It could be the Green Revolution post Independence that helped rice push back many traditional grains to emerge as the most popular grain of all time in India but it is the taste, its health properties and adaptability to changing times that helped it rule the roost for decades. Thanks to its indisputable reputation as the king of the platter, there are many varieties of rice available in the market.
Rice can be broadly categorised as long-grain, medium-grain and short-grain rice. Long-grain rice, as the name suggests, are thin and long; they are fluffy and stay separate after boiling. Medium grains are plumper than long grains and are heavy. Short grains are small ones that stick to each other when boiled. In general, rice contains iron, magnesium, B vitamins and fibre, apart from the more prominent carbohydrates but the quantity of each varies for each type of rice.
Here is a list of rice available in the market in each type:
White rice is the product of our constant pursuit for the whitest and the softest food. When the rice is milled to a point where the husk, bran and germ are removed to reveal pearly white, perfectly polished rice, you have the white rice. The milling and polishing processes also push down white rice way below the nutrition table. The ever-popular Sona Masuri is a perfect example of white rice.
Brown rice is the whole rice with only its outermost inedible hull removed. It is unrefined and unpolished and comes with the nutrient-dense bran and germ layer. Since it comes with bran, brown rice may take longer to cook but is deliciously fibrous and healthy, too. When brown rice is germinated, it becomes more nutritious, thanks to the presence of gama-aminobutyric acid in it.
Perhaps the healthiest of all types of rice, red rice, as the name suggests, is red in colour, thanks to the presence of anthocyanins in them. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that scavenge on free radicals in the body. If all these don’t make any sense to you, just remember that the presence of antioxidants is a gold star in nutrition. Red rice could come with the hull or without it depending on the level of milling it has undergone.
Black in colour, black rice features somewhere between red and brown rice when it comes to nutrition. Black rice is also called the Forbidden Rice, not because it is bad, it is because this rice was forbidden for common people during the Ching and Ming dynasties in China. This was a rice reserved for the emperors to ensure long life for them. Rich in anthocyanins, it turns purple during the cooking process.
Also called glutinous rice, sticky rice is a type of rice mostly popular in South Asia. Sticky rice is not your regular white rice prepared differently; this one is a short-grain rice which is more of a staple food in Northern Thailand. What makes sticky rice so sticky? Starch has two components—amylose and amylopectin. While white rice has both components, sticky rice has mostly amylopectin and lower quantities of amylose. And there is no gluten in it, despite its very misleading name.
Parboiled rice is treated rice, the treatment includes soaking and steaming the grain in its hull before it gets dried and the hull removed. They are transparent rice grains which are less sticky when boiled. Parboiling process helps the grains retain some of the nutrition in the hull.
Samba rice or Seeraga samba rice is a variety of rice grown in Tamil Nadu in South India. A variety of short-grained white rice, the aromatic Seeraga samba takes its name from jeera or cumin due to its resemblance to the spice. They are fluffy when boiled which makes seera the second most preferred rice for biryanis after basmati rice.
Flavourful and tasty, basmati is a long grain rice known for its unique aroma. And it’s this aroma that makes it a grain reserved for special occasions. Studies suggest that the unique flavour comes from the presence of a chemical called 2-acetyl-1-pyrolline. The rice is also rich in certain B vitamins and magnesium.
Risotto Rice: If you love the extra creamy, delicious risottos, you perhaps know that rice is the star ingredient in the dish. Not any rice, but a special rice that is pale in colour and smooth in texture. Risotto rice can be long, short or medium-grain but are semi-round which can absorb a lot of moisture and flavour and retain them. Arbor rice is most commonly used for risotto in the UK but Italians seem to prefer other varieties like Roma, Baldo, etc.
Jasmine Rice: Similar to basmati rice, jasmine rice is a long grain and is flavourful. Originally from Thailand and used extensively in Southeast Asian cooking, Jasmine rice has made its foray into Indian cooking as a substitute for the more expensive basmati rice.
Valencia Rice: Valencia is a Spanish rice made famous by the Spanish special dish, Paella. It takes its name from Valencia, a western province of Spain known for its Paella. Also called Bomba rice, it is a short grain variety of rice, similar to Seeraga samba rice.
Sushi Rice: Sushi rice is actually the result of a certain kind of preparation than a type of rice. Having said that, not all rice can be used to make the sticky sushi rice. It is mostly the short-grain Japanese rice called Japonica or medium-grain California rice that is used to make sushi. These are translucent rice grains that stick to each other when boiled making it perfect for making sushi.
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