Updated: Feb 24, 2021
What is Rice?
Rice is a small edible seed as a cereal grain of the grass species Oryza Sativa (Asian rice) or less commonly Oryza Glaberrima (African rice). It is the most widely consumed staple food in Asia and Africa. As part of nutrition, 100g of rice will contain 80g of carbohydrates, 7.13g of protein, 11.61g of water and 0.66g of fat. Rice is also a great source for a number of essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins B1 (Thiamine), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), Folate, Iron, Copper, Manganese and Selenium.
What Are the 3 Primary Types of Rice?
1. Short Grain
Characteristics: Chubby, round, starchy and sticky.
Short grain rice is very starchy and clumps together when cooked because they absorb more liquids than medium or long grain rice. The most commonly found short grain rice is sushi rice, the kind of rice you can easily pick up with chopsticks.
When cooking short grain rice, make sure to rinse the rice a several times to remove the excess starch on the grains.
Popular cooking methods: absorption method, stove-top stir method.
Used for: Sushi, paella, rice pudding, sticky rice desserts (like mochi), rice balls and coconut rice.
Types: Japanese sushi rice, short-grain glutinous rice
Japanese sushi rice is a staple of the Japanese diet. There are many varieties, including Koshihikari, Hitomebore and Akitakomachi, but in supermarkets you’ll often find it labelled as sushi rice. When cooked, it becomes sticky and can be easily rolled into balls or shaped into sushi.
Short-grain rice (white) is almost round. The grains have a high starch content, which means they become sticky once cooked. It can be used for many dishes such as rice pudding, sushi and risotto.
Short-grain rice (wholegrain) It’s higher in nutrients. Rich, chewy and nutty, wholegrain short-grain rice takes longer to cook and is less sticky than white short-grain rice, but the grains still cling together.
2. Medium Grain
Characteristics: Non-starchy, some stickiness, creamy.
The most widely known medium grain rice is risotto rice. Medium grain rice have a lower starch content compared to short grain rice. Medium grain rice can result in a creamier rather than sticky texture in dishes.
You will also recognize medium grain rice as the rice in bowls served at Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants. The rice is stickier than risotto rice, with a firm texture and fluffy when just cooked.
Popular cooking methods: stove-top stir method, absorption.
Used for: Risotto, arancini, rice salads and fried rice.
Types: arborio, Carnaroli, Chinese black rice (“forbidden rice”)
Arborio rice is named after the town of Arborio in the Po Valley of Italy where it is grown. It has has a characteristic white dot at the center of the grain, a slightly chewy and sticky consistency and develops a creamy texture when cooked.
Carnaroli rice is an Italian medium-grained rice grown in the Pavia, Novara and Vercelli provinces of northern Italy. It has a higher starch content and firmer texture than Arborio rice. Carnaroli is used for making risotto.
Chinese black rice, also known as purple rice or forbidden rice, grown in Zhezhiang in northern China and eaten as congee or porridge. Chinese black rice is an incredibly nutritious rice, high in fiber, antioxidants, iron, vitamins, and minerals. It has a tender, slightly chewy texture and subtle sweetness with notes of chocolate make it a good choice for both sweet and savory dishes.
3. Long Grain
Characteristics: Dry, firm, distinct grains.
Fragrant rices such as jasmine rice and basmati rice. Mainly cultivated in South and Southeast Asia, long grain rice has the lowest starch content, resulting in dry grains that don’t cling to each other like other types of rice.
Popular cooking methods: boil and drain method, absorption.
Used for: pilaf, biryani, curry, Indian, Palestinian and Thai cuisine.
Types: White (and brown) basmati and jasmine.
Jasmine rice Cultivated in Thailand, jasmine rice has a light floral aroma and chewy texture . It develops a pleasant jasmine aroma while it is cooking. Use it when making a variety of traditional Asian dishes, including curries and stir-frys. The moist, soft texture is ideal for soaking up spices and flavors.
Basmati rice has a grassy aroma and is the driest of them all. This rice is grown in the Himalayan foothills. The dry and fluffy grains make basmati the perfect rice for pilafs and biryanis.
Other Specialty Rices
Glutinous rice is a type of rice that is particularly sticky, almost glue-like when cooked. It can be short, medium or long grain and grown in Southeast Asia and South Asia countries. Glutinous rice is used for sweet and savory foods such as rice cakes, mochi, sweet rice ball desserts and rice porridge.
Red rice is a partially hulled or un-hulled rice that has a red husk rather than the more common brown color. Nutty and slightly sticky, red rice is used in various dishes in Thai, Japanese, Philippine cuisines.
Wild Rice is not technically a rice. Wild rice is actually the seed of an aquatic grass growing in North America. Long, large grains and black-brown in color, wild rice has a wonderfully nutty and chewy texture when cooked and works well in salad dishes.