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Your Rice Guide

It’s National Rice Week!

Filling and versatile, rice is one of the nation’s favourite foods, with millions choosing it for takeaways, restaurant menus and at home cooking every week. For the inside scoop on one of the UK’s most successful rice brands read our interview with the team at Tilda, and for a handy guide to the most popular varieties of rice and how to use them read on.

The most popular varieties of rice are:

  • Basmati rice
  • Jasmine rice
  • Brown rice
  • Arborio or Risotto rice
  • Bomba rice
  • Wild rice
  • Red rice
  • Sushi rice

Now let’s find out more about them...

What is rice?

Rice is the seed of Oryza Sativa (Asian variety) or Oryza Glaberrima (African variety), a grass species. It’s classed as a grain and can be long-grained, medium-grained or short-grained in size. Nutritionally, rice is a carbohydrate, and though commonly associated with Asian and African cuisine it is included in many native dishes from around the world.

Basmati rice

What is Basmati rice?

Basmati rice is a lightly aromatic long-grain white rice traditionally grown in India, Pakistan and Nepal. It is distinctive looking after cooking, as it will expand to more than twice its original length (unlike other rice varieties it only expands lengthwise and remains slender in width). Basmati rice contains more calories and carbohydrates than standard white rice, and like other white rice varieties it does not contain much fibre.

Top tip

Getting the water to rice ratio right is crucial for perfectly cooked rice. Each rice variety has its own ratio, and for basmati the rule of thumb is one part rice to one and a half parts water - assuming you have soaked the rice in cold water for 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Basmati rice is best used for

  • Pilaf
  • Chicken curry varieties (such as chicken and coconut or chicken and cashew)
  • Jambalaya
  • Peas Pulao
  • Payesh (creamy Bengali dessert)

Jasmine rice

What is Jasmine rice?

Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice famed for its fragrance, which is attributed to the plant’s production of aroma compounds. It is a long, thin grain that can take on a fluffier, heartier texture when cooked, and has a natural sweetness and nutty flavor.

Top tip

When your boiling jasmine rice is fully cooked, remove from the heat and then cover with a cloth and allow to rest for 5 minutes. This will allow any starchy grains to rise from the bottom of the pot and ensure a perfectly even texture.

Jasmine rice is best used for

  • Accompanying shrimp or salmon
  • Stir-frys
  • Chicken Adobo
  • Chicken katsu curry
  • Thai green curry

Is rice an allergen?

Rice is not one of the 14 major food allergens. Unlike other grains it is not a Cereal containing Gluten, and though rice allergies exist they are very rare. However, many rice dishes are cooked with Peanuts, (Tree) Nuts or Sesame, which are all included in the 14 major food allergens.

Brown rice

What is Brown rice?

Brown rice is a type of rice that (unlike white varieties) contains all parts of the grain - though not the inedible outer husk. Because it contains the bran, germ and endosperm it can be classed as a whole grain food. Brown rice is celebrated for its nutritional values, as it is rich in fibre, magnesium, and selenium. Whilst it is much ‘better for you’ than white rice, the oil in its bran layer does mean that it has a shorter shelf life.

Top tip

If brown rice is bought in bulk and left to sit, unrefridgerated, for months in warm and humid conditions it can become a hatching ground for moths. The best thing to do is to keep it in a cold room or fridge, but if that’s not possible rinse it in a fine sieve before use.

Brown rice is best used for

  • Lentil and brown rice soup
  • Rice bowls
  • Chicken and broccoli with rice
  • Rice salad
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Veggie stir-frys

Arborio or Risotto rice

What is Arborio rice?

Arborio rice is sometimes known as ‘risotto’ rice, and is named after Arborio, a town in the Piedmont region of Italy where the rice is grown (it is also now grown in the US). Arborio is a plump, short-grain rice that has a higher starch content, when cooked, than other rice varieties - giving its characteristic creamy, chewy consistency. It’s this texture that makes it ideal for the buttery, cheesy dish risotto.

Top tip

Never rinse arborio rice before cooking it (unless the recipe directly calls for it) - this would result in removing its starchy coating. When arborio rice is cooked slowly and massaged with hot liquid a little bit at a time, this starch is released - creating the creamy texture associated with risotto.

Arborio rice is best used for

  • Risotto
  • Arancini (Risotto balls)
  • Soup
  • Rice pudding
  • Baked rice

Bomba rice

What is Bomba rice?

Bomba rice is a short-grain variety, commonly used in the Spanish dish paella - with this rice being primarily grown in the eastern part of the country.

Sometimes called ‘Valencia rice’ because of its use in cuisine native to that region, its most significant characteristic is the ability to absorb 2-3 times its volume in water. Bomba rice can be expensive, but it is non-stick, good at holding flavour and retains its structure after cooking.

Top tip

Paella should be cooked in a pan - either a paella pan or a wide, shallow frying pan. This is important because the heat must be distributed evenly so that the water can evaporate properly and prevent the rice from being too watery.

Allergen alert

Paella is a dish that prominently features prawns in many recipes. Prawns are a Crustacean and one of the 14 major food allergens.

Bomb rice is best used for

  • Paella
  • Bread stuffing
  • Served with clams

Wild rice

What is Wild rice?

Wild rice is actually a seed, coming from aquatic grass and originally harvested and eaten by Native Americans (though it is also historically grown in China too). Though not rice in itself, wild rice is a grain with a similar look and taste to rice, though it is grassier in flavour. Lower in carbohydrates than other varieties of rice, it is high in zinc and antioxidants and can be expensive due to the unique way it grown.

Top tip

Be aware that wild rice can be hard and over-chewy if undercooked and that it requires longer cooking time than other rice types. To be on the safe side, you can soak wild rice overnight before cooking with it.

Wild rice is best used for

  • Soups
  • Casseroles
  • Salads
  • Stuffing

Is rice vegan?

Yes, rice is suitable for vegans and vegetarians to eat.

Red rice

What is Red rice?

Red rice is a long-grain rice that is red in colour because it contains the water-soluble vacuolar pigment anthocyanin - a compound with multiple health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and preventing type-2 diabetes. It is consumed with the germ intact, has a high antioxidant content, and more potential to fight free radicals than even brown rice.

Top tip

Red rice has a nutty flavour that is especially compatible with sesame oil.

Allergen alert

Sesame is one of the 14 major food allergens and must be labelled as an ingredient if the rice has been cooked in sesame oil.

Red rice is best used for

  • Kheer (pudding)
  • Salad
  • Stir-fry
  • Accompanying lamb

Sushi rice

What is Sushi rice?

Sushi rice is a short-grain rice from Japan known for its sticky texture. Like other short-grain rice it contains more starch than long-grained rice and has a much gummier consistency. Sushi rice is low in fibre, and is often prepared with sugar. Together these factors make it quicker to break down in your digestive system, which can lead to a blood sugar spike.

Top tip

Whilst most rice recipes don’t require you to pre-wash, as that process has been done before packaging, the washing and soaking of sushi rice is essential. This step removed excess starch from the grains so that the sushi doesn’t become too thick and gluey.

Sushi rice is best used for

  • Sushi
  • Dragon Rolls
  • Mochi
  • Onigiri
  • Sushi rice bowl

Is rice gluten-free?

Yes, rice is gluten-free. It is not a Cereal containing Gluten, and is suitable for Coeliacs and those with a gluten-free diet.

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