I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2,000 of something.
—Mitch Hedberg, comedian
All rice grains have four basic components: the protective outer hull (which must be removed), the bran and the germ (both of which are removed to create white rice), and the creamy endosperm. With the bran and germ intact, high-fiber brown rice has good amounts of vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals. And as of May 2008, brown-rice labels are allowed to bear the whole-grain health claim, indicating that the consumption of brown rice can help prevent heart disease and certain cancers.
All varieties of whole-grain rice are good sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber. They also contain some protein and small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin and niacin. White rice is stripped of the fiber and trace minerals found in whole-grain (brown) rice but is enriched with thiamin, niacin, iron and folic acid.
Many rice varieties are found in the supermarket—the following all come in brown and white varieties. Look for some brown-rice varieties in the natural-foods section or natural-foods stores.
Long-grain rice is easy to find in any supermarket, and it has a mildly sweet, nutty flavor. This all-purpose rice has grains almost five times longer than their width, which stay separate and fluffy when cooked.
Medium-grain rice is not as fluffy as long-grain brown rice, but not as sticky as short-grain. Grains are two to three times longer than their width. Good for rice patties or in casseroles.
Short-grain rice has grains that are more round than elongated. It releases starch when cooked—yielding a characteristic moist, sticky texture. Use in place of white sticky rice for sushi, in risotto or rice pudding.
Jasmine rice is a fluffy, long-grain rice with a sweet floral aroma. It can be used interchangeably with basmati rice, but purists would say that jasmine should be served with Thai food while basmati pairs best with Indian.
Basmati rice is a signature grain in Indian cuisine. This long-grain rice has a popcorn-like aroma and slightly nutty flavor. Once imported exclusively from India, U.S.-grown basmati is now widely available. Use it as you would other long-grain rice.
Brown rice can be stored up to six months at room temperature. To extend its shelf life, store brown rice in the refrigerator or freezer.
White rice can be stored almost indefinitely in a tightly covered container to keep out moisture, dust and contaminants.