Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rice 101 by Uncle Ben's

I've mainly eat the good old "Southern Long Grain", at least I think that's what I eat.  Hopefully after reading Uncle Ben's Rice 101 I think I can now shop for rice with a little more knowledge.

Southern Long Grain Rice:
Several varieties of this rice indicate that this type of rice is grown in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas.  It's the most common type of table rice consumed in the world.  It is a long slender kernel, four to five times longer than its width, and is firmer and not as sticky as medium grain varieties.

California Medium Grain Rice:
California medium grain japonica rice is also known as calrose rice and requires a temperate climate and is only grown in Japan, Korea, parts of northern China, Australia, and some countries around the Mediterranean Sea.  Shorter and wider than long grain, the kernel is two to three times longer than its width, and tends to be on the softer, sticky side.

Southern Medium Grain Rice:
Southern medium grain rice is not as white, not as sticky, and not as clean tasting as japonica varities.  There are consumers in places like the southern United States and Puerto Rico who like this type of rice, but they enhance its natural flavor with spices, beans, meats, and sauces.

California Mochi Rice:
Mochi rice is slightly sweeter than conventional rice, but even so, most palates would not detect any sweetness.  Mochi is a specialty variety, with a small number of acres in California dedicated too growing it.

Thai Jasmine Rice:
Jasmine Rice from Thailand has a strong aroma and taste.  Looking much like southern long grain rice before and after cooking, its sticky texture is much like California medium grain and will harden and lose aroma with time.  Many varieties grown in the U.S. imitate this unique type of rice, but so far no one has matched it.

Indian Basmati Rice:
Grown in the northern Punjab region of India and Pakistan, this aromatic rice commands the highest price of any variety grown in the world.  The raw kernel starts long and slender, but increases in length by more than three times when cooked.  Indian Basmati is aged at least one year to increase the firmness of cooking texture and elongation.

Arborio Rice:
An Italian variety commonly used in risotto dishes, arborio rice is close to California medium grain in appearance and texture but is a bigger kernel with a distinct chalky center.  When properly cooked, arborio rice develops a unique texture with a starchy creamy surface and a firm bite in the center.

Wild Rice:
Wild rice is a type of grass that grows a long stalk and thrives in deep water.  Traditionally grown wild in the lakes of northern United States and southern Canada, it is still grown this way in Minnesota and other northern areas.  All wild rice is sold with the bran on the kernel (like brown rice), giving it its black appearance.

Specialty Varieties:
In the U.S., specialty rice varieties are being grown for niche markets.  There are several varieties that have been developed to perform like Thai Jasmine and Indian Basmati, as well as several varieties that have unusual bran colors like Wehani, red rice, and black rice.  In California, several Japanese short grain varieties - like Akita Komachi and Koshi Hikari - are being grown.

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