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July 9, 2014

40,000 types of rice -- how many do you need?

Believe it or not, there are at least 40,000 kinds of cultivated rice in the world. Does that mean you are missing the boat by boiling Uncle Ben’s? Not necessarily.

However, if you explore a few other types of rice, you might find flavors and textures that you really like. Some rice is well-suited to certain types of cuisine, like Chinese, or certain dishes, like those with sauces.

Luckily for us, a wide variety of rice can be found in our local stores. It’s the category of rice, not the brand that is important, so let’s start there.

The main categories of rice that can be found in local supermarkets include: long-grain/all-purpose; regular long-grain white rice; easy-cook, long-grain white rice; brown long-grain rice; specialty rice; and the aromatics, including basmati and jasmine. Here are the main characteristics of each category and how to choose them for cooking.

Long-grain/all-purpose and regular long-grain white rice can be used for all styles of cooking. They are versatile and fluffy when cooked. They hold up well with rich and delicate sauces.

Easy-cook, long-grain white rice is the favorite of busy cooks everywhere. The processing of this rice prevents overcooking, and it is particularly good for rice salads.

Brown long-grain rice has a distinctly nutty flavor. It’s high in nutrition because it retains much of its natural vitamin, mineral and fiber content. It takes longer to cook than white rice.

Specialty rice includes risotto, featured in this month’s recipe. The most common risotto variety is arborio, easily found in stores in this area. Risotto is rich and creamy and absorbs the flavors that it is cooked in.

Basmati has a fragrant flavor and aroma and is commonly used in Indian dishes. It has a higher fiber content than other rice, and its grains are separate and fluffy when cooked.

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