Rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica (sorry, penguins). It’s easily the world’s most popular grain. The Mandarin Chinese and Korean words for rice are the same as for food or meal. There are more than 40,000 varieties. Supermarkets have finally taken notice. So you’ll find a wide world of rice to explore.
Brown or White?
It’s just like whole wheat vs. white bread. Brown rice is a whole grain. White’s not. So brown’s got more fiber, vitamins, and other goodies. Its nutty taste and chewy texture make for a hearty meal. Strip out the bran and germ, and you get white rice. Fewer nutrients, but it’s easier to cook and won’t steal the taste spotlight from other foods. White rice also comes from other whole-grain types, like black, red, and purple rice.
The Long and Short of It
Stubby and almost round, short-grain rice cooks up soft and sticky. You can pick it up in clumps, making it the go-to rice in Asia where chopsticks rule. Long-grain rice is skinnier and has less starch, so it comes out light and fluffy. It’s great as a side dish or when you need a rice that holds its shape well, like in gumbo. Medium-grain isn’t as long as long-grain or as sticky as short, making it the perfect in-between.
This starchy, white rice is the magic behind risotto. Grown in Italy’s Po valley, it’s the sponge of the rice world. It soaks up whatever liquid you cook it in. And in the process, it releases all those starches, making for a rich, creamy texture. Beyond risotto, you can use arborio in a pinch to make paella, the saffron-scented Spanish dish, or to satisfy your sweet tooth in a rice pudding.