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Most Popular Types of Rice and Their Uses

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What is it about rice that makes it so popular? First, it's delicious, but only when prepared well. What's more, rice is incredibly easy and fast to prepare. Even with minimal cooking experience, cooking rice shouldn't be a problem, provided you have the right recipe and cooking equipment

Speaking of the right recipes, and you can rest assured that you'll find one that meets your lunch or dinner needs. Besides, rice is multipurpose. It can be served alone or as a combination with meat, vegetables, or fish. Also, it can be used to make rice cakes, sweet desserts, bread, or pasta. 

To make sure you don't go wrong when preparing your rice meals, you must use the right type of rice for your recipes. Rice comes in numerous varieties, with each type suitable for specific recipes – you just can't go around switching them. 

Each type of rice has its unique properties in terms of looks, texture, taste, and aroma. In this guide, I will walk you through the 6 major types of rice, together with the key factors to keep in mind when choosing the right type of rice. 

Types Of Rice And Their Uses

1. Arborio Rice

Arborio is short-grain white rice of Italian origin. It derives its name from the town of Arborio in Italy, where it's grown. Also, it has a distinctive white dot at the centre of the grain.

It’s widely known for being the signature grain for risotto. Due to its high starch content, when cooked, it’s firm, chewy, and creamy. Since it’s a cultivar of japonica rice, it resembles glutinous rice in many aspects.

Quick Profile 

  • Colour

    White

  • Flavour

    Creamy

  • Texture

    Firm

  • Length

    Short-grain

  • Used For

    Mainly Risotto, pudding and soup


2. Basmati 

Basmati rice is aromatic and very popular in Indian and Asian cuisines. It originated in India, explaining why over 70% of the global basmati supply comes from the country. Its demand is very high globally, thanks to its exceptional fragrance. Due to the high demand, countries like the USA grow their hybrids of basmati rice.  Basmati is my personal favourite and I just love cooking it with curries and stews and even use it for fried rice. Yum!

types of rice: basmati

When cooked, basmati rice remains dry, fluffy, and singly. Interestingly, when cooking basmati rice, it expands more than two times its original size. Its open texture enables it to absorb additional flavours, making it best placed for a wide variety of recipes and cuisines. 

Quick Profile

  • Colour

    White or Brown

  • Flavour

    Light nutty

  • Length

    Long grain

  • Used For

    Biryani, Dal, saffron, kheer, pilaf, or as part of stews and curries.


3. Jasmine

Jasmine rice is grown in Thailand. It has a flavorful accent that will bring a glamorous flair to any dish. You will enjoy the strong jasmine aroma that comes from the pot while cooking.

Its moist and soft texture makes it ultimate for drenching spices and flavours. It’s best for making traditional dishes. Jasmine rice is usually served as steamed or a companion to other dishes.

Quick Profile

  • Colour

    White

  • Flavour

    Sweet

  • Texture

    Sticky

  • Used For

    Traditional dishes, stir-fry dishes, Thai cuisine, Asian cuisine


4. Sushi

Sushi rice is slightly sticky and has moderate amounts of starch, giving it the magical capability to be shaped into balls without falling apart. Once cooked, the rice remains separate.

Although it's majorly grown in Japan, it's also grown in Spain, California, and Italy. It’s usually combined with sugar, vinegar, and salt to make sushi. 

Quick Profile

  • Colour

    White

  • Flavour

    Sweet

  • Length

    Short grain

  • Used For

    Sushi rice cakes, sushi fish, sushi rice salad


5. Wild Rice

First, modern rice originated from the wild. When it was domesticated, it must have left its sisters multiplying too. Wild rice is, however, not rice. It's a type of grass resembling rice.  It's more problematic in terms of cultivation. 

Its texture is tough and is rich in nutrients. It has B vitamins, protein, lysine, and a particular type of amino acid used in the biosynthesis of proteins. 

Quick Profile

  • Colour

    Black-Brown

  • Texture

    Tough

  • Used For

    Herbed wild rice dressing, Wild rice-chicken soup, salads


6. Glutinous Rice

Just like its name suggests, it is glue-like. Glutinous rice is sticky when cooked. It is popular in Asia. Furthermore, it is mainly used for savoury and sweet foods. 

Quick Profile

  • Length

    Short, medium, or long

  • Texture

    Sticky

  • Used For

    Rice cakes, sweet rice ball desserts, mocha, rice porridge, pudding


Other Types Of Rice 

There are many types of rice, more than 40,000 for the record. Since they cannot all be covered, some worthy mentions include; Spanish Bomba rice for paella. Chinese black rice, brown rice, carnaroli rice, and bomba rice


Factors To Consider When Choosing The Right Type Of Rice 

1. Texture

When preparing rice dishes, you have to consider the texture of the rice. How the rice feels is likely to affect your final meal. It can be light, sticky, or fluffy. You have got two types in this category, sticky and parboiled rice. 

Sticky rice is also known as sweet rice. It's sticky when cooked, and thus it's mostly ground into flour. Parboiled rice is usually steamed under pressure before milling. Parboiled rice cooks quickly and is fluffy when cooked. 

2. Length And Shape

Rice is majorly classified into three varieties – short-grain, long-grain, and medium grain. Just as their names suggest, the short grain is short and broader, the length is longer and narrower, while the medium is average on both aspects. 

Short grain rice is short and wide, sticky when cooked, and thus best for sushi. Long grain rice is separate, light, and fluffy after cooking due to more starch. Lastly, medium-grain rice falls between the short and the lengthy varieties. It is moist and tender. Thus, it sticks together when cooked.

3. Aroma

When cooking rice, you have to take into consideration the fragrance emitted once it's put in the pot. Some aromas will invite unexpected visitors to your place. It's given – the human mind conceptualizes anything that looks nice or smells well as sound and sweet. The scent will add a sensory element to your dining room. Two common types are Basmati and Jasmine rice. 

4. Colour 

Naturally, rice is brown. However, it becomes white after the bran is removed. Bran is the outer layer that is very nutritious and thus used in animal feeds. You must have come across some coloured varieties of rice. The bran layer is not removed to achieve the unique colours, and it's usually uniquely pigmented.  

Popular colourful rice varieties include red, purple, and black rice. The bran layer is kept for visual appeal and extra nutritional value. Polished rice is the milled rice whose brown layer has been stripped while brown rice has only its outer husk removed but retains the bran layer, which gives it the distinctive tan colour. 


Rice Cooking Tips 

Now that you know the different types of rice and how rice is classified, it's good to have a few tips when preparing a rice dish.

  • Rice swells almost three times its original size. Do your calculations right before cooking.
  • White rice cooks faster as compared to brown, wild, and black rice.
  • Sticky rice requires soaking before cooking.
  • Wash your rice to eliminate excess pesticides and starch unless stated otherwise in the label

Types of Rice: Summing Up 

With all that information, making your rice dishes shouldn't be a problem. But before I wind up, it's also essential to understand that even with the right type of rice, your cooking equipment can still affect the results of your rice dishes. 

If possible, I'd recommend you get a rice cooker to ensure that your rice cook perfectly. Fortunately, finding one shouldn't be a problem as the market is flooded with hundreds of rice cookers. 

Lastly, you can always browse various cooking guides to ensure you pick the best rice cookers, recipes, and types of rice for your meals. 

Cate Nderi