IV. Types and Varieties of Rice
Southern Long Grain Rice
California Medium Grain Rice
Southern Medium Grain Rice
California Mochi Rice
Thai Jasmine Rice
Indian Basmati Rice
Specialty Varieties in the U.S.
There are many varieties of rice in the world. Rice comes in many shapes and even colors. In this section, we will focus on the types of rice that are available in the United States. Experimental Stations in the United States operated by the Dept. of Agriculture and some private companies are constantly developing new varieties in their search to improve field and milling yields as well as taste and texture. Within each type of rice, there are many types of varieties.
Southern Long Grain Rice. Several varieties of long grain indica type rice are grown in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. There are slight differences between varieties, and some varieties are kept separate for special processing like parboiling. This is the most common type of rice consumed in the U.S., and the world, as table rice. Similar types of rice are produced in most growing areas of the world. It is a long slender kernel, four to five times longer than its width. The amylose content of southern long grain rice is about 22 percent, and so the rice is a firmer and not as sticky as medium grain varieties. Gelatinization temperature is about 70 degrees centigrade, and protein content tends to average about 8%.
California Medium Grain Rice. California medium grain japonica type rice is also known as calrose rice. There are two or three varieties grown in California (not including M401 type medium varieties), but they are so similar as to be indistinguishable. There is no effort to keep the varieties separate during milling and storage in California. This rice needs a special temperate climate and is only grown in a few places in the world. Japan, Korea, parts of northern China, Australia, and some countries around the Mediterranean sea. In terms of a bland, clean taste, this rice is probably the best in the world. In the major consuming counties, it is most often eaten alone, without flavoring. Medium grain rice is shorter and wider than long grain rice. The kernels are two to three times longer than its width. The amylose content of California medium grain rice is about 18 percent, and so the rice tends to be a little on the softer side and is sticky. The kernels cling together. Gelatinization temperature is about 60 degree centigrade, and protein tends to average 6.5%.
Southern Medium Grain Rice. On paper, Southern medium grain appears to be the same as California medium grain rice. Shape and amylose content is the same. Gelatinization temperature and protein content is a little higher. But the southern medium grain rice is different. It is an indica type and so of a different origin. It is unacceptable to the palate of consumers of japonica type medium grain rice. Southern medium grain rice is not at white, not as sticky, and not as clean tasting as japonica varieties. There are consumers in places like the southern United States and Puerto Rico that like this type of rice, but they eat it along with spices, beans, meat, and sauces.
California Mochi Rice. This type of rice is also known as sweet rice, glutinous rice, or waxy rice. These names are deceptive. Mochi rice is slightly sweeter than conventional rice, but the rice is not sweet and most palates would not detect any sweetness. The nature of the starch is almost pure amylopectin and so the rice is very sticky. (Every year near Christmas season several deaths are reported in Japan from people suffocating with mochi rice stuck in their throat.) Gluten is a type of protein that is very sticky (hence the name glutinous), but there is no gluten is rice. Mochi rice has many of the functional properties of waxy corn, which is also very high in amylopectin. Mochi rice is also a Japonica type of rice and has a gelatinization temperature of about 60 degrees centigrade and protein content of about 6.5%. Mochi rice is a specialty variety and a small number of acres in California is dedicated to this variety. Sage V Foods contracts directly with farmers for this variety. Sage V Foods was one of the pioneers in developing markets for this variety of rice in the U.S. and continues to control one of the largest acreage bases.
Thai Jasmine Rice. Jasmine Rice from Thailand is an aromatic rice with a strong aroma and taste that is unique. The rice looks much like southern long grain rice before and after cooking, but the amylose content is around 18% and so the texture is sticky, much like California medium grain rice. The rice is best consumed after new crop is harvested. The rice hardens in texture and loses aroma with time. There are many varieties being grown in the U.S. in imitation of this unique type of rice. These varieties have improved over the years, but so far no one has matched the unique texture, aroma, and texture of Thai Jasmine.
Indian Basmati Rice. Indian Basmati rice is also an aromatic rice, but has a very different aroma and taste from Thai Jasmine. Some people describe its aroma as popcorn like. This rice is grown in the northern Punjab region of India and Pakistan, and commands the highest price of any variety of rice grown in the world. (not counting artificially high prices for rice in Japan.) This rice has a high amylose content and a firm almost dry texture when properly cooked. The raw kernel is long and slender like southern long grain, but slightly smaller. The kernels increase in length by more than three times when cooked to produce a very long slender cooked grain. The best Indian Basmati has been aged for at least one year to increase firmness of cooked texture and increase the elongation achieved in cooking. Once again, there are many "knock off" varieties grown in the U.S., but none match authentic Indian Basmati for favor, aroma, texture, and appearance.Back to TOP
Arborio Rice. Arborio Rice is an Italian variety of rice that is commonly used in risotto dishes. It is close to California medium grain in appearance and texture. It is a bigger kernel with a distinct chalky center. When properly cooked, arborio rice develops a unique texture with a starchy creamy surface and a firm bite in the center. There are varieties of arborio rice grown in California that are as good as Italian varieties. Sage V Foods markets a California variety of arborio.
Wild Rice. Wild rice in not officially classified as rice, but is in fact a different type of grass that grows a long stalk and thrives in deep water. It was traditionally grown wild in the lakes of northern United States and southern Canada. It is still grown this way in Minnesota and other northern areas. Indians harvested the rice in canoes, and then parched (primitive parboiling) the grains. Much of the wild rice from Minnesota is still harvested and parched with methods similar to the past. Parching give the wild rice a strong flavor. All wild rice is sold with the bran on the kernel (like brown rice) and this gives it its black appearance. In California today, wild rice is mechanically farmed and harvested and then parboiled using modern methods. The quality of California rice is more consistent.
Specialty Varieties in the United States. In the U.S. more and more specialty rice varieties are being grown for niche markets. There are several varieties of rice that have been developed to perform like Thai Jasmine and Indian Basmati. There are several varieties of rice that have unusual bran colors like Wehani, red rice, and black rice. In California today there are several Japanese short grain varieties being grown like Akita Komachi and Koshi Hikari.