What is Rice Really?: Long-Grain Rice

longgrainrice

We continue our series about rice with information and recipes about this staple food by discussing long-grain rice—one of the most well-known types.

As with medium- and short-grain rices, long-grain rice is classified by its size. Grains are slender and usually four or five times longer than they are wide. The grains are 7mm in length or longer, and when cooked, result in separate, loose and soft grains. The majority of long-grain rice is grown in Northern India, Bangladesh, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, parts of China, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, and Argentina, Brazil and the United States in the Americas. The many types of long-grain rice include basmati varieties, fragrant jasmine and upland rice. The origin of long-grain rice contributes to its aroma, flavor and texture.

Biryani

Not only is long-grain rice distinct from medium- and short-grain rice in terms of size, texture and flavor, but it’s also processed somewhat differently. Long-grain rice kernels are more fragile than the shorter varieties, and require more delicate handling. Milling the rice requires a series of discs and rollers for removing the tough outer husk and inner husk one at a time to produce unbroken polished white grains. When packaged for export and sale, long-grain rice is usually stored in hard plastic containers or tightly packed into jute or burlap bags lined with hard plastic fibers, in order to protect the grains. Due to the more intense processing cycle, long-grain rice is often more expensive to buy, leading some countries to produce and export long-grain rice at a higher price, and import less expensive, potentially lower quality, rice to feed their people.

spicybasmatirice

Spicy Basmati Rice with Lentils and Spinach

The expense is often worth it. Long-grain rice has been used to create iconic dishes from so many cuisines across the globe. Full of flavor and aroma, the grains are used for Biryanis from India, Pilafs from the Middle East, Red Beans & Rice from the United States, and even plain boiled long-grain white rice as a staple in Southeast Asian dishes. Some of our favorite recipes include Thai Green Chicken Curry with fragrant jasmine rice, Gumbo Bowl and Spicy Basmati Rice with Lentils and Spinach. We love all of these! And when you make them, be sure to use long-grain rice… these fragile, distinct grains have such a unique texture—you’ll definitely love the results you get from using the right type of rice!

Let us know what you tried, and share your recipes below!

What is Rice Really?: Medium-Grain Rice

mediumgrainriceWe continue our series about rice this month with an exploration of medium-grain rice!

Medium-grain rice is classified as such because of its size, with each grain measuring two to three times longer than it is wide (or, in more scientific terms, between 5.0 – 5.99 mm in length, and possessing a grain shape with a ratio of 2.1-3.0). When cooked, medium-grain rice tends to be moist and to stick together, although the stickiness varies depending upon how it is prepared. Asia produces the largest amount of medium-grain rice, but it’s a popular crop elsewhere in the world, as well.  In the US, medium-grain rice is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.  It’s becoming an important crop in Africa and Latin America, too.

Different types of rice are suited to different types of cooking; for example, short-grain rice is the most common type used in Japanese cuisine, and long-grain rice, which we’ll talk about next month, is the most common type used in gourmet Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Medium-grain rice also has its special uses. In Japanese cuisine, especially when made outside of Japan, medium-grain rice is often substituted for short-grain. It is also heavily consumed in parts of South India, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, Central America, South America and in parts of Europe—especially Italy, where it is ideal for risottos. In the US South, medium-grain rice is used in puddings and desserts.

favabeanrisotto

Fava Bean Risotto

Medium-grain rice is used in some of the most delicious recipes! You can find an excellent recipe for Fava Bean Risotto, full of savory creaminess perfect for the spring crop of fresh fava beans. We also recommend this beautiful Arroz con Pollo, where the cook’s who’ve tried the recipe prefer using medium-grain rice to long-grain rice—and how about this spicy Cajun Jambalaya created by Emeril Lagasse? Don’t forget to finish it all off with this classic British Rice Pudding!

Medium-grain rice is versatile, nutritious and perfect for so many kinds of dishes.  We hope you enjoy these recipes and please let us know how they turned out. Stay tuned for next month’s post about long-grain rice and more great recipes!

What is Rice Really?: Short-Grain Rice

riceplant

We’re back this month with our second blog about rice and the deep relationship we, as a human race, have with this amazing grain. Rice is grown all over the world, existing in many shapes, colors, sizes and flavors.

As we wrote last month, the rice plant is a type of grass, which produces fruit that ripens into grains of rice. When ready, the plants are harvested, dried and threshed, which results in unrefined rice grains that are separated from the plant stems and leaves. The unrefined grains go on to be cleaned, polished and packaged before they are used to create the many dishes that human societies all over the world relies on for nutrition and sustenance.

During the processing phase, rice grains are generally grouped by their origins, and then by size (short, medium or long grain), by the color of the refined grain (white, purple, red or black) and by its texture (loose or sticky). The initial de-husking removes the outer hull surrounding the rice grain, exposing the bran. The bran is either left on the rice—resulting in brown rice if the inner grain is white—or the bran is removed, which leaves the inner grain exposed for polishing, resulting in white rice. Colored rice varieties, like red and black, can be eaten with or without their bran covering.

Short grain white rice

Short grain white rice

Short-grain rice is the most common type used in Japanese cuisine, giving it the broad classification Japonica. (By contrast, long grain rice is categorized as Indica.) These grains are almost round in appearance, and typically less than 5mm long and 2.5 mm wide. These varieties require less water to cook and generally result in starchy or sticky rice. The short grain rice used in Japanese cooking is called uruchi mai, and while there are hundreds of varieties available, popular ones include koshihikari, hitomebore, akitakomachi and sasanishiki. These rice varieties have sweet, nutty flavors, ranging from sticky to loose and plump in texture, and are used to make sushi rice and served as an accompaniment to a meal. Mochi gome, also known as glutinous or sweet rice, is another type of extra-sticky, opaque, short-grain Japanese rice that is used to make mochi, a sweet delicacy with a chewy texture. All of these short grain rice varieties have been produced for decades (if not hundreds of years!) and grace the table of Japanese people across the globe.

Stay tuned for next month’s post about medium-grain rice and check out some of our favorite rice recipes online… especially this one for mochi!

What is Rice Really? …The Plant

 

Rice is an integral part of human food culture–no matter where in the world you travel, rice is eaten in homes and restaurants, as main courses and as snacks, by rich and poor.

riceplant01

Our deep relationship with rice dates back to almost 10,000 BCE, where the rice plant that we know even to this day, Oryza sativa, was domesticated from its wild progenitor, Oryza rufipogon. A grass that produces a flower and a grain, the domestication and annual planting of rice originally occurred in the Pearl River Valley region of China, along the mid-Yangtze River. Cultivation, tools and techniques spread down the Yangtze River and the Huai River over the next 2,000 years, and were shared with India, Sri Lanka, Japan, and countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea as both trade and conflict comingled cultures. Transfer and cultivation in the Americas began during the European Age of Exploration, and in modern times, rice is grown on all continents except for Antarctica.

The rice plant, while hearty, only produces a crop once in areas with abundant water. In arid zones, the plant survives as a perennial, producing new tillers following harvesting. It is a small semiaquatic grass, comprised of a main stem and multiple tillers, or shoots, that produce either a flower or panicle. The plant matures in stages over 3-6 months, from the vegetative state, to the reproductive state, to the ripening state.

riceplant03

The plant is initially germinated from the seeds of unrefined, unprocessed rice. Roots and shoots sprout from the seed, the order depending on what type of soil the seed has been planted in. Wet conditions will see the growth of the shoot first, so that oxygen can be supplied to the plant, whereas in dry conditions, roots will emerge so that the plant will have a healthy supply of water. During the vegetative state, the plant stem grows, becoming strong enough to support tillers – branches that grow from the main plant stem to bear grain–and leaves, which multiply every 3-4 days.

The rice plant becomes ready to reproduce about 2 ½ months after sowing, when a panicle begins to form. The panicle, which bears the fruit (in this case, the rice grain), pushes through the leaves and as it fully emerges, produces a flower that can be pollinated. The grains ripen over the next three months, and when ready to harvest, the entire plant is picked from the soil.

riceplant02

Rice plants are lightly dried in the sun following rainy conditions or after harvest, and are threshed to remove the stems and leaves from the grains. The unprocessed, unrefined grains go on to be cleaned, polished and packaged before they are used to create the many dishes human society all over the world relies on for nutrition and sustenance.

Rice is such an integral part of the Zojirushi community, that we’ve planned a series of posts about this incredibly versatile and important plant. Stay tuned for next month’s post about the types of rice grains and how rice goes from the seed of the rice plant to the grain you find in your market.