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Classification of rice

An overview of the classification of rice

Rice is a type of cereal. Rice is staple in the oriental cuisine and India. Certain varieties of rice are used in continental cuisine as well.

Rice can be classified based on various characteristics. According to the size of the rice grain; in may be called long, medium or short grain. Another classification is based on the stickiness or aroma of the rice. The sticky rice are popular in oriental cuisine. Yet another category of rice is the wild rice.

Characteristics of various types of rice

Short-grain rice is round and fat, about as long as it is wide. It gets sticky and viscous because of its high starch content and must be rinsed before cooking. Short-grain sushi rice should be soaked before cooking, too. Besides sushi, it’s used for Chinese rice porridge called jook. Some varieties of short-grain rice are used for paella and risotto.

Medium-grain rice is two to three times longer than its width. It’s firmer than short-grain rice, but is sticky and has a tendency to clump together when it cools. It’s great for serving with stir-fries or for making risotto and paella.

Long-grain rice is four to five times longer than its width. Because it has very low starch content, the grains are fluffy and dry, and remain separate when cooked. It’s an excellent base for saucy foods and is the rice of choice for rice-based casseroles like Indian biryani or pilafs.

Sticky rice, also known as sweet rice or glutinous rice, is a short-grain rice that must be soaked and steamed rather than boiled, or it will fall apart. In northern Thailand and Laos, where it’s widely consumed, sticky rice is rolled into balls and then dipped in savory sauces, or sweetened and served as a chewy dessert.

Aromatic rice can be either long or medium grain, and contains high concentrations of naturally occurring chemical compounds that create pungent fragrances. Examples include Indian basmati, Thai jasmine rice, Jeeraksala and Ghandakasala Rice from Wayanad.

Rice-Processing Methods

Terms like brown, white, and instant refer not to the type of rice but to the method by which the rice has been processed before it’s sold.

Brown rice: Rice in its most natural form, brown rice is grain that’s undergone very little or no milling. Its nutritious, nutty-tasting outer layer of germ and bran are left intact, so it appears light brown and requires longer cooking times. All types of rice have a “brown” (that is, unprocessed, whole grain) form.

White rice (or polished rice): White rice has its germ and bran layers removed in the milling process, and the grain beneath has been “polished” by tiny wire brushes.

Wild rice: Despite its name, wild rice is not technically a rice, but rather the whole grain of a cool-climate-dwelling marsh grass native to North America.

Instant rice (or quick-cooking rice): This is white rice that’s been precooked and then dehydrated. It can be recooked in boiling water in about five minutes.

Parboiled (or converted rice): Parboiling is a common way of processing rice in South Asia. The rice is boiled in its husk, then dried and milled into white rice. Parboiling makes rice more nutritious (because nutrients from the germ and bran diffuse into the grain), gives the rice a nuttier flavour, but causes it to require longer cooking times than non-parboiled rice.

Davis, B., 1987. Food Commodities. Second Edition ed. Wiltshire: Heinemann Professional Publishing Ltd.
McGee, H., 1984. On Food & Cooking, New York: SCRIBNER.

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