Rice field RICE


Rice is the seed of an annual marsh grass (Oryza sativa) belonging to family Poaceae (true grasses) and native to India and Southeast Asia. In large parts of this area, Indonesia and much of China and India, it is the main course for almost every meal (all other dishes are sides and condiments for the rice). It is one of the most protein complete grains but still needs some beans or other protein sources to complement it.   Photo © i0043.

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See also:   Buying, Cooking & Storing Rice

General & History

Rice heads 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 (Oryza sativa) 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 BCE.   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 North America in colonial days when a Spanish ship out of Madagascar was captured by the English 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 using the rice growing skills of slaves from West Africa. From this grew a major rice cultivation and exporting business. Unfortunately for South Carolina, its growing practices were very much dependant on slave labor, so rice production declined rapidly after the Civil war. Today Carolina Rice is grown mainly in Arkansas and Texas.

While rice consumption is relatively low in North America, 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 growing cultures don't even like the types of rice that come from other areas. The exception has been the United States, which started exporting quantities of rice in colonial days. Today several other countries are major exporters. Thailand has long been the biggest exporter, but in 2012 it dropped to third due to a Thai government program. The current order by volume is: India, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan and the United States. In general, exporting countries export the types of rice their own people prefer, but the US exports mainly Japanese style rice.

The US exports about 3.8 million US tons, and imports more than 367,000 US tons of rice per year. Most of that imported is Thai Jasmine type rice, with Indian Basmati a distant second.

Forms & Processing
  • Paddy Rice is rice as threshed from the grass and includes husk and bran. The final weight of milled white rice is about 68% of it's weight as paddy rice.

  • Brown Rice is rice that has gone through a mill to remove the husks, but the bran coating and germ are still on the grains. Brown rice is more nutritious than white milled rice (fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants) and it has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. On the downside, the flavor is less delicate than white rice making it unsuitable for many recipes, cooking time is much longer, and it is far more vulnerable to rancidity. Storage time can be as little as a few months while white rice can store from one year to more than 50 years depending on variety and milling practice.

  • Cargo Rice is a term some manufacturers use for brown rice. Rice was once shipped mostly brown, thus "cargo", and milled locally in much of the world.

  • White Rice is brown rice run through an additional milling process to remove the bran and germ. Most of the rice consumption in all countries is white rice, preferred for its delicate flavor and short cooking time. When white rice first became cheap enough for normal people to buy, the vitamin deficiency disease beriberi became widespread in regions that lived mostly on rice.

  • Converted Rice   -   Uncle Ben's® trade name for parboiled rice (see next item). The original purpose was to create a more durable, weevil resistant and more nutritious rice with a shorter cooking time, to supply to troops during World War II. The American (Huzenlaub) process takes more complex equipment than the Indian process because it uses vacuum drying at two stages.

  • Parboiled Rice   -   [converted rice (Uncle Ben's)]
    Grains

    In this process the outer husk is still in place when the grains are soaked, steamed (formerly boiled) and then dried. After that it is milled into white rice the usual way, but is somewhat yellow in color. This process drives a good part of the nutrients from the bran coat into the rice body making a white rice with more vitamins, makes the rice more durable during the milling process, and the grains stay more separate with cooking.

    This process was originally adopted in India to improve cheaper medium grain grades of rice. Parboiled grains stay fluffy and very separate even if the rice it is prepared from would otherwise be stickier. Parboiled rice is now much used in the U.S. as restaurant rice because it is less vulnerable to improper cooking. It also holds up well in canned and processed foods. "Uncle Ben's®" is a popular American retail brand. Most rice articles in North America say "converted" rice was invented by Uncle Ben's, but the concept was not, only details of the Huzenlaub process.

    American parboiled rice is processed to a very pale color and cooks out almost pure white. Indian parboiled rice is often darker, cooking out with more color and has a little more of a brown rice flavor. The photo specimens are of Indian parboiled rice, 0.250 inch long and 0.097 inch wide (6.4 x 2.5 mm).

  • "Instant" Rice   -   [Precooked Rice]
    Grains

    This is rice (usually American long grain) that has been fully cooked and then dehydrated before packaging. It's easily identified because The grains are soft, gritty in texture and many are broken. After "cooking" for the recommended time of 5 minutes the grains are still a bit dry, slightly gritty, stiff in the center and a bit mushy on the outside. Give it 10 minutes and it's mushy all the way through. The fragrance and flavor are similar to styrofoam. Inferior in nutrition, flavor and texture, this product is unsuitable for just about any purpose, except perhaps to accurately reproduce the cuisine of New Jersey during the Eisenhower administration - but you can microwave it. "Minute Rice" is a well known brand.

  • Coated Rice is white rice that has been given a coating as a preservative and anti-caking agent. Coating with Talc was once common practice to protect rice on long sea voyages but can now be found only in a few ethnic rice varieties, possibly in South America - it is illegal in the United States. This rice must be clearly labeled as coated and must be thoroughly rinsed before use. Today, rice may be coated with cornstarch, which is edible and need not be labeled, but for most uses should be rinsed off as it will affect the texture.

  • "No-Rinse" Rice, also known as Musenmai rice, has a special coating that looks rather shiny. I have not tried it, in fact I haven't even seen it, but it is reported by experts to be deficient in flavor.

  • Broken Rice is a byproduct of rice milling. This is not a common consumer product, but mainly sold to food processors, pet food makers and beer brewers. It is sometimes called for in some rice puddings recipes. US regulations call for no more than 4% broken grains in commercial rice, so any excess must be removed and sold separately.

  • Puffed Rice
    Puffed Rice Grains This product is made by two different processes: "oven puffing", where the grains are exposed to a very high temperature, and "gun puffing", where the grains are heated moderately under high pressure. When the pressure is released the rice puffs up. The two processes provide a somewhat different product. Puffed rice is very popular in India for use in sweets and deserts. They use the oven method and fuel the ovens with burning rubber tires to get a high enough temperature - with a serious negative impact on health and environment. The photo specimens are from India, probably oven puffed. American puffed rice (gun puffed) is a bit lighter, whiter and more consistent.

  • Beaten Rice   -   [Rice Flakes, Pounded Rice]
    White Rice Flakes

    This product is popular in India. The grains are flattened into flakes and dried making a product that cooks very quickly - an attractive feature in a region where cooking fuel is extremely expensive.

  • Cream of Rice   [Ground Rice] is much more course than rice flour and is used for porridge like dishes.

  • Rice Flour is generally white rice ground very fine, or it can be ground from puffed rice (easier) or from brown rice, but brown rice flour will become rancid much more quickly, just as with whole wheat flour. Rice flour is used in confections, as a thickening agent in sauces, and in industrial processed food. It has many uses in various ethnic cuisines. Because it varies significantly depending on the type of rice used it is safest to get a variety of the same ethnicity as the recipes you will be cooking. It can be made from regular rice or sweet (glutenous) rice. The two are often used quite differently. In general, you want the regular version, but sauces thickened with sweet rice flour are more resistant to breaking down with heat than those thickened with regular rice flour.


Varieties

Commercial rice comes almost entirely the species Oryza sativa, in two subspecies, indica and japonica. In North America we can safely ignore O. sativa ssp. javonica and the entire species Oryza glaberrima (African rice) as insignificant.

  • Long Grain:   (indica)   Properly cooked, this rice is "fluffy" with very separate grains. This is the predominant rice in India, Southeast Asia and major parts of China, particularly the south two thirds.
  • Medium Grain:   (japonica)   Properly cooked, this rice also produces very separate grains, but they adhere to each other, making it easier to pick up lumps of it with the pointy chopsticks used in Japan. It is also good for sushi, and is the predominant rice in Japan and Korea. It is often wrongly called "short grain".
  • Short Grain:   (japonica)   This type includes varieties known as "glutenous rice" (which contains no gluten), "sticky rice", "waxy rice" and "sweet rice". Most short grain rice cooks up very sticky, and, except in Laos, is used mainly for sweets and deserts, thus the name - the rice itself is no sweeter than any other.

Starches:   The controlling factor for how rice cooks is the ratio between two starches, amylose and amylopectin. Most long grain rice is high in amylose, which is opaque and doesn't gelatinize easily. Short grain rice is usually high in translucent, easily gelatinized amylopectin, and medium grain is in between. There are exceptions, some specialty rice varieties don't follow the rule, but most varieties do.

Listed here are common varieties available in Southern California, and descriptions of some uncommon ones so you can select a suitable substitute. I usually have these versions of rice on hand: Aged Basmati, Jasmine, Kokuho Rose (a California medium grain rice), at least one variety of brown or black rice, and Sri Lanka Red Rice which I like a lot.

African Rice
Most African rice is "Upland Rice", a species very remotely related to the Asian rice species, but in Egypt, Asian varieties have been adopted rather than the low yield African Rice. Egypt has enough water to grow that type of rice.


Camolino   -   Egyptian rice milled with oil - not at all common in North American markets.

Egyptian Rice

White Rice Grains Rice cultivation is thought to have started in Egypt in the 7th century CE. Today, most varieties produced are very high yielding japonica type: Giza 177 (short thick grain), Sakha 101/102/103/104 (short thick grain) or Giza 178 (short thin grain). These may be milled as natural polished white rice, white Camolino rice (polished in oil - not common in North American markets) or brown rice (called "cargo rice" by Egyptian manufacturers).

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.

The brand I've purchased is "Egypt's Best", a thick grained variety that I found to have very good flavor, moderate stickiness and slightly chewy texture. The specimen grains were typically 0.220 inch long and 0.075 inch across (5.6 x 1.9 mm) . A cup of rice took about 2 cups of water and cooked in about 25 minutes to produce 3 cups.

Madagascar Pink   -   [Dista Rice]
Pink Rice Grains

Grown in the Lake Alaotra region of Madagascar, this unique, lightly aromatic long grain rice is imported by Lotus Foods. It has good yield and is grown on very marshy land, which suggest it is of Indian descent rather than African (trade between India and Madagascar has been going on for many centuries). The photo specimens were 0.295 inch long and 0.070 inch wide (9.0 x 2.1 mm). One cup of rice takes 1-3/4 cups of water to make 3 cups cooked.

Upland Rice   -   [Oryza glaberrima]
Grains

These varieties of rice are grown in West and West-Central Africa - a completely different species from Asian rice (Oryza glaberrima rather than Oryza sativa). This rice is almost never seen in North America because it is low yield and not enough is grown to supply Africa. It's main advantage is that it needs far less water than Asian rice. It comes in many varieties from short grain to long grain and from nearly white to very dark brown. Photo from the USDA ARS GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network) is of variety Bankoram from Ghana.


American Rice

The United States has been a major exporter of rice since it was a British colony (before CE 1776) - and possibly the first country to grow rice specifically for export.


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 but this is not common.

Carolina   -   [American Long Grain Rice]
Grains of White Rice

This is a long grain Patna type rice originating from India - unfortunately not the best India had to offer. It was 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.

Unfortunately, the growing methods used in South Carolina were heavily dependent on "them happy darkies out there work'n the fields an sing'n their songs. Then those medlin' Damn Yankees came down an forced the darkies to work for money". The crop went into rapid decline after the Civil War, and today "Carolina" rice is grown mainly in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and South America. The photo specimens were typically 0.295 inch long and 0.070 inch wide (7.5 x 1.8 mm). A cup of rice will take about 1-3/4 cups of water and cook up to 3 cups in about 25 minutes.

Popcorn Rice   -   [American Basmati, Della, Texmati]
A hybrid of basmati and Carolina rice grown in Louisiana and Texas, this aromatic long grain rice is reputed to have the aroma of popcorn, thus the name. It is generally considered to lack true basmati character.

Texas based RiceTec Inc. was granted a patent on this hybrid rice, under the name "Basmati". 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.

Wild Pecan Rice:
Rice Grains Not wild and no pecans - it's a hybrid long grain rice that owes most of it's character to incomplete milling. While not a brown rice, it still has a fair amount of bran left giving it a nutty taste and aroma. The aroma and taste reminded the developer of the wild pecans that grew in the area, thus the name. It is also available in fully milled white rice form where it still retains some of its character. The photo specimens were 0.290 inch long and 0.075 inch wide (7.4 x 1.9 mm). This rice is available on-line in 5 and 10 pound bags for about 2010 US $2.90 / pound vs. the same mill's long grain white at $1.90 / pound. Of course you can pay a lot more in the tiny decorative boxes in the markets.


Black Rice
These are varieties of "brown rice" that are very dark brown to black or purple in color rather than light brown. There are many varieties, long grain, medium grain and short grain "sweet" rice. They are sold with the bran layer still intact to preserve the color and provide a nutty flavor. Like brown rice, they take a longer cooking time than white rice, and the cooked color runs from purple to black. Black rice is very high in antioxidants because the color comes from a heavy dose of anthocyanins. It is also much higher in iron and selenium than white rice.


Brown Rice
Grains Any rice type can be "brown rice". This is rice with the outer husk removed but the bran coating not milled off. Of course, the bran layer of some rice is black or red rather than brown, so we have black rice and red rice (the inside is almost always white). Brown rice is much higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than white rice. Red rice is higher in antioxidants than brown, and black is higher than red. The photo specimens are a very long grain basmati type rice. For more on brown rice and health, see our Nutrition & Health section.


California Rice
California is the second largest rice growing state in the United States. Most of the crop is Asian type medium grain, with an eye to export, and we list that rice separately under Japanese / California rice.

California is also a major purveyor to the ever profitable yuppie trade. so specialty "boutique" rices are grown for that market, and we list those rices here.


Lundberg - California - a wide variety of rices are grown organically by the Lundberg family for the "health conscious" and yuppie communities. These can be found in Whole Foods Market and similar up-market outlets.

Black Japonica®:
Grains of Rice Lundberg - This is actually a dark brown and a very dark brown, almost black rice variety planted together and harvested together. The photo specimens were typically 0.240 inch long and 0.100 inch wide (7.3 x 3.0 mm). A cup of this rice needs 2 cups of water and 50 minutes cooking time.

Wehani®:
Grains of Rice Lundberg - A long grain aromatic rice developed primarily from basmati (though it doesn't look much like brown basmati) by the Lundberg Family in California. It is sold only as "brown" rice, has a deep reddish brown color, and when cooked has an aroma suggestive of hot buttered peanuts. The grains tend to split open lengthwise when cooked, much like wild rice does. The photo specimens were typically 0.295 inch long and 0.112 inch wide (9.0 x 3.4 mm). To cook, use 2-1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil uncovered, then cover tightly and set the burner to just a simmer for an hour. It'll still be a bit chewy, but nothing you can't manage.

Colusari®:
Grains of Rice Indian Harvest - This is a very deep Burgundy red rice grown in the Sacramento Vally of California, exclusively by Indian Harvest. This rice is very highly regarded by high priced gourmet chefs - it posesses the two qualities that define "gourmet" - hard to find and absurdly expensive. I had to buy some for a photo - though it pained me very deeply to pay 2014 US $12.98 for 8 ounces of rice. A cup of this rice needs about 2-1/3 cups of water to make 3 cups in about 45 minutes. An 8 ounce package is about 1-1/3 cups, which the package says will make 6 serving - rather scant servings in my opinion. Sheesh!


Chinese Rice
I have very little specific information on Chinese rice varieties. China is by far the world's largest rice importer, and exports next to none. This is a good thing, because it keeps our rice supply unleaded and free of toxic cadmium (yet another recent food contamination scandal in China). It is known that China is working on Genetically Engineered (GMO) rice varieties.

Most rice in China is grown in the Yangtze River Valley, which is fairly far south, which would indicate long grain rice. A much smaller amount is grown in the north, and that is likely medium grain Japonica which is more cold tolerant. This results in a preference for medium grain in northern China and long grain from the middle on south. Much rice is imported from Pakistan, and that is likely all long grain Indica. I have heard that Chinese yuppies in the south prefer Thai Jasmine rice, rather than Chinese grown rice.


China Black   -   [Forbidden Rice]
Black Rice Grains

Said to once have been reserved exclusively for the emperor, this almost black medium grain rice turns a very dark purple when cooked. It is sold only "brown" to preserve the color and texture. Lotus Foods claims to have a copyright on the name "Forbidden Rice". The photo specimens, from China by way of Lotus Foods, were typically 0.215 inches long by 0.100 inch wide (5.5 x 2.5mm). A cup of this rice needs about 2-1/4 cups of water and about 60 minutes of cooking to make about 3 cups. The grains remain quite firm and very separate and the flavor is deep and pleasant. This is about the only rice anyone imports from China, but that is no longer necessary since a very fine derivative of this rice (Nero Venere) can now be purchased more economically right off the shelf in Italian markets.


Indian, Sri Lankan & Himalayan Rice
Though the first solid evidence or rice cultivation is from China, rice itself may have originated in India or Southeast Asia. It has been cultivated far too long to know for sure. India does have a wider variety of rice under cultivation than other parts of Asia. Himalayan rice, grown north of the Indian border, is similar to the types grown in northern India. In the south, similar varieties are grown in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and in the southeastern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.


Basmati:
Grains of Rice Grown in northern India in the foothills of the Himalayas, the "Queen of Fragrance" is a long grain distinctly aromatic rice that stands up well to robust flavors. The grains are very long and properly cooked stay very separate and fluffy. A number of varieties are imported from India and Pakistan, so adjustment of the amount of water may be needed one to another. Typically 1 cup of rice takes 1-7/8 cups of water and makes 3 cups. The photo specimens were typically 0.290 inch long by 0.060 inch wide (7.4 x 1.5 mm). The grains expand greatly in length when cooked. The photo specimens cooked out to about 1/2 inch long.

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 North America, though considered expensive in India. Japanese and Koreans do not like basmati rice one bit, aged or not.

Bhutan Red   -   [Himalayan Red Rice - Short Grain]
Grains of Red Rice

This is the staple rice of Bhutan in the Himalayas. It is is a medium grain rice sold "brown" with the reddish brown bran layers still on. It cooks a little more quickly than other brown rice varieties, about 25 minutes with 1-3/4 cups of water. The photo specimen grains were typically 0.225 inch long and 0.100 inch wide (5.7 x 2.5 mm).

Himalayan Red   -   [Himalayan Red Rice - Long Grain]
This is similar to the Bhutan Red Rice above but long grain. It does not share the quick cooking of the Bhutan Red and will need at least 45 minutes and 2 cups of water.

Idli Rice
Grains A very tiny medium grain rice used in southern Inda to make small steamed cakes called Idli and lacy crepe like pancakes called Dosa. The photo specimens were typically 0.190 inch long and 0.090 inch wide (4.8 x 2.3 mm). This rice may be parboiled or not, and some people use some parboiled and some not. You can cook this rice normally, but use a little shorter time due to the small grains, and perhaps just a touch less if it's parboiled. This rice is generally not cooked normally.

Idli rice is usually soaked for 3 hours or more, ground to paste in a wet grinder, and combined 3:1 with similarly ground urad dal and other ingredients, fermented at least overnight (depending on the climate) and then steamed in a special idli steamer. The batter is made a little thinner for Dosa, which are pan fried. Subst: risky, you can try an Arborio rice or similar short or medium grain risotto rice, or another japonica type rice. An amylopectin content of 80% or higher is needed. Long grain rice is 78% or less and won't work.

Kalijira   -   [Muthu Samba]
White Rice Grains This tiny rice was once known as the "Prince of Rice" in Bengal, India and used for celebrations of all kinds. Since then, most of Bengal was split off to form Muslim Bangladesh, including most of the rice growing area. Bangladesh is an extremely poor country and heavily overpopulated, so most rice growers switched to foreign high yield varieties and Kalijira is nearing extinction. The main North American source was Lotus Foods, but they could no longer get a reliable supply. Apparently there is still a little available here at about 2013 US $10 / pound (plus shipping). The name means "black cumin" due to the unmilled rice's resemblance to the spice. The photo specimens were from Bengal, 0.170 inch long and 0.072 inch wide (4.3 x 1.8 mm). Subst: Jeera Samba still grown in good quantity in Tamil Nadu and relatively economical.

Keeri Samba   -   [Steamed Samba Rice]
White Rice Grains A tiny grained parboiled rice. Most available in the US is from Sri Lanka. This rice has a slightly yellowed color and a distinct aroma absorbed from the husks. I don't find this objectionable, but then I know it's normal. Some have been quite taken aback and thought the rice somehow spoiled and the aroma offensive. One who did, after experimenting, found it objectionable plain or made into idlis but quite to her liking when used to make dosas. This rice cooks into separate non-sticky grains. One cup of this rice needs 1-3/4 cups of water and cooks in about 20 minutes. The photo specimens, from Sri Lanka, were typically 0.155 inch long and 0.060 inch wide (4.7 x 1.8 mm).

Patna
Grains of White Rice This is a type of long grain rice grown near the city of Patna in northeastern India. It is not as distinctive as the Basmati grown farther to the West, much less aromatic, a bit shorter and without Basmati's distinctive lengthwise expansion in cooking. Once widely exported, Patna became somewhat of a generic term for long grain rice. Patna type rice was the first rice widely cultivated in the United States as Carolina Rice. You can use Patna type rice where the rice will be distinctly spiced and seasoned, or mixed with other ingredients. Use Sona Masoori or Jasmine where the rice will stand on its own. The photo is of Carolina Rice as no Indian Patna was available.

Rosa Samba
Pink Rice Grains This is a "brown rice" version of the tiny Samba rice. Like other Samba rices it is grown in Tamil Nadu and Stri Lanka. This rice is pleasant and quite mild, between a white rice and most brown rice. One cup of this rice needs about 1-3/4 cups of water and cooks in about 30 minutes. The photo specimens, from Sri Lanka, were typically 0.150 inch long and 0.072 inch wide (4.6 x 2.2 mm).

Seeraga Samba   -   [Jeera Samba]
Grains

A very tiny grained aromatic rice grown in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu and preferred for making Biriyani in that region (basmati is used elsewhere). It is the most expensive rice grown in Tamil Nadu, and is named after Seera (Jeera, Cumin) because the tiny grains are thought to resemble cumin seed. It is very similar to the once very prestigious Kalijeera rice of Bangladesh, now threatened with extinction. Tamil Nadu still grows plenty of Jeera.

This rice cooks fluffy with very separate grains, with excellent flavor and aroma. I find it a very fine rice for serving plain as well as in recipes. The photo specimens were typically 0.160 inch long and 0.070 inch wide (4.9 x 2.1 mm). A cup of this rice needs about 1-3/4 cup water and cooks in about 20 minutes.

Sona Masoori   -   [Sona Masuri, Samba Masuri, BPT 5204, HMT, Jeela Karra Masur]
White Rice Grains

This rice, grown in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, is the most favored rice in southern India. In the north it is used where basmati is too expensive. It is an excellent long grain rice of medium size, and the grains stay fluffy and separate. One cup of rice will need 1-3/4 cups of water and will cook in 25 minutes. The photo specimens were 0.215 inch long and 0.072 inch wide (6.6 x 2.2 mm).

Sri Lanka Red
Grains of Red Rice This rice is grown in the island nation of Sri Lanka and in the far southeast coast of India nearby. I very much like this rice, with it's earthy aroma and taste. It is an excellent choice when plain brown rice is just too plain. One cup of rice takes a shade over 2 cups of water and is done in about 35 minutes, faster than most brown rice. The photo specimens were 0.265 inch long and 0.070 inch wide (6.7 x 1.8 mm).

Sri Lanka Red Basmati
Red Rice Grains This rice does not resemble Indian Basmati in any way, except for the grains being long and thin. These grains are, however, much smaller, measuring about 0.275 inch long by 0.060 inch diameter (7.0 x 1.5 mm). It also does not much resemble the Sri Lankan Red Rice above, in that it is darker, takes about 2-1/4 cups of water per cup of rice and takes much longer to cook, about 50 minutes. It is also less earthy in aroma and taste.


Iranian Rice   -   [var. Domsiah (black end), Binam, Hasani, Salari, Ambarboo, Sang Tarom, Hasan Sarai]
Domsiah is the most prestigious of the Iranian rice varieties. It is a highly aromatic very long grain basmati type rice with a rather low yield (less than 1/2 a high yield rice). It's also vulnerable to stem borer insects, fungus, and has harvesting problems (weak stem). The other varieties listed above are similar and have similar problems but together account for 80% of Iranian production due to customer preference. Development of high yield varieties continues but so far has failed to maintain the aromatic qualities of the genuine article.


Italian / Risotto Rice
The risotto rice category includes a number of Italian varieties, all medium grain, that absorb a lot of water and develop a creamy outside, but with a moderately firm core. Do not rinse rice for risotto, the starch on the outside becomes part of the texture. The three varieties considered best are Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano. The Italians do use some rice other than risotto varieties, but not a lot.

Risotto is cooked quite differently from most rice dishes. The rice is first fried very lightly in oil or butter. usually mixed with onions and other ingredients. It is then cooked with a lot of stirring, with broth stirred in only as needed - always half the remaining amount until the last 1/4 cup.

Risotto Rice Designations   These are Comune, Semifino, Fino and Superfino. These designations have no relationship to quality, they are calculated from the length to width ratio of the grains.


Arborio
White Rice Grains This is a superfino risotto rice, the best known risotto rice outside Italy, but within Italy it has been displaced by others. It takes longer to cook than the more popular rice, absorbs less water and is very cranky, going from under cooked to over cooked "in the blink of an eye". It is considered unsuitable for restaurant service. The photo specimens, from Italy, were 0.275 inch long and 0.128 inch wide (8.4 x 3.9 mm).

Baldo
White Rice Grains This is an Italian, medium grain rice developed from Arborio crossed with Stirpe 136 rice and now popular in most Mediterranean countries. It is particularly favored by restaurants because it holds up better than Arborio to the practice of partially cooking and then chilling risottos, to be finish cooked to customer's orders. The photo specimens, grown in Turkey, were typically 0.285 inch long by 0.122 inch wide (7.2 x 3.1 mm).

Carnaroli
White Rice Grains Grown in a small region of northern Italy between Milan and Turin, Carnaroli is perhaps the most prestigious Italian risotto rice and is generally reserved for the most refined dishes. Compared to arborio the grains are larger and while they become exceptionally creamy on the outside they hold their shape at the core, due to a higher amount of amylose starch in the center, making for a better texture. The photo specimens, grown in Argentina, were typically 0.260 inch long and 0.130 inch wide (6.6 x 3.3 mm).

Vialone Nano
White Rice Grains This semi-fino rice is one of the most favored risotto rice varieties, especially in the region around Venice. The photo specimens, from Italy, were typically 0.230 inch long and 0.135 inch wide (6.6 x 3.3).

Other Risotto Rice Varieties

  • Maratelli   This is an early ripening variety with heavy yield. It is somewhat higher in amylose starch than other risotto rice so the grains (similar to Carnaroli) stay a bit more separate in risottos.
  • Padano
  • Piedmont Rice   another name for Risotto Rice.
  • Roma

Nero Venere
Black Rice Grains

This is not a risotto rice, but has become popular as a color contrast, particularly served with green vegetables. This medium grain rice is grown in the Padana Delta of the Po River in northern Italy, just a bit south of Venice. It was developed as a hybrid of the China Black rice. Hybridization was necessary because the original China Black rice could not withstand the colder winters of the Po Valley, but the result is very much like the Chinese parent. The photo specimens, purchased from a local Italian market, were typically 0.235 inches long by 0.107 inch wide (7.2 x 3.3 mm) A cup of this rice needs about 2-1/4 cups of water and about 55 minutes of cooking to make about 3 cups. The grains remain quite firm and very separate, with a pleasant flavor and deep color.


Japanese / California Rice
This medium grain moderately sticky japonica type rice is also the main rice in parts of northern China. Most of this type rice available in North America is grown in California, as Asian growers export almost none of this type. About 40% of California production is exported, with Japan taking about half that. Turkey, Jordan, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Korea and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands get most of the rest, in about that order.


Botan - this is a brand of Calrose rice bordering on "sweet rice". It is not that well thought of, particularly for making sushi. Try to get Kokuho Rose, or if you can't find it, some other brand of Calrose.

Calrose
Rice Grains Grown in California and Australia, this is a medium grain rice suitable for sushi and other Japanese, Korean and northern Chinese recipes, or practically anywhere a medium grained rice is required.   Caution:   "Calrose" once meant a specific variety which hasn't been grown since the 1970s - it is now a generic name for several varieties of California type rice. One common brand, Botan, has been widely criticized, particularly for use in sushi. One knowledgeable writer recommends Safeway brand Calrose as much better (date of post unknown), but even more recommends my favorite, Kokuho Rose. For details see our California / Japanese Rice page.

Kokuho Rose
Grains A Japanese style medium grain rice developed by Koda Farms of South Dos Palos, California. I definitely prefer this rice to Calrose varieties. Piles of bags can can be found in the Korean markets here in California - its a favorite. The photo specimens were typically 0.230 inch long and 0.105 inch wide (5.8 x 2.6 mm). For details see our California / Japanese Rice page.

Mochi Rice   -   This is a non-specific term for Japanese sweet rice that is used to make Mochi dough, much used for sweets and deserts. It is of the Short Grain Sweet variety.

Sushi Rice   -   This is a medium grain rice seasoned with rice vinegar. Quite a few sources say it is short grain / sweet rice. This is wrong - sweet rice makes inferior sushi. In California, sushi rice will be Calrose, or preferably Kokuhu Rose rice. Note that one brand of Calrose, Botan, has been flagged as inferior for sushi. For details see our California / Japanese Rice page.

Short Grain Sweet
White Rice Grains This intensely white short grain rice is the standard type for sweet rice. Sweet rice is no sweeter than any other kind, but gets the name from being used mainly to make sweets and deserts. The photo specimens, grown in California, were 0.200 inches long by 0.107 inch wide (5.1 x 2.7 mm). A cup of this rice needs about 2-1/2 cups of water and cooks in about 25 minutes.


Javonica Rice   -   [Broad Grain Rice]
This Oryza sativa ssp. javonica rice is though to be intermediate between the subspecies japonica and indica. It is little known outside the deeply tropical climates where it can be grown. Some is grown in Indonesia and the Philippines, but I've seen none in markets here in Southern California.


Red Rice
These are varieties of "brown rice" that are very reddish in color rather than brown. They are sold with the bran layer still intact to preserve the color, nutrition and provide a nutty flavor. Like brown rice, they take a longer cooking time than white rice, but very variable by variety. Red rice compares with brown rice in all aspects except having a much higher dosage of anthocyanin antioxidants, but not as much as Black Rice.


Southeast Asian Rice
Rice is very important throughout Southeast Asia, because it is too hot and wet for many other grains. The predominant type for meals is long grain Jasmine rice, except in Laos and the Laotian corner of Thailand where long grain Sweet Rice dominates. The rest of the region uses sweet rice mainly for sweets (thus the name) and deserts.


Jasmine Rice   -   [Thai Basmati]
White Rice Grains

Long grain and distinctly aromatic rice preferred in much of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. The major exporter has usually been Thailand, but due to a Thai government program they were passed by Vietnam in 2012. Some is also exported by Cambodia. Sometimes called "Thai basmati", it remains fluffy with separate grains (though not quite as fluffy as basmati) and is an ideal rice for serving plain with Asian dishes. 1 cup rice needs about 1-3/4 cups (variable depending on age) of water to makes about 3 cups cooked rice in 25 minutes. The photo specimens were typically 0.300 inches long and 0.075 inches wide (7.6 x 1.9 mm).

Pinipig - a beaten short grain rice used in the Philippines for deserts and drinks.

Black Thai Sweet   -   [Gao Nep Than (Viet); Purple Thai Rice]
Black Rice Grains

This is a fairly large moderately long grain sweet rice which turns to a very dark purple when cooked, and colors other ingredients it is cooked with. With the bran layer on it only becomes a little bit sticky, but it is more tender than a lot of brown rice, with a quite pleasant nutty flavor and just a little crunch at the bran layer. It is sold as a "brown rice" to preserve the unique color and flavor (the grains are white inside). A cup of this rice needs about 2-1/4 cups of water and 45 minutes cooking time. The photo specimens were typically 0.275 inch long and 0.105 inch wide (7.0 x . 2.7 mm)

Red Thai Cargo   -   [Gao luc do (Viet)]
Red Rice Grains

This is a long grain rice with a reddish brown bran and a "nut-like" flavor. This is sold as a "brown" rice with the bran on to preserve the color and flavor. "Cargo rice" means "Brown rice" in some regions. A cup of this rice needs about 2-1/2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil uncovered, then cover tightly and simmer for about 60 minutes. It is still fairly chewy, but flavor is decent. The photo specimens were typically 0.257 inch long and 0.075 inch wide (6.5 x 1.9 mm).

Short Grain Sweet
White Rice Grains This intensely white short grain rice is the standard type for sweet rice all through Southeast Asia, except Laos. Sweet rice is no sweeter than any other kind, but gets the name from being used mainly to make sweets and deserts. The photo specimens, grown in California, were 0.200 inches long by 0.107 inch wide (5.1 x 2.7 mm). A cup of this rice needs about 2-1/2 cups of water and cooks in about 25 minutes.

Thai Long Grain Sweet   -   [Gao Nep Thuong Hang (Viet)]
White Rice Grains

This rice breaks the rule that sweet rice is short grain. This is the proper rice to use for Laotian cooking where sweet rice is the main rice rather than just for sweets. It is soaked for an amount of time dependent on how old the rice is. For rice exported to North America it is pretty much sure it needs the 8 hour soak for older rice. It is then steamed in a special conical straw basket lined with cheese cloth. For details see our Working with Rice page. These grains, from Thailand were 0.255 inch long by 0.090 inch wide (6.5 x 2.3 mm).

West Java Volcano Rice
Pink Rice Grains

This rice is a mix of three West Java grains, and imported by Lotus Foods. It consists of Javanese Sintanur brown rice, a very prestigious rice, mixed with whole red rice and lightly milled red rice. A cup of rice needs about 1-3/4 cups of water and cooks in about 30 minutes. The photo specimens were 0.257 inch long by 0.080 inch wide (7.8 x 2.4 mm).


Spanish / Paella Rice
Spain, through which rice entered Europe, cooks it rather differently than any other place in the world. Paella is named for the pan it is cooked in, a shallow uncovered pan. This requires a super absorbent rice, so most rice simply will not do. If Spanish rice is not available, a risotto rice like Carnaroli can be used (risotto is of Spanish origin).

The Spanish also cook Arroz, which is the same kind of rice cooked in a cazuela, either in the oven or on the stove top. Arroz may be dry or very moist. Paella is always dry, in other words, all the liquid is absorbed by the rice.


Bomba
White Rice Grains This is considered the best rice for paella. It is relatively expensive and the package will always advertise Bomba if that's what is in it. This rice is grown in Murcia and Valencia. One desirable feature of Bomba is that it is not as easily ruined by overcooking as other varieties. The normal recommendation for paella is there should be twice as much broth as rice, but with bomba you may need just a touch more as it is very absorbent. The grains are tiny, with the photo specimens typically measuring 0.190 inch long and 0.115 inch wide. Grown in Valencia, 2014 US $5.99 per 1/2 kilo (1.1 pounds).

Valencia
White Rice Grains Valencia is the main rice growing region of Spain. Valencia rice is considered excellent rice for paella. If the package is labeled "Valencia" it may contain Arroz Fonsa, Gleva, Bahia, or Senia, but not Bomba, unless Bomba is specified on the label. The general recommendation for paella is twice as much broth as rice. The photo specimens were typically 0.233 inch long and 0.129 inch wide. 2014 US $3.79 per kilo (2.2 pounds).

Calasparra   -   This rice, grown in Murcia, is suitable for paella, but is also liked for arroz cooked in cazuela because it is more resistant to overcooking than most varieties.

Delta del Ebro   -   a rice suitable for paella grown in Tarragona.


Sweet Rice   -   [Glutinous rice, Sticky rice, Waxy rice, Mochi rice, Japanese sweet rice, Pearl rice]
This is rice very high in amylopectin, so it cooks up very sticky. It is no sweeter than any other rice, but is called "sweet rice" because it is used mainly for making wraps, sweets and desert dishes. It is usually a very short grained rice, but there are exceptions. Sweet rice is popular throughout Asia, but the only country where it is the main rice is Laos, but that is Thai long grain sweet rice, not the regular short grain. Sweet rice absorbs a lot of water and the starch becomes gelatinous and sticky when cooked.


Wild Rice - American:   -   [Zizania palustris, Zizania aquatica]
Grains

The seed of a marsh grass native to North America (there is also a species (Z. latifolia) that grow in Manchuria). Traditionally it was harvested by Americans Indians, particularly in the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada, who thrashed it into canoes. It took several passes through the marsh because the seed heads ripened unevenly (shattered) and needed to be thrashed several times. It sold at such high prices it was usually cut 4 to 1 with regular rice when used, and served only at special dinners, like Thanksgiving.

Recently, plant geneticists developed a non-shattering variety suitable for single pass harvesting and growing in commercial paddies - and the natives are not happy. 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:   -   [Oryza rufipogon and hybrids]
Grains

Various varieties of this wild rice are a difficult to eradicate crop pest of no commercial value. The seed heads of these varieties tend to shatter (ripen unevenly and spill their seeds as they ripen). They are listed as "noxious weeds" in several US States, but these wild varieties are used by plant geneticists developing new commercial rice varieties.   Photo by Julia Scher, Federal Noxious Weed Disseminules of the U.S. (Federal Government) = public domain.


Ethnic Preferences

Caribbean:   The predominant rice is medium grain japonica imported from California. It is normally salted during cooking.

Italy:   Here medium grain rice varieties that cook up to a creamy texture but are still fairly firm in the center are preferred. Carnaroli is a popular example. Rice is commonly cooked by recipe as risotto, with lots of stirring, and with other ingredients included. It is salted as the recipe calls for.

Spain:   The Spanish practice of cooking in a shallow pan without a cover and no stirring requires a super-absorbent medium grain rice. This is similar to the Italian risotto, but it must cook up a bit sticky with very separate grains, not creamy. Individual grains must be distinct and have a noticeable "bite". Salt is applied per recipe.

South Asia:   India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka prefer a long grain rice cooked relatively dry and fluffy. In northern India and Pakistan the preference is for a Basmati type rice, or a Patna for economy. In southern India a Sona Masoori is very popular. In Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka long grain Sri Lanka Red rice is also popular. In all these regions rice is cooked with salt since it will be served with non-salty food.

Southeast Asia:   In Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, a long grained rice, preferably Jasmine, is cooked medium dry and fluffy. Rice is cooked without salt because it will be eaten with food made salty by fish sauce, shrimp sauce, bean sauce or various salty condiments.

China:   In the north, a medium grain rice similar to the Japanese is traditional, since this type grows better in cool climates. Most rice in China is grown in the Yangtze River Valley which is in the south, thus most of China uses long grain rice similar to Thai Jasmine rice and cooks fluffy. Much rice is imported from Pakistan, which would also be long grain rice. Plain Rice is usually cooked with no salt.

Japan & Korea:   Medium grain rice is used in this region. The grains must be firm and distinctly separate, but they must adhere to each other sufficiently to be eaten easily with the thin pointed chopsticks used in Japan. In North America use Kokuho Rose if available, or Calrose which is easier to find. Rice is cooked with little or no salt.

Laos:   Laotians prefer a unique Thai long grain sweet rice. This rice is also prevalent in the northeastern corner of Thailand where much of the population is Laotian. This rice must stick together very well because a lump of rice held in the fingers is the main eating utensil.

Turkey: A long grain rice, such as Basmati is used for pilafs. Medium grain rice is used for soups and the like, and some pilafs are now made with it. Much California rice is imported by Turkey.

North America:   For the vast majority, Patna / Carolina type rice, always cooked with salt, is what rice is. Here in Southern California and other ethnically diverse regions we have a wide variety of rice available, including all those listed above, to be cooked and used in the manner of their countries of origin.


Health & Nutrition

Safety:   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 (more than a day) cooked rice will sour but not generally become toxic.

Here in Los Angeles there was a great rice war between the food safety officials and the Asians. It was over not refrigerating rice cakes (refrigeration ruins them). A compromise was finally worked out so they need not be refrigerated but there is a fixed number of hours they may out for sale (rice cakes usually include ingredients other than rice in the center).

Nutrition:   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 (somewhat short on lysine though). Brown, red and black rice contain more vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, as described below. The number of calories in a cup of cooked rice depends on type and weight. Here are typical weights and counts.

TypeOunces  Calories
White Long Grain5.6205
Brown Long Grain6.9216
White Medium Grain6.6242
Brown Medium Grain6.9218
White Short Grain7.2267

Diabetes:   Inconclusive.   In March 2012 a Harvard group published a meta-study in medical journal BMJ that found a barely statistically valid association for type 2 diabetes increasing with increasing consumption of white rice.

Even EMJ's editors stated "Although the findings of the current study are interesting they have few immediate implications for doctors, patients, or public health services . . . ". That's about the kindest evaluation of the study. Looked at another way, their data showed the increase in diabetes was valid only for Asians, not Westerners - but, basically, it wasn't valid enough to come to any conclusions at all (R6).

This did not stop the media from running with the story with huge and alarming headlines linking white rice consumption to type 2 diabetes, carefully omitting any parts that questioned the validity and relavence of the data.

Arsenic:   (2010)   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 arsenic, 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:   This form is more nutritious than white rice since the bran layers contain protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, B vitamins, fiber and vitamin E (as well as some toxins and "anti-nutrients"), while the white part is mostly just starch. It is also much higher in iron and selenium than white rice, and higher in antioxidants, but not nearly so high as red rice, and that isn't nearly as high as black rice, because the colors come from anthocyanin antioxidants.

Beriberi:   When a cheap milling process was developed, rice subsistent people wanted white rice just like what 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 was totally hung up on microbial theories of disease back then, so 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 a significant difference.

Gluten:   No rice, including "Glutinous Rice" contains any gluten and all are suitable for celiac sufferers. 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.

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