Rice is a staple that is so versatile and lends itself to a limitless number of cuisines. This staple food is a grass crop that grows at the tip of the grass and is covered with husk. These small edible seeds are harvested and then milled to remove the inedible husk. The rice like any other grain contains three wholesome parts namely, the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The whole grain is not necessarily in brown color as it is often mistaken to be. Whole rice also exists in colors like red, brown, black, purple, etc., the color of which is imparted by the pigments in the nutrient-rich bran layer depending upon the variety of rice. Once milled most varieties look similarly white and hence, brown rice and white rice are both the same grains just milled differently. The brown rice has the bran layer intact whereas it is polished away in the case of white rice. Once de-husked, the hull, bran, and germ of rice are removed and the most consumed white rice remains which is termed the endosperm.
Further to characterization based on color, rice is classified based on its length and shape. The long grain is long, thin, and almost cylindrical in shape whereas the short grain is smaller in length, wider, and stickier making it ideal for sushi and Indian breakfast delicacies like idli and dosa. Long grain rice is milled several times and due to its starch composition, it remains non-sticky, fluffy and light making it the most suitable for dishes like biryani, fried rice, and rice kheer. The medium grain rice is a compromise between the two and has a tendency to stick together. The stickiness imparted to the rice is mostly due to the starch content in it. Sticky rice is glutinous, sweet rice primarily cultivated in East and Southeast Asia and is used in many traditional Asian dishes, desserts, and sweets.
The rice is sometimes steamed under pressure with the hull layer intact and then milled which gelatinizes the starch in rice to get the desired texture. This type of rice is commonly referred to as parboiled rice. The parboiled rice whips up the recipes very quickly and is non-sticky making it ideal for idli and dosa. Apart from the texture, shape, and color, there is another factor that differentiates rice which is the aroma. Certain rice variants give a pleasing aroma while being cooked adding a sensorial aspect to the dining experience. The basmati rice has a nutty flavor and fragrance making it a choice in many ethnic dishes and the jasmine rice has a subtle jasmine aroma contributed by the genetic and environmental conditions. Every variety of rice has its own advantages, health benefits, and characteristics depending upon which different types of rice are used in cooking different recipes.