Even though potatoes are the starch of choice for most of us in the Western Hemisphere, rice still reigns supreme in most of the world and is, by far, a larger crop.
In fact, for some underdeveloped countries, rice is the primary staple because it contains protein, fibrous carbohydrates, and important nutrients like thiamine, niacin and B-12.
Yet rice takes a back seat to our beloved tuber, probably because it’s nearly impossible to pick up with your fingers while driving with one hand.
Like potatoes, there are a lot of rice varieties to choose from, unless you don’t consider 40,000 different varieties enough choice.
It’s an annual grass, which grows about 3 to 4 feet tall and is native to tropical and subtropical southern and southeastern Asia as well as to Africa.
All rice types can be cooked with similar methods, whether on the stove top (boiling), in the oven (pilaf style), or in a rice cooker (by simmering/steaming). Microwave ovens can also cook rice successfully. Generally speaking, however, long grain rice and wild rice takes a bit longer to cook.
Each type of rice creates its own unique final results. For example, short-grain and medium-grain rice gives you a creamier or sticky cooked rice while long-grain rice creates a fluffier dish with more distinct, separate rice grains.
All are delicious.
As for me (and I know I’m probably unusual), I keep four different rice varieties in my pantry.
I have Arborio to make the popular creamy Risotto recipes and Pearl to steam for sushi and various Asian stir-fry recipes. Jasmine is my go-to medium/long-grain rice because it is so fragrant and flavorful. Lastly, I also keep a wild rice blend in my cupboard because it’s the healthiest choice and has a great texture and color.
Notice that a famous brand’s “converted rice” is not in my repertoire.
When it comes to cooking rice at home, I learned one trick that saves me all the hassle of measuring rice and water (or broth).
This trick was taught to me by one of my Chinese chef instructors while I was attending the Culinary Institute of America. Amazingly, it works when you’re cooking any amount of rice (over ½” deep) in any sauce pan or pot that has a tight-fitting lid.
Step #1: Add your rice to the sauce pan.
Step #2: Add liquid until it JUST covers the rice plus one finger joint’s depth (which for most adults is between ½” and ¾”).
Step #3: Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce to a very low setting and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, and rest (undisturbed) with lid on 10 minutes. Serve.
The only rice I would not recommend this method for is whole-grain/wild rice, which requires a bit more liquid and takes nearly twice as long to cook.
If you’d like to try out this new rice-cooking technique, here are a few links to some of my favorite recipes that you can serve it with.
With Pearl Rice:
• Sesame Crusted Yellowfin Tuna with Teriyaki Wasabi Glaze
• Chinese Broccoli Gai Lan Beef
• Seared Maple and Hickory Cured Salmon with Wilted Spinach
• Mongolian Pork Tenderloin
• Seared Chicken Breast with Kielbasa, Maple Bacon, Mushrooms and Green Cabbage
If you choose to have all four of my rice choices in your pantry and are looking for some additional recipes for Arborio or wild rice, check these out:
• Creamy Chicken with Tarragon, Mushrooms and Wild Rice
• Escarole with Wild Rice and Currants
• Oyster Mushroom Risotto
• Saffron Risotto with Shrimp, Bay Scallops and Saffron