There are more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice (the grass species Oryza sativa) said to exist. But the exact figure is uncertain. Over 90,000 samples of cultivated rice and wild species are stored at the International Rice Gene Bank and these are used by researchers all over the world.
The rice varieties can be divided into 2 basic groups, Long grain; and all purpose & speciliaty...
Long grain | all purpose
All-purpose long grain rices are imported mainly from the USA, Italy, Spain, Surinam, Guyana and Thailand and can be used for all styles of cooking. At one time long grain rice was exported from India and was called patna after the district in which it grew. Today most of the long grain rice is imported into the UK from America. Long grain rice is a slim grain which is 4-5 times as long as it is wide. When it is harvested it is know as 'rough' or 'paddy' rice. It undergoes different milling techniques to give different types of rice.
Regular Long Grain White Rice
One of the most popular types of rice because it has a subtle flavour which perfectly complements both rich and delicate sauces. Milled to remove the husk and bran layer, the grain is slim and 4-5 times as long as it is wide. On cooking the grains separate to give an attractive fluffy effect. Extremely versatile and is used for countless international savoury dishes. It is also an essential in Chinese Cooking.
Easy-Cook Long Grain White Rice (Parboiled / Converted / Pre-fluffed)
This variety has a slightly fuller flavour. Unlike regular white rice which is milled direct from the field , it is steamed under pressure before milling. This process hardens the grain, reducing the possibility of over-cooking. It also helps to retain much of the natural vitamin and mineral content present in the milled layers.
When raw the rice has a golden colour, but turns white upon cooking. Can be used in the same dishes as Regular Long grain, but is particularly good for rice salads.
Brown Long Grain Rice (Wholegrain Rice)
This rice has a distinctly nutty flavour. Brown Rice undergoes only minimal milling, which removes the husk but retains the bran layer. Due to this the rice retains more vitamin , mineral and fibre content than regular or easy cook white rice. The grains remain separate when cooked, like long grain white, but take longer to soften. The cooked grains have a chewy texture, which many people enjoy. It is also available in easy-cook form.
These include the aromatics, risotto, glutinous and pudding rice which are particularly suited to ethnic cuisines. These are often grown, cooked and eaten in the same location. Many rice varieties have been central to geographical region's survival.
The first class of rice which is classed as speciality is aromatic rice. These contain a natural ingredient, 2-acetyl 1-pyroline, which is responsible for their fragrant taste and aroma. The fragrance quality of aromatic rice can differ from one year's harvest to the next, like wine. The finest aromatic rices are aged to bring out a stronger aroma.
A very long, slender grained aromatic rice grown mainly in the foothills of the Himalayas in India and Pakistan. Sometimes described as the 'Prince of Rice'. It has a fragrant flavour and aroma and is the rice used in Indian dishes. The grains are separate and fluffy when cooked. In Indian recipes it is often cooked with spices to enhance the grain's aromatic properties. Easy cook basmati and brown rice basmati are also available. Brown basmati rice has a higher fibre content and an even stronger aroma than basmati white.
Jasmine Rice (Thai Fragrant Rice)
Another aromatic rice, although its flavour is slightly less pronounced than basmati. It originates from Thailand. The length and slenderness of the grains suggest that they should remain separate on cooking but it differs from other long grain rices in that it has a soft and slightly sticky texture when cooked. Good with Chinese and South East Asian food.
The American rice industry has developed varieties of aromatic rices which mimic both basmati and jasmine rice. These grains look like a grain rice. These varieties are not generally available in the UK.
Short and medium grain. Grown mainly in California. It comes in a variety of colours including red, brown and black. Its used in Japanese and Caribbean cuisines due to its characteristic clingy moist and firm nature when cooked.