Rice is the main food staple in the diet of about half of the world’s population. The dominance of rice in diets throughout the world can be seen in the many types of ethnic dishes based on rice. Mexican rice, flavored with salsa, is a mandatory side, if not a main dish component, in many types of Mexican food. Sushi, a staple of Japan, can forgo the seaweed at times, but without rice it won’t be sushi. In Italian food, risotto is a main-stage rice dish, and in the Middle East, majadra, or rice with lentils, is a wildly popular dish. Though rice dishes with strong ethnic backgrounds can surely provide a basis for imagining rice dishes in restaurants, other popular menu items can be inspired by rice as well: fried rice balls, Nicoise salad with rice, risotto, and more. In addition to their versatile uses, various types of rice offer a wide range of health benefits. As an added bonus, rice is sodium, cholesterol, and gluten free, making it a great option for diners with strict dietary constraints.
Arborio rice is round and starchy, making it ideal for use in risotto. Though the starch in Arborio rice gives risotto a creamy texture, it is not higher in carbohydrates than other, alternative types of rice. Arborio rice has a small amount of iron, and some vitamins and minerals, making it extra attractive to cook with. However, since it is grown mostly in Italy, it tends to be on the pricy side which may deter some venues.
Sushi rice retains shape and relative firmness when cooked, but is also sticky. The shape and sticky texture make it ideal to use in sushi, helping the roll stick together. Sushi is a virtually fat free dish, and therefore a good option for some dieters despite being high in carbohydrates. Since sushi has become an American favorite, many restaurants that don’t necessarily specialize in sushi have taken to offering sushi and sushi-style dishes, making sushi rice important to have on hand.
Basmati Rice and Jasmine Rice
Basmati rice and jasmine rice are types that originated in India and Thailand, respectively. Both tend to be very fragrant, making for delicious, simple side dishes. Basmati rice should be soaked before boiling, in order to help the grains cook evenly. Basmati and jasmine rice are both great options for pilafs, to serve with stews, and to stir fry. These types of rice can also be used in sweet dishes, such as rice pudding, and are sometimes added to blended soups, in order to increase thickness.
Brown rice can be used in many of the same dishes as basmati and jasmine rice, but offer an added nutty flavor, coarser texture, and extra health benefits. Though brown rice is often more expensive than white rice in the United States, it actually involves less preparation steps than white rice. The lesser processing and presence of the bran (which is usually removed in white rice production), give brown rice fibers, vitamins, and minerals which are essential in a healthy diet. Like white rice, brown rice can be served with stews, as a pilaf, as a salad, and in stir fry.
Though wild rice is not actually a rice, it is often served after being prepared in ways similar to rice or mixed in with various types of rice. Wild rice is the seed of marsh grass. It tends to be more expensive than rice, but can be worth it, helping dishes stand out by adding a pop of color. It can also add contrast to a plate when served as a side dish. With extra crunch and a nutty flavor compared to rice varieties, along with its dark black or brown color, wild rice can be a beautiful component in a meal.
Rice can have a place on any menu. Many ethnicities have recipes that make rice their own, but recipes that do not fall under the category of a certain ethnicity are popular as well. Since rice is a healthy, delicious and versatile option, it can be adapted to fit to every menu. Its texture and shape lend it to beautiful and delicious food presentation opportunities, while the different colors available can contrast with other ingredients on a plate to catch the diner’s eye. The relatively neutral flavors of white and brown rice provide an option for playing around with flavor pairing and artistically creating impressive dishes. The best way to get familiar with the different types of rice is to taste and experiment. However, the many sources of information available on different types of rice enable chefs and cooks to estimate which rice will match their needs, even before purchasing and testing.