Rice is one of the most consumed grains, not just in India but also in Asia along with many other parts of the world. It is mainly because other than wheat, rice is also cultivated abundantly and hence is consumed on a very large scale. Rice is an easily available and cost-effective meal option and hence is a very common staple diet in many parts of India. More importantly, rice is naturally very filling and satisfying to eat, it becomes a perfect base that goes with all kinds of lentils, vegetables and meats. Not just that, rice is very nutritious and is enriched with many minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and much more.
Across the globe, there are over 40,000 variants of rice available. Interestingly there are around 6000 varieties of rice cultivated in India alone. Each selection differs in colour, shape, and size and each has its own distinctive taste. Primarily varieties of rice are differentiated based on their colour. Some selections of rice include white which is the commonest, other than that there is brown rice and black rice. One can also find green rice and even purple rice, though these are not very commonly seen.
Each of these rice variants has its own unique flavour, appearance, style of cooking and aroma. Let us have a look at some conventional and some exceptional rice varieties and their speciality.
This is one of the most commonly seen rice colours. White rice is essentially milled rice which undergoes a procedure to have the husk, bran and germ extracted. All rice variants naturally are found to be brown in colour, mostly because of the bran or husk. Once the rice is processed and polished the end product is white in colour. White rice however is a broad term as there is a wide selection of rice variants under the umbrella of white rice. Some of the prominent rice variants are as follows:
This is one of the most popular rice options across Asia, especially in India. It is a favourite because of its aroma and long grains. Basmati rice is often polished and hence loses a considerable amount of its nutrients, but its aroma as well as delicious flavour is retained. Basmati rice is often used to make preparations like Biryani.
Most Asian preparations make use of Jasmine rice for its rice base. This rice is mainly cultivated in Thailand, and it is known for its sticky yet firm texture. The prominent flavour of jasmine rice is unmistakable in exotic Asian rice preparations.
This can easily be called a cousin of Basmati rice. The grains of this rice is long and become soft and fluffy when fully cooked. This rice is cost-effective as compared to basmati rice and is often used as a replacement for biryani, pulao etc.
Sona Masuri Rice
This is yet another favourite rice variety in India. Mainly cultivated in the state of Andhra Pradesh, this rice is known for its soft and fluffy texture paired with its typical taste. The benefits of consuming this rice are that is light and easy to digest. It is also low in calories and hence is a great option in weight management.
When exploring Japanese cuisine, Sushi cannot be missed. The soft and sticky texture of the rice with its distinctive flavour is what enhances the taste of sushi. This rice is high in starch and is very sticky when cooked. It is ideal to be rolled along with its accompaniments in seaweed rolls.
In the recent past, the importance of consuming brown rice has gained a lot of attention. It is often pegged to be far better than consuming white rice. This is often a topic of debate about whether brown rice is better than white rice or not. Brown rice is a whole grain which is inclusive of bran and germ and known to have a lower glycemic index and so it does not increase the blood sugar level, which is considered beneficial for diabetics. Other than that, brown rice also has many anti-oxidants, high fibre, and flavonoids which help in weight management as well.
Yet another variant is relatively less popular. Red rice is grown in great quantities in Africa, Bhutan, Thailand as well as India. In India, it is particularly cultivated in the Palakkad area of Kerala. It is known as “Red Matta rice”. A pigment known as ‘anthocyanin’ is the main reason for the distinct red colour of the rice. Red rice is actually far more nutrient dense and contains as much as ten times the anti-oxidants of brown rice. It is also packed with minerals like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and molybdenum. The taste and texture are unlike white rice and hence not very popular among the general population.
A rare variety of rice cultivated in some Asian countries, this rice is packed with anthocyanin which imparts a deep colour. The rice is sticky and soft and turns deep purple or blue when cooked. The bran in black rice is intact and hence it retains most of its nutrients like Vitamin E, B1, B2, Antioxidants etc. It is used to make traditional Asian dishes, porridges or Chinese rice recipes.
Korean purple rice, known as huekmi bap in Korean, is a widely enjoyed and nutritious alternative to plain white rice. This vibrant purple-colored rice is created by combining medium grain white rice with black rice during the cooking process.
Huekmi bap offers a visually appealing twist to traditional rice and is highly regarded for its health benefits. By blending white rice with black rice, it incorporates the nutritional advantages of both varieties. Mixing the two, also gives a deep purple colour to the rice.
Green rice is more commonly known as ‘Bamboo Rice’. As the name suggests, this rice is derived from bamboo, or more aptly it is actually a seed that is obtained from a flowering bamboo shoot that is towards the end of its lifespan. Understandably rice is very rare and has several health benefits. It is said to have properties that enhance fertility in a person. It is also said to have a higher level of protein as compared to other rice varieties. This rice is also great for diabetics and also helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
There is a wide selection in a range of rice. They all vary in colour, size, shape, and taste, what preparations they can be cooked in as well as how much they cost. While one may be spoilt for choices, it is important to keep an open mind and make your choice as per your preferences, as well as be open to trying and tasting as many rice varieties as one possibly can!