What would we do without rice? Most cuisines of the world feature rice in one way or another--from sushi to arroz con pollo, rice puddings to paella, and dolmas to dirty rice and jambalaya! We’re also drinking our fair share of rice--in sake, horchata, rice milk, and beer. All tolled, we humans get more than 20% of our calories from this mini but mighty grain.
Kinds of Rice
There are three basic kinds of rice--short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grained--but among them, hundreds of different varieties.
White rice is highly refined and polished and does not require washing before cooking. Recipes using other types of rice, such as Basmati, occasionally call for soaking or rinsing the rice before cooking to remove extra starch.
White rice has been milled to remove the outer husk, the bran, and the germ. Though less nutritious, white rice has some advantages over brown rice: it stores longer and cooks faster.
Brown rice has been given the lightest touch in terms of processing. It is the whole grain version with just the outer husk removed, leaving the nutrient-rich bran and germ. It is nutty, chewy, and more nutritious than white rice.
Arborio rice is a medium-grained, starchy white rice, used most famously to make risotto. Continuously stirring risotto helps the arborio rice give up starch that helps thicken the dish.
Elegant, perfumy basmati rice is a long-grained rice grown along the foothills of the Himalayas. It’s an important part of Indian and Pakistani cooking. The word “basmati” means “queen of fragrance.”
Wild rice is actually the seed of a grass plant, and so not a "true" rice, though it is often found in rice blends and pilaf mixes. Wild rice has a wonderful nutty flavor and a chewy bite.
Sticky, or “glutinous rice,” is a short-grained rice that is typically steamed, not boiled, and used in Asian specialties.