Rice has become a common grain around the world and has become important for its nutritional value. There are currently over 40 thousand varieties of rice, which have been organized into four major categories: Indica, Japonica, Glutinous, and Aromatic. The differences between the varieties of rice range from grain length and shape, stickiness and texture, color, and translucence.
The length of a grain of rice is separated into three other categories: long grain, medium grain, and short grain. Each length variety has its own properties that accompany the category. Rice from the short grain variety comes from the Japonica cultivar and is usually oval and has a sticky texture when prepared and cooked. Those of the medium grain variety fall under either the Indica variety or the Indica-Japonica hybrid, which has an Indica dominant gene. These varieties more commonly follow closely the long grained rice’s characteristics.
The stickiness and texture on a variety of rice depends on its starch content. There are two components that make up starch: amylose and amylopectin. It is usually rice of long grained varieties that are high in amylose. Rice that is high in amylose does not break down when it is cooked and retains its shape. Contrasting that, rice of high amylopectin content, most usually short grained, breaks down when cooked and becomes very sticky.
The color of a variety of rice is determined by the pigmentation particular to the species, and the processing it goes through. Each color of rice comes with traits specific to the pigmentation. Unless the rice has special pigmentation, it turns out brown, being high in thiamine and other nutrients. When the rice is harvested, if the bran is removed, the result is very often white tice. White rice can be stored for a longer time and cooks more quickly than brown rice, though it does lose some nutrients in the process. If the rice species has red or dark purple bran, then the color of the rice it self is red, purple, or black. These types of colorful rice are prized for their color and nutritional value.
The translucence of a grain of rice varies throughout the species. Some grains develop into chalky, cloudy, translucent or opaque. Generally, opaque or chalky grains are softer, denser, heavier, and cook more quickly then the translucent varieties.
Some rice types are more common in one country than in others. In Japan, there are three more common types of rice. There is Koshihikari, which is a short grain, of oval shape, translucent and stocky, and can be either brown or white. Koshihikari is a popular variety used for sushi rice. Another type is named Mochigome, which is a short variety, has a round shape, is cloudy and sticky, and is a white color. Mochigome is popularly used to make mochi, a Japanese rice cake. The third rice type in Japan is called Yamata Nishiki, a short grain pebble-shaped opaque fluffy white rice. Yamata Nishiki is primarily used to make sake of high quality.
In India, Sri Lanka, and the Himalayas, there are six types of rice that are more commonly used in the region. The six types are named Basmati, Patna, Sona Masoori, Ambemohar, Bhutanese red rice, and Samba. Basmati is long grained, cylindrical, cloudy, fluffy and dry, and can be either white or brown. Basmati has a popcorn aroma that makes it highly prized. Patna is a long grain narrow-shape opaque fluffy white rice. Patna is eaten with curries and was one of the first rices cultivated in America. Sona Masoori is a medium grain oval-shaped translucent firm white rice. It goes great with fried rice and rice porridge because of its ability to retain its shape after it’s cooked. Ambemohar is a short grain, oval, cloudy, very sticky, and can be either white or brown. Ambemohar is prized for its sticky quality and great aroma. Bhutanese red rice is a medium grain pellet-shaped opaque sticky and soft pinkish red rice. This type of rice is wanted for its earthly taste. Lastly, Samba is a short grain, is small and oval, cloudy, dense and firm, and can be either white or brown. It goes great with biryani and seafood curries, though it can have an unpleasant odor.
In the region of Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Laos, there are four major rice types. There is Jasmine, sticky rice, black rice, and Nang Thom Cho Dao. Jasmine is a long grain cylindrical somewhat sticky cloudy white rice. This type of rice can be found in basically any store in the United States. Sticky rice is a short grain, oval, cloudy, very sticky, and can be either white or brown. Sticky rice is more commonly known as mochi rice and is very popular among a large number of Asian countries. Black rice is a short grain seed-shaped opaque somewhat sticky black but purple when cooked rice. In the United States, black rice is termed “Forbidden rice” and used to be viewed as luxury food because it was only available for emperors. Lastly, Nang Thom Cho Dao is a long grain cylindrical cloudy fluffy white rice. Nang Thom Cho Dao resembles Basmati and Jasmine rice.
In the Americas and Europe there are four major types of rice as well. There is Texmati, Arborio, Carnaroli, and Calrose. Texmati is a long grain, is of a cylindrical shape, is translucent, is light and fluffy, and can be either white or brown. Texmati was the first strain of the Basmati rice grown in the United States. Arborio is a short grained oblong-shaped opaque sticky white rice. It is mostly used for rice pudding and risotto. Carnaroli is short-grained, cylindrical and small, opaque, firm and fluffy, and can be either white or brown. Carnaroli is less likely than Arborio to grow mushy. Finally, there is Calrose. Calrose is short-grained, cylindrical and small, cloudy, sticky and soft, and can be either white or brown. This type of rice is used in all kinds of cooking, particularly great for sushi rice.
The last region is Africa and the Middle East. In this region, there are two types of rice that are more commonly used. They are named Domsiah and African rice. Domsiah is a long grain, is cylindrical and small, opaque, is fluffy and firm, and can be either white or brown with one of the ends black. Domsiah is prized as the highest grade of rice in Persia. Then there is African rice. African rice is a long-grained cylindrical and large cloudy firm brown-colored rice. This type of rice was bred to be drought-resistant.
Though there are over 40 thousand types of it, rice is a part of many favorite dishes around the world. Many countries cultivate many different types of rice, each with their own specific properties. Countries have their own favorites, though no one can deny that rice is very beneficial and an integral part of the modern world.