for those occasions when one is too lazy to cook anything elaborate or when post-holiday lethargy sets in. Rice, a staple dish for many in the world, is the ideal dish that comes to mind in such circumstances.
However, there are hundreds of different rice varieties based on their color, size, shape of grain and starch content, and selecting the right variety is as important as the cooking process in preparing dishes. Here is a short guide to some of the more popular rice forms.
What it is: Rice is a whole grain; all bran, germ and endosperm. Remove the outer hull, the bran and the germ, and what you will be left with is a white kernel— or white rice.
The long and short of it: Rice is most often categorized by size: long, medium and short grain.
Long-grain rice is three to four times as long as it is wide. The best examples would be Basmati and Jasmine rice.
Medium-grain has shorter kernels, two to three times as long as they are wide. Arborio and Carnaroli rice for risotto, Bomba for paella, and Calrose sushi rice are all medium-grain.
Short-grain rice is squat, almost round. It is used interchangeably with medium-grain for sushi and dishes like risotto and rice pudding.
Types of rice:
Wild rice: This is not actually rice. It is an aquatic grass, often sold mixed with long-grain white rice. It is gluten-free and high in fiber and protein. Wild rice is low in fat and combines well with stuffing, soups, pilafs, or anything that needs some extra substance and taste.
Brown rice: This rice has been hulled with bran intact. The bran lends a chewy texture and nutty flavor. It requires a longer cooking time because the bran is a barrier to water, but it keeps more nutrition content intact, and is higher in certain vitamins and minerals than white rice. Since the storage life of brown rice can be six months or more, keep a bag handy for quick meals. Brown rice is best for preparing vegetable burgers, rice salads, and international dishes.
Red rice: This aromatic rice with reddish-brown bran has a nutty flavor and a chewy consistency. Red rice is best for ‘red bean rice’, a Japanese traditional dish.
Basmati rice: Sometimes called ‘popcorn rice,’ this long-grain variety is highly regarded for its fragrance, taste, and slender shape. It is perfect for Indian cuisine and is not sticky like the other varieties.
Mushroom rice: Melt two teaspoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook six coarsely chopped mushrooms, one clove minced garlic and one finely chopped green onion until mushrooms are cooked and liquid has evaporated. Stir in two cups of chicken broth and one cup uncooked white rice. Season with half teaspoon chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve hot.