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What’s cooking? Rice Types, Varieties and Characteristics

Let’s be honest, if there is any food that every Kenyan child grew knowing is rice. In fact we knew it as the “Chakula cha Wageni” that’s if the visitor had given a short notice of their visit, rice was the ‘to go for’ food. Well, besides Chapati, of course. Reason being, rice is convenient –easy to store, easy to prepare, saves time, can go with anything and still be super delicious. It is basically the perfect staple food in every kitchen.

Rice is the most commonly consumed food all over the world, and rightly so! It comes in different shapes and sizes; types and varieties. In fact, it’s so varied that most people do not know the differences. Yet, the rice that sits at the heart of your dinner table is only as good as the choice you make at the convenience store when making that purchase. So, stay with me as we get informed, will you?

Characteristics of different varieties of Rice

The Rice varieties depend on the type of: –

Characterization By Grain Size

Short grain – Visually they are short, plump and almost round in shape.The grains are equal in length and width and tend to have a sticky, chewy texture when cooked. Good example is the Sushi rice. In Kenya, broken rice is pretty common especially when preparing rice puddings.

Medium grain -Twice as long compared to short grain.It has a shorter, wider kernel, and is
moist and tender when cooked. Arborio rice and Sindano rice are perfect examples.

Long grain – Milled grains that are three or four times longer as it is wide.Takes drier, separate, light and fluffy texture when cooked.-Examples are; Jasmine rice, Basmati Rice also known in Kenya as Pishori.

Characterization By Texture

Sticky Rice – Also known as sweet rice, and often grounded to rice flour. It’s used in making traditional Asian dishes, desserts and sweets.

Parboiled Rice –  It’s the separate, light and fluffy rice when cooked. It’s rough to touch and it’s been partially boiled in the husk before milling.

Milled or Polished Rice – It’s the white type of rice that’s has had its outer layer of bran and germ removed.

Wild Rice – This type of rice is harvested from the genus Zizania of grasses.It’s high in protein, and adds a colorful, exotic flair to any rice dish.

Characterization By Colour

Rice is naturally brown after harvesting, but once the nutrient rich outer layer of bran is removed its white in color. For the colored rice varieties, all feature a unique pigmentation in the bran which remains for added visual appeal an added nutritional value. Examples of colored rice are; Brown Rice, Black Rice, Red Rice and Purple Rice. These varieties take longer to cook, and have a shorter shelf life because the bran spoils quickly.

Characterization By Aroma

This is a characteristic that needs to be quite considered when cooking rice. Certain
rice varieties give off pleasing fragrances when cooked, adding a sensory element in our kitchens. Example are, Basmati Rice (Indian) and Jasmine Rice as its name, it has a jasmine flavor and also known as “Thai fragrant rice.” In Kenya our Pishori rice from Mwea has a distinctive  flavor before and after cooking.

P.S Do you recall, how our parents could describe rice when sending us to the market?
“Usisahau, kununua ile inakaa kama sindano, na inanukia.” and immediately you would know, it’s Pishori Rice

Knowing the different varieties of rice, helps you in making an informed decision of which
type of rice to buy and cook for different occasions, how to cook it and which dishes go well with it.

Next, we will tackle the different types of Rice and how to cook them for the best desired outcome!

Have an aromatic day, won’t you?


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