Rice is Nice

With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow — I have still joy in the midst of all these things.

- Confucius

picture of rice bags

Rice

With the Chinese New Year coming up, I thought I’d talk a bit about rice.

Rice is a staple for the majority of the population of the world.  It is the most important food crop in Asia, but it can be found on tables in almost everywhere.

It is also staple at our house.  We eat it many times each week, and we recently filled our pantry with what we hope will be a year’s supply.

Uncooked rice can be kept indefinitely if it is stored in a air tight container in a cool dark place.

Types and Varieties:

Around the world, there are literally thousands of different varieties.  However, I don’t think most North Americans know that much about it.

Long Grain:

The grains are long and slender.  After cooking, the it is fluffy and the grains remain separate.  It is commonly used in curry dishes.  It is also used in pilafs, paella, stir fry, or salads.  It is excellent as a side dish, and the left overs are good to make fried rice.

Examples of long grain rice varieties include:

  • Jasmine
  • Basmati
  • American Long Grain (or Carolina Rice)

Medium Grain:

The kernels are shorter and fatter than long grain varieties.  The cooked grains are are moist and tender, and tend to stick together.  It can be used almost any way you like.

Examples of medium grain rice varieties include:

  • Spanish (or paella) rice

Short Grain:

The kernel is plump and almost round.   When cooked, the grains are soft and stick together.   It is good in dishes where the rice should be creamier and absorb some of the flavours of the dish.  Examples include risotto, paella, and rice puddings.

Examples of short grain rice varieties include:

  • arborio
  • sticky rice
  • sushi

Brown Rice:

It still has the outer husk (or bran) surrounding the kernel.  This makes it richer in nutrients than white varieties.  It has a nuttier flavour and is chewier than white rice.  It also takes about twice as long to cook.

White Rice:

This is the most popular type.  The outer hull is removed and the kernel is polished until it is white.

Sticky (Glutinous) Rice:

Despite sometimes being called glutinous rice, it does not actually contain gluten.

Enriched Rice:

As the name implies, it has had nutrients added.  These nutrients coat the kernel.

Instant Rice:

Has been completely cooked and then dehydrated.  This means that when you bring it home, you can cook it much faster.

Converted Rice:

Sometimes called parboiled rice, it originated in India.  Steam is passed through the grains with their husks still on.  This process helps to embed nutrients in the grain.  After the steaming operation, the husk is removed and the kernel is polished.  The result is more nutritious than other white varieties, and more digestible than brown rice.

It helped Indians avoid the scurvy that sometimes affected people in other Asian regions.

Wild Rice:

It is not actually a type of rice.  It is the seeds of a water grass and is the only grain native to North America.  It is long and dark brown with black colorings.  It has a smoky, nutty flavour and chewy in texture.

Cooking:

There are probably as many ways to cook rice as there are varieties.  One method would be to buy a rice cooker and simply follow the directions.  However, if that isn’t an option,  you can follow some basic guidelines:

  • Use about 1/3 cup (60 g) of rice per person.
    • Actually, it is good to make extra.  Leftover rice can be used for fried rice or rice pudding.
  • Wash in cold water.  Swirl the rice around the pot or bowl until the water becomes cloudy with starch.  Pour the water off, and repeat this process 3 or 4 times or until the water stays clear.
  • When cooking, use 2 parts water for one part of rice.
  • Use low heat.  Keep the pot covered and don’t lift the lid.  The steam helps to cook it.
picture of fried rice

Fried Rice

Nutrition:

There are many nutritional benefits.

  1. It is a good source for complex carbohydrates.
  2. Brown rice especially, contains high quality proteins.
  3. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals, especially Thiamine, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Manganese, and Selenium.
  4. It is low in saturated fat.
  5. It is very low in sodium and cholesterol.
  6. It contains resistant starch.  This is starch that reaches the bowel undigested which encourages the growth of good bacteria and keeps the bowel healthy.

The following table lists some basic nutrition facts.

(1/4 Cup Raw) Calories (kcal) Carbohydrates (g) Fat (g) Fiber (g) Protein (g)
White Rice 169 36.98 0.31 0.60 3.30
Brown Rice 171 35.72 1.35 1.62 3.64

It should be noted that recent studies by the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that eating too much white rice (5 or more servings per week) may increase the risk of developing type two diabetes, while eating brown rice may actually reduce the risk.

Summary:

Now, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface here.  There is so much about that I haven’t talked about, but as you can see, rice is extremely versatile.  There are so many types and so many ways to use it.

If you have some favourite recipes or comments, please let me know.

Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Rice is Nice

  1. Rice is definitely a staple in my house and I always make extra too. Some I will use to make fried rice, and the rest I just freeze them in individual portion sizes so that when I need to make a meal more substantial, I can just reheat it and get steaming hot rice ready within minutes!

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