Many Types of Rice to Choose From
H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station/Southwest Region
Rice goes way back in the history of Louisiana. It was first grown on plantations along the Mississippi River in the early 1700s as a staple food for field workers. Later, the development of mechanized rice production in the southwestern part of the state was one of the main factors that expedited the settlement and early development of the region.
Louisiana is famous for rice in many different respects, including growing it, milling it and selling it. Louisiana citizens are also renowned for cooking it in numerous ways, as well as consuming a great deal of the commodity, which is good for Louisiana rice producers.
Many people think that rice is just rice, and there is not a great deal of variation in types of rice available. This is a misconception. It is true that most of the rice produced in the state falls into one of two major categories – long grain or medium grain. These descriptors are appropriate because long grains are long and slender while medium grains are shorter and bolder.
In addition to the differences in shape, these grain types cook differently. The two major cereal chemistry factors of rice grains that influence cooking characteristics are the amount of amylose (a specific component of the starch in the grain) and the temperature at which the cooking grain gelatinizes (referred to as gel temp). Long grains typically have an amylose content of 21-25 percent and an intermediate to high gel temp. Medium grains have an amylose content of 13-18 percent and a low gel temp. These characteristics cause long grains to cook dry and flaky while medium grains cook softer and stickier.
There is also a third type of rice referred to as short grain, which is primarily grown in California. Short grain is similar to medium grain in cereal chemistry and thus cooking characteristics. The vast majority of milled rice consumed in the United States is long grain.
In addition to these major rice grain types, there are a number of specialty types available to consumers. Specialty rices can be defined as those with different grain shape, size, color, chemical composition and cooking characteristics compared with the common long-, medium- or short-grain types. Over the past two decades, the specialty rice market (especially aromatics) has dramatically expanded in the United States. Based on the current growth rate of ethnic populations – the biggest consumers of much of the specialty types – as well as the increased selective preference of other American consumers, specialty rice markets are expected to grow in the future. The following are some of the most popular specialty rice types.
Della Rice (Popcorn Rice). This is an aromatic, long-grain rice originally developed in Louisiana. It cooks like long grain but gives off an aroma like that of roasted nuts or popcorn. Della-type varieties include Della, Della-2, Dellrose, Dellmont and A-301. Most of the popcorn rice grown and consumed these days is Della-2, which is the most recent Della-type release from the rice station.
Toro Rice. It is a long-grain rice developed in Louisiana. It has the grain size and shape of other U.S. long grains but possesses cooking and eating characteristics of U.S. short- and medium-grain rices. Toro rice is used by people who prefer the clingy cooked texture of short and medium grains in long-grain types. It is characterized as a low-gelatinizing, low-amylose type like those of conventional short- and medium-grain varieties. Toro-2 is the only variety available.
Basmati Rice. This is an extremely slender, aromatic, long-grain rice originating from India and Pakistan. Basmati is Hindi for “queen of scents” or “pearl of scents.” This rice has a high amylose content and a firm, almost dry texture when properly cooked. The cooked rice kernels increase mostly in length (by more than three times) with minimal increase in width. The best Indian Basmati has been aged for at least a year to increase the firmness of the cooked grains and increase the elongation achieved in cooking. U.S.-bred Basmati rice varieties are Dellmati, Texmati, A-201, Calmati 201 and Calmati 202.
Jasmine Rice. It is an aromatic, long-grain rice originally from Thailand. This rice cooks similarly in taste and aroma to Della, but cooked grains are softer and clingier in texture. Jasmine types are characterized by low amylose and low gelatinization temperature like Toro and conventional short and medium grains. The LSU AgCenter has released two jasmine-type varieties (Jazzman and Jazzman-2) and will soon release a jasmine type with the Clearfield trait.
Arborio Rice. It is an Italian medium-grain variety commonly used in risotto dishes. It has a bigger kernel with a distinct chalky center. This rice develops a creamy texture around a chewy center and has an exceptional ability to absorb flavors.
Waxy (Mochi-type) Rice. These are typically short-grain rice varieties favored for sushi and characterized by opaque endosperms of virtually all amylopectin starch. The cooked rice is sticky and tends to clump together.
Wild Rice. It is not actually rice but the seed of a water grass (Zizania aquatica), the only grain crop native to North America and a staple of the Sioux and Chippewa Indians. The grains are extremely long with a dark brown to black pericarp and have a wonderful smoky, nutty flavor and chewy texture.
In addition, there are also black, purple and domesticated red rice types that are produced and marketed. Of these specialty types, Della, Toro, Jazzman (jasmine) and purple-grain types are produced in Louisiana. Next time you see these in your grocery store, pick them up and give them a try. I think you might discover while all rice is good, these specialty types might broaden your horizons.
This project was partially supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Permission granted June 15, 2017 by B. Leonards (LA Farm & Ranch) to republish article on www.lsuagcenter.com.