Domesticated Asian (as distinct from African) rice derives from Asian wild red rice, Oryza rufipogon, which still exists and is a difficult to eradicate pest in commercial crops. This wild rice can still crossbreed with domesticated rice providing any number of intentional and unintentional hybrids. Oryza rufipogon is thought native to India and Southeast Asia, but the oldest accepted evidence of rice cultivation is from China, about 5000 BC. Photo © i0042.
African rice (Oryza glaberrima), also known as "upland rice", can withstand drier conditions and is resistant to pests found in Africa. Domesticated versions are closer to wild than Asian rice, yields are much lower and harvesting is more difficult. It has been isolated from Asian rice for so long it is extremely difficult to hybridize the two, though that has recently been accomplished. Hybrids are called NERICA (New Rice for Africa) and are now being widely planted for improved yields. African rice is grown mainly in humid parts of West Africa.
Arab traders brought Asian rice from India to the Near East, and then on to Spain. From Spain it was taken to Italy, but the rest of Europe is unsuitable for rice cultivation.
Rice came to the U.S. in colonial days when a Spanish ship out of Madagascar was captured and diverted to England. Damaged in a storm it put into Charleston, South Carolina for repairs. The captain thanked his hosts with a bag of Patna type rice, which was successfully planted and from it grew a major rice growing and exporting business. Unfortunately for South Carolina, its growing practices were very much dependant on slave labor and rice production declined rapidly after the Civil war. Today Carolina Rice is grown mainly in Arkansas and Texas.
California is the second largest US rice producer after Arkansas, much of which is specialty Asian varieties for export. Over 40% of California production is exported, with Japan getting about half that despite their insistence that California rice is inferior. Turkey, Jordan, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and South Korea get most of the rest in that order.
While rice consumption is relatively low in the U.S. it has been rising to the point that around 75% of households now serve rice at least once a week, up from around 45% in the mid 70s. This large increase is partially due to immigration from rice eating cultures who not only consume rice themselves but influence the diversity of what other Americans eat.
Rice has, until recently been little exported, most being consumed in the area where it is grown. Most rice eating cultures don't even like the types or rice that come from other areas. The exception has been the U.S. which started exporting quantities of rice in colonial days. Today several other countries are major exporters. In order of volume are: Thailand, Vietnam, United States, India and Pakistan. In general, exporting countries export the types of rice their own people prefer.
The US imports over 333,000 metric tons of rice per year, most of which is Thai Jasmine rice, with Indian Basmati a distant second.Forms & Processing
Rice comes in three general types (disregarding African rice) O. glaberrima which is a different species and not marketed due to low yield):
The controlling factor is the ratio between two starches, amylose and amylopectin with long grain high in amylose and short grain high in easily gelatinized amylopectin.
Listed here are common varieties available in Southern California and descriptions of some uncommon ones so you can select a suitable substitute.. I keep these versions of white rice on hand: Aged Basmati, Jasmine, Kokuho Rose (a California medium grain rice I prefer to Calrose) and short grained Sweet Rice. I also generally have one or another variety of brown rice.
American Basmati generally refers to Popcorn Rice, a basmati-Carolina hybrid, but it can also refer to real basmati rice grown in the US by boutique growers.
American Long Grain - see Carolina Rice.
Aged Basmati is preferred to new because the grains stay even more separate. A prime grade 50 year old basmati can sell at over $100/pound to connoisseurs, but most is aged just a year or two and is very affordable in the U.S., though considered expensive in India. Japanese and Koreans do not like basmati rice one bit, aged or not.
So-called American Basmati is a hybrid of basmati and Carolina rice
considered to lack true basmati character (see
Popcorn Rice). Due to an attempt by a Texas firm
to patent the name "basmati" and various other imitations the government of
India is now attempting to define a genetic profile for real basmati.
Bhutanese red rice - the staple of Bhutan in the Himalayas, this is a short grain rice sold "brown" with the reddish brown bran layers still on. It is said to cook more quickly than other brow rice varieties. subst: Brown Calrose.
Botan - see sweet rice.
Black Forbidden Rice - China - said to once have been reserved exclusively for the emperor, this almost black medium grain rice turns indigo when cooked. It is sold only "brown" to preserve the color and texture.
Black Japonica - California - actually a blend of two Oriental rice varieties, one black and one reddish brown. The two are grown together, harvested together and sold "brown".
Black Thai - Thailand - a short grain rice which turns purple when cooked and colors other ingredients it is cooked with. It has a "nut-like" flavor and is a bit sticky when cooked. It is sold as a "brown rice" to preserve the unique color.
For most of the history of rice growing white rice was available only to the upper classes, so when efficient milling machines became available everyone wanted white, and soon the vitamin B1 deficiency disease beriberi became widespread. Brown rice has a much higher vitamin content but it's flavor is too robust to work well in most recipes designed for white rice. Beriberi from white rice is not a problem in populations that have a diverse diet.
Camolino - Egyptian rice milled with oil - not common in North American markets. For more details see Egyptian Rice.
Cargo Rice - a term some manufacturiers use for brown rice.
Carolina: A Patna type rice formerly a major crop in South Carolina from where much was exported to England in colonial days, then re-exported to Holland, Germany and France. After the American Revolution shipments no longer cleared through England but went direct. The growing methods used in South Carolina were heavily dependant on slave labor so the crop went into rapid decline after the Civil War. Today "Carolina" rice is grown mainly in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and South America.
Della Rice - see Popcorn Rice.
The thick grain varieties are exported to Turkey, the Levant, Arabia and Southern California (where we have a large Near Eastern population). The thin grain variety is exported mainly to Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and to East and West Africa.
I have found the thick grained varieties to be medium sticky with very good flavor and slightly chewy texture. They take about 2 cups of water per cup of rice.
Forbidden Rice - see Black Forbidden Rice.
Glutinous Rice - see Sweet Rice.
Granza - see Spanish Rice.
Idli rice is usually soaked for 6 hours, ground, combined with urad dal
and other ingredients, fermented and then steamed in a special idli steamer.
Subst: arborio rice or similar short or medium
grain risotto rice, or a Japonica type rice. An amylopectin content of 80%
or higher is needed. Long grain rice is 78% or less.
Iranian Rice - [var. Domsiah
(black end), Binam, Hasani, Salari, Ambarboo, Sang Tarom, Hasan Sarai]
Lundberg - California - a wide variety of rices are grown organically by the Lundberg family for the "health conscious" community.
Mochi Rice - see Sweet Rice.
Nano Rice - see Risotto Rice.
Paella Rice - see Spanish Rice.
Parboiled Rice - see Parboiled Rice in the "Forms and Processing" section above.
Patna - India - a long grain rice grown near the city of Patna in north eastern India. It is similar to Basmati but much less aromatic. Once widely exported, Patna became somewhat of a generic term for long grain rice. A Patna type rice was the was first widely cultivated in the U.S. as Carolina Rice. Use Patna rice where the rice will be distinctly spiced and seasoned, the more expensive Basmati where the rice will stand on its own.
Pecan Rice - see Wild Pecan Rice.
Piedmont Rice - see Risotto Rice.
Pinipig - a beaten short grain rice used in the Philppines for deserts and drinks.
Popcorn Rice -
[American Basmati, Della, Texmati]
Texas based RiceTec Inc. was granted a patent on the name "Basmati" based on this hybrid. The patent was challenged by India and the USPTO invalidated all the grain-specific claims. This prevented RiceTec from interfering with Indian exports but left them free to produce "similar or superior grains" in the US.
Purple Thai Rice - see Black Thai Rice.
Risotto Rice - Any of a number of Italian varieties, all short grain (Arborio, Carnaroli, Roma, Baldo, Padano, Vialone Nano) that absorb a lot of water and develop a creamy coating. Do not rinse rice for risotto, the starch on the outside becomes part of the texture.
Roma Rice - see Risotto Rice.
Sticky Rice - see Sweet Rice.
Sweet Rice - (sticky rice, glutinous rice, sushi rice, waxy rice, botan rice, mochi rice, Japanese sweet rice, pearl rice) a very short grained rice popular throughout Asia particularly for wraps and sweets. It is not actually sweet but is often sweetened when included in confections. It absorbs a lot of water and the starch becomes gelatinous and sticky when cooked. subst: risotto rice.
Texmati - see Popcorn Rice.
Thai Basmati - see Jasmine Rice.
Valencia - see Spanish Rice.
Vialone Nano (Nano) - see Risotto Rice.
Waxy Rice - see Sweet Rice.
Wehani: A long grain aromatic basmati type rice developed by the Lundberg Family in California. It is sold only as "brown" rice, is a light reddish brown and tends to split lengthwise when cooked, much as American wild rice does.
Wild Rice - American: -
[Zizania palustris, Zizania aquatica]
Recently plant geneticists developed a non-shattering variety suitable
for growing in commercial paddies - and the natives are unhappy. California
and Minnesota now provide the bulk of wild rice production. Though the
natural varieties are still considered superior in flavor and texture
they no longer fetch so high a price. There is also now some production
in Australia and Hungary. The photo specimens are of paddy grown grains.
Size varies widely with the largest grains about 0.480 inch long and
0.075 inch wide (12.2 x 1.9 mm). Like regular rice, wild rice has no
gluten and is safe for celiacs.
Wild Rice - Asian: various varieties of Oryza rufipogon and hybrids. These are a difficult to eradicate crop pest of no commercial value but are used in genetic development. The seed heads of these varieties tend to shatter (spill their seeds) before they can be harvested.
Wild Pecan Rice:
Thailand: Most Thais use long grain rice similar to Indian basmati. The preferred variety is Jasmine rice which is cooked without salt because it will be eaten with food containing salty fermented fish sauce and other salty seasonings. In the north, areas influenced by Laos use short grained sweet rice instead, which is eaten with the fingers.
Italy and Spain prefer a medium grain rice such as Arborio cooked to a creamy consistency, generally mixed with other ingredients during the cooking.
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Burma prefer a long grain rice cooked relatively dry and fluffy with salt. This may be a Patna type rice or preferably the more expensive Basmati. Rice is cooked with salt since it will be served with non-salty food.
Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam prefer a long grained rice like the Thai Jasmine cooked medium dry and fluffy. They cook it without salt because it will be eaten with food made salty by fish sauce, shrimp sauce, bean sauce or similar.
Japan and Korea prefer short grain rice cooked without salt. The rice must have firm distinctly separate grains but they must adhere to each other sufficiently to eat with chopsticks. Calrose will do for Americans but in Korea and Japan it is considered inferior to local varieties.
Laos: Laotians prefer a very short grained sticky rice that in other countries would be used mainly for sweets and wrapped snacks. This rice must stick together very well because a lump of rice held in the fingers is used as an eating utensil. True sweet rice is reasonably available in the US now.
Turkey: A long grain rice is used for pilafs and medium grain for soups. In the U.S. one or another variety of Indian Basmati will be used.Health & Nutrition
Cooked white rice contains just over 100 calories per cup, and brown rice just a couple more. Rice is high in carbohydrates, gluten free, very low in fat and sodium and has about the best protein balance of any grain with all 8 essential amino acids present in reasonable proportions.
There are few risks involved with rice beyond slipping on thrown rice at a wedding (a custom adopted from India). If left out too long cooked rice will sour but not generally become toxic.
Update: Rice from the US Southern States has been found a bit high in arsenic, probably from fertilization with chicken droppings. You did know chickens and turkeys were (and some may still be) fed arsenec, right? Makes 'em grow faster. Extent of risk is under evaluation by the FDA. California, Thai and Indian rice have normal arsenic levels.
Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice since the bran layers contain protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, B vitamins, fiber and vitamin E (and some toxins), while the white part is mostly just starch. When a cheap milling process was developed rice subsistent people wanted white rice just like that rich people had long enjoyed.
Unfortunately, this resulted in the debilitating B vitamin deficiency disease beriberi. A nutritional fix was found, but the medical profession back then was so hung up on microbial theories of disease doctors continued to search for "the real cause" long after.
Beriberi was a serious problem in the southeast U.S. as well, so the US Food and Drug Administration requires "enrichment" of white rice with niacin, thiamin and iron. This is washed off if you rinse the rice which is why the package says "don't rinse". Recipes say "do rinse" (for better texture) and few of us are so rice subsistent the loss will make much difference.
Rice flour is used for baked goods and otherwise as a substitute for wheat flour for the gluten intolerant. Unfortunately, without gluten it can not make a risen dough bread.Links