Rice is like a white wall in a gallery; it exists to unobtrusively carry the flavour of whatever it’s paired with.
But any trip to Bunnings will prove that there are a lot of kinds of white – from baby powder to snow, white smoke to ghost white.
Rice is the same and you have to know what you’re doing if you’re going to make paella.
So how much do you know about rice? Do you know the difference between dry rice and wet rice? Sticky rice and the rice you use to make congee?
Read on for a quick guide to rice:
Cultivated in the northern parts of Spain – especially Valencia where paella originated – Bomba rice is a short grain rice that is highly absorbent without becoming gluggy, making it perfect for paella. It’s one way to know if your paella caterer knows what they’re doing – are they using Bomba rice?
Arborio rice is the next best rice for making paella if you can’t get hold of Bomba rice. It is a short-grain rice named after the Italian town, Arborio. This type of rice becomes creamy when cooked making it perfect for risotto and rice pudding. Some paella catering companies use Arborio instead of Bomba but at Food Adventura, we’re purists.
‘Basmati’ is a Hindustani word meaning ‘fragrant’. This long grain rice is largely grown in India and Pakistan and pairs well with spicy dishes.
Popular in South East Asia, the ‘jasmine’ reference comes from the colour of the rice – very white, like jasmine flowers. It is a long grain rice that has a unique fragrance reminiscent of popcorn when it’s fresh. This smell dissipates once it has been in storage for a while.
Black and red rice
These are two forms of rice that are popular in Asia. They are cooked and eaten unhulled. The bran hull (outermost layer) of black and red rice contains very high levels of anthocyanins (plant-based antioxidants that are found in deep red/purple/black coloured foods).
Wild rice is not rice at all (it’s a close cousin). It’s grass. Wild rice, native to North America, is made up of four species of grass that grow in shallow water.
Sticky rice – otherwise known as glutinous rice – is a long grain rice that features heavily in Laos and Cambodian cuisine. It is usually steamed, rather than boiled, and becomes a sticky mass that is useful for mopping up sauces.
Sushi rice isn’t a type of rice. It’s simply cooked Japanese short-grain rice that has been washed before it’s cooked. Sushi-Su refers to
One last thing: Dry vs wet rice – what’s the difference? It’s all about the cultivation method. Wet rice is grown in paddy fields. Dry rice is cropped in a way similar to other crops that rely on rainfall for irrigation.