Rice is rice, right?
There are many types of rice, varietals, subtle flavor and texture distinctions.
Not all rice is created equal, and the type of rice you choose makes a difference. This isn’t an exhaustive guide – you can write a book about all the different types of rice. But it’s a good starting point for choosing rice as a home cook.
Personally, I like white rice. And I’m happy Chris Kresser agrees with me about its health properties. But you can find the white or brown varietals of Jasmine, Basmati or Sushi rice – and go with the one you prefer.
Fragrant (smells like Jasmine) long grain rice. Ideally, you would get this rice at an Asian market – Whole Foods (at least in Cali) has limited choice, and the kind they sell is subpar. The Asian market has a variety of bags from the latest crops, so it’s a good place to figure out your favorite brands. If you don’t feel like doing that, Cooks Illustrated did a taste test and this Dynasty brand came out on top, which you can order here on Amazon.
You can make the best fried rice with Jasmine. Any Asian stir-fry or curry will also benefit from having this rice on hand. Sure you can sub any other kind of rice, but this is how little details makes big difference.
Delightfully fragrant, elegant long grains – basmati rice is special stuff. But to get those long, elegant grains, you have to get the better brands – the stuff you get at WF usually doesn’t cut it. If you can find Tilda, which is widely available, you are in good hands. I also like this affordable Royal brand.
Persian or Middle Eastern pilafs full of dried fruit, fragrant herbs, spices like cinnamon – OH SO GOOD. This dill and lima bean one with cinnamon is my all-time favorite. A delicious base for Indian type curries. I like to saute a handful of cumin seeds in oil and then putting the rice in for a subtle enhancement.
Medium grain, traditionally used in sushi but AMAZING for any kind of rice bowl. Most people fall in love with this rice because of its cool texture, and subtle yet distinct flavor. Kids love it. It’s way superior than regular long grain rice. You can find good sushi rice at WF – I like this Lundberg brand a lot. Asian markets carry it too, often labeled ‘Medium grain.”
Rice bowls like this kale, mushroom and tofu bowl. As a base for Asian Stir-fries. It also makes good fried rice. And guess what? It’s also good PLAIN. With butter and Tamari and Siracha. Yum.
Long Grain Rice
This is the rice most people buy. It’s fine. It’s bland. It’s easy to make. It’s a decent staple to have around. It makes good Mexican or Spanish rice.
Like I said, it’s fine for rice pilafs – like in a Mexican or Spanish rice. Or for rice in soups where the flavor of jasmine or basmati might not be optimal, and the texture of sushi rice too chewy.
STICKY RICE WITH COCONUT SAUCE. That’s all I have to say about this one.
Nutty, chewy, distinctive – red rice is delicious. I like it as a pilaf with mushrooms. It has a strong nutty flavor, so it’s best kept with a simple protein – and let the rice be the star of the show.
Similar to red rice. I love it with edamame beans for the beautiful color contrast and some dill. Black rice has a delicious flavor and aroma, and it’s strikingly beautiful on a plate. There aren’t many brands to choose from, so get the one you can find.
Should you get a rice cooker?
Cooking *perfect* rice is hard. A rice cooker makes it easier. This Aroma brand comes in highly recommended, and also slow cooks/steams food. I’m not a fan of kitchen gadgets but rice cookers are useful, especially if you have been known to routinely screw up rice.
How to cook rice
This is the method I personally use – there are many others, but this is the one that works for me.
Start with 1 or 2 tbsp oil or butter in your saucepan on medium heat. This is to coat the grains so that they don’t stick. Add the rice and 1/2 to 1 tsp salt per cup of rice – this is crucial to season your rice. You don’t need to add much salt if you are making fried rice and using tamari or soy sauce.
Stir, and add the liquid. Bring to a boil. Right when it comes to a boil, stir, turn down the heat to low, cover, and let cook for the required time. Do not stir rice. Try not to peek. Let it do its thing.
For brown, black, or red rice.
For white rice