Fluffy or sticky? Fragrant or nutty? Firm or oozy?

4 September, 2020

How to choose the right rice variety for your meal

Rice is a staple food for millions of people around the world. It’s able to be stored well without refrigeration, great by itself or accompanied by other foods, and of course, delicious. But have you ever stood in front of the rice and the supermarket shelves and felt overwhelmed? You’re not alone. In fact, there’s over 40,000 types of rice grown worldwide. So it’s no wonder that you can be left feeling “when did rice get so complicated” as you’re trying to grab a pack to go with tonight’s dinner.

First of all, let’s discuss white versus brown rice. Generally, this is the same rice either with the bran layer removed (white rice) or still intact (brown rice). Brown rice has a nutty flavour, firmer texture and requires longer cooking time. However, red and black rice are different varieties and are discussed below.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common types you’ll see on store shelves and help guide you through which rice to use when.

Jasmine rice

This is a long grain rice that’s got a lovely fragrance. Jasmine rice cooks up nice and fluffy with well-separated grains.

Perfect for: Accompanying southeast Asian dishes like stir fries and curries

Basmati rice

A long grain rice that’s sometimes aged. Basmati rice expands in length when it’s cooked and also produces fluffy, separate grains.

Perfect for: Pairing with your Indian curry as well as biriyanis and pilafs

Arborio rice

This Italian variety is medium grained and quite starchy, creating a creamy texture when cooked. Less widely available varieties that you can substitute for arborio are roma, carnaroli and vialone nano.

Perfect for: Risotto or even rice pudding

Black rice

Black rice is sometimes called “forbidden rice” in recognition of its origins in China when it was reserved for the emperor’s court. There are both glutinous and non-glutinous strains, but glutinous (or sweet) black rice is more readily available. Once its cooked, black rice has a purple-ish colour and a slightly nutty taste.

Perfect for: Thai-style sticky rice pudding with mango

Sushi rice

Sushi rice is a short-grain rice that sticks together once its cooked. It retains firmness when cooked and has a natural sweetness.

Perfect for: Sushi (who’d have guessed?!) as well as an accompaniment for stir fries

Medium grain rice

Medium grain rice has a bit more creaminess to it than long grain rice, with less separation of the grains when cooked. It’s available as white or brown rice.

Perfect for: General use, or even in a paella

Other rices

Other rices you might see include red rice and wild rice (not actually a rice but a seed from an aquatic grass in North America).

It’s all about the texture

Whatever rice you choose, the important things to keep in mind is the texture for your final dish. For example, medium grain white rice, jasmine rice and basmati rice all have a similar texture and while there are differences, for most home cooks using these interchangeably is probably going to be ok. Whereas you can’t make a creamy and oozy risotto using jasmine rice instead of arborio – you need that starchy rice that absorbs liquid. You can find a great selection of rice at Woolies at Chatswood Interchange or get specialist help at Asian City.