Rice forms an integral part of the culinary traditions in many parts of India. I have a lot of my south Indians friends say “I need my daily fix. My meal is incomplete without having one blessed plate of rice.” I have noticed that they start experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they do not eat rice in their meal.
While the north Indians are the occasional tuck in kinds and have fixed combo rice meals like, pakoda curry and rice, rajma and rice etc.
Just like the frequency of having rice varies from one part of the country to the other, similarly different culture have different preference regarding the texture, color, taste and stickiness of the rice that they eat .
Let’s understand more about the different varieties of rice:
There are different varieties of rice available in India like Basmati, seela, kolam etc, but rice is broadly classified depending upon the size of the grain.
1. Short grain
This variety of rice is small and round in shape. On cooking the rice, it swells up and has a sticky texture.
Well Known Nutritionist Pooja Lodha says “Short grained rice is also known as pearl rice or round grain rice. Varieties such as par boiled rice, Ambemohar, Dubraj and Gauri are short grained rice. Short grain rice contain higher amount of complex carbohydrate called amylopectin which offers a distinctive gluey and sticky texture. Though this variety has a high glycaemic index, but it is rich in vitamin B complex and, potassium.”
This variety of rice is used for preparing rice based desserts such as kheer, puddings, snacks like idli dosa and murukku etc.
2. Medium grain
As the name suggests, this variety of rice is bigger than the short grain rice. Medium grained rice also has a moist texture and takes on the flavor of the dish. This variety of rice is firm from outside and creamy from inside and hence is preferred in Italian cuisines like paella and risotto.
Varieties of medium grain rice are Moti rice, Sravani, Pathara, Kama and Sona Masuri
3. Long grain
Long grain rice is a variety with thin and long grains. They contain less starch so the cooked grains are drier and more separate.
Pooja Lodha says “Varieties of long grain rice are basmati, Jasmine. Aged basmati rice is better, but more expensive. Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice produced in Thailand that's sometimes used as a cheap substitute for basmati rice. Long grained rice is most suited of the Indian cuisines like pulav, biryani etc as they bring out distinctive flavor profiles. This variety of rice has a low glycaemic index.”
Color of the rice:
Rice is found various colors like white, brown, red and black
Colored rice contains carotenoids and anthocyanins that offer color to the rice grain. The color of the rice also depends on other factors like nutrient content of the soil it is grown in, whether the rice is polished. Pooja Lodha says, “Colored or brown rice are unpolished rice and are healthier than the polished rice. Brown rice and colored rice are more nutritious than white rice as these types of rice have more macro- and micro-nutrients as well as antioxidants”
Black rice is a kind of sticky rice. This variety of rice is not very commonly used in India. Nutritionist says, “Black rice is high in nutritional value and contains 18 amino acids, carotene, iron, zinc, copper, anthocyanin and several important vitamins. It has a similar amount of fiber like brown rice”
Brown rice is the variety of rice where only the hull or the outermost layer of the grain is removed by milling. This variety of rice has minimal processing; hence the nutritive value of the grain is higher.
Brown grain rice is considered to be the healthiest version as the B vitamin, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and dietary fiber is the highest/ least damaged. Pooja adds “Brown rice is available in small grain, medium grain and long grain variety also.”
Unpolished white rice
Further processing of brown rice, the bran and the germ layer gets removed and we have the unpolished white rice. This nutrition content of this variety is poorer than the brown rice but better than the polished rice as it retains many of its micro nutrients and essential fatty acids.
Polished white rice
On further, polishing of the unpolished rice results in polished rice. The nutrition content of this rice is simply refined starch without much fiber, minerals, vitamins and phyto nutrients. However polished white rice cooks faster and has a longer shelf life.