Rice of all colors
This article was originally published in February 2014
From pilaf and paella to risotto and sushi, rice is the foundation for many delicious cuisines. Nutritionally, whole-grain rice is rich in fiber and mostly a source of complex carbohydrates (80 percent) with a little protein, phosphorus and potassium.
There are hundreds of different varieties of rice — white, brown, black and red. Each has a unique shape, texture and flavor that make it just right for certain dishes.
- Long grain rice grains stay separate and are fluffy after cooking. Some long grain varieties, such as basmati, jasmine and wehani, are fragrant and delicious in pilafs, entrées and salads. Basmati cooks up a bit drier and more separate than jasmine, which is a little softer and tends to cling together.
- Medium grain rice , when cooked, is moister, more tender and more likely to stick together than long grain. Examples include Italian arborio rice (used for risotto) and Bhutanese red rice.
- Short grain rice is distinguished by a chubby, nearly round kernel and produces a more substantial, chewy texture than long or medium grain rice. Short grain rice also is slightly more nutrient-dense and is most satisfying in cool-season dishes such as risotto, puddings and croquettes.
- Sweet rice loses its shape when cooked and becomes sticky. It’s good for desserts, sweets, baby food cereal and in making Japanese mochi.
- Wild rice isn’t rice at all but the seed of a marshy grass native to the Great Lakes. Compared to other rice and wheat, wild rice is a nutritional powerhouse with 14 percent protein.
Exotic rice at PCC
You’ll find far more variety than just plain white and brown rice at PCC. Some to try:
TruRoots organic germinated brown rice — Sprouting brown rice results in health benefits and reduced cooking time. The rice is rich in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) — an important neurotransmitter that appears to regulate anxiety, sleep, the immune system and fat metabolism.
ALTER ECO Ruby Red Jasmine Rice — As deeply colorful as it is nutritious, this rice is grown by the Surin farmer co-op in Thailand. It has a crunchy texture and earthy flavor. Try it in fried rice recipes.
Lotus Rice — Lotus is a company that has introduced to the U.S. market exotic rice grown sustainably on small family farms in remote areas of the world.
Bhutan Red Rice — Grown for thousands of years in the fertile soil of Bhutan, this rice is high in potassium and magnesium, and has a complex, nutty, earthy flavor and gorgeous russet color. In Bhutan, Red Rice is paired with mushrooms and hot chilies. We recommend it with big-flavor foods such as duck, lamb, pork, wild mushrooms, eggplant or roasted peppers.
Organic Madagascar Pink Rice — Grown by a farmer cooperative using a growing method that enables harvesting more rice using less water, seed, land and no chemicals, this rice is aromatic of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and milled to retain the wholesome bran layer. Use it steamed plain or in a pilaf, stir-fry, salad or pudding.
Organic Jade Pearl Rice — Mixed with an edible, nutritious species of bamboo leaf and stem, when cooked, this jade-colored rice produces the aroma of bamboo and a light vanilla taste. Use in sushi, Asian rice dishes, stuffed squash and sweet desserts calling for rice.
Organic Carnaroli Rice — Imported from Italy, Carnaroli is a cousin of Arborio, and is nicknamed the “caviar of rice.” Its plump, short grains are prized for their creamy color and texture. Perfect for world-class risotto.
Nutrition and flavor
Brown, red and black rice all are more flavorful and nutritious than white rice. In fact, refined white rice has less protein and only half the nutrients of brown rice. The outer layer of natural brown bran is stripped off to create white rice, removing most of the fiber, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
A note about arsenic
People on a gluten-free diet should take care to eat a diverse and varied diet and not rely on rice-based products as everyday staples because rice from some areas tends to have elevated levels of arsenic. See pccnaturalmarkets.com/sc/1205/arsenic.html for a Q&A about arsenic in rice.