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The origin of rice

Rice is probably the most significant and important cereal in the world. Its origin and history is obscure, but it is known to have been the staple food for eons and is so for more than half the world’s population.

Oryza Sativa, it is believed, is associated with wet, humid climate, though it is not a tropical plant. It is probably a descendent of wild grass that was most likely cultivated in the foothills of the far Eastern Himalayas, and in the upper areas of the Irrawady and Mekong.
Another school of thought believes that the rice plant may have originated in southern India, then spread to the north of the country and then onwards to China, It then arrived in Korea, the Philippines (about 2000 B. C.) and then japan and Indonesia (about 1000 B. C.). The Persians are known to have been importers of this grain to Mesopotamia and Turkestan. When Alexander the Great invaded India in 327 B. C., it is believed that he took rice back to Greece.
Arab travellers took it to Egypt, Morocco and Spam and that is how it travelled all across Europe. Portugal and Holland took rice to their colonies in West Africa and then it travelled to America through the ’Columbian Exchange’ of natural resources, rice being a gift from the Old World to the New. But as is traditionally known, rice is a slow starter and this is also true to the fact that it took close to two centuries after the voyages of Columbus for rice to take root in the Americas. Thereafter the journey of rice continues with the Moors taking it to Spain in A. D. 700 and then the Spanish brought rice to South America at the beginning of the seventeenth century,

The journey of rice around the world has been slow, but once it took root it stayed and became a major agricultural and economic product for the people, In the Indian subcontinent more than a quarter of the cultivated land is given to rice, It is a very essential part of the daily meal in the southern and eastern parts of India. In the northern and central parts of the subcontinent, where breads are frequently eaten, rice holds its own and is cooked daily as well as on festivals and special occasions.

The rice grain is treated with honour in the subcontinent and in Asia as well; for here the failure of the rice crop in not only an economic setback but can create a famine-like situation. Wastage of rice is viewed rather badly in these societies and superstitions to this effect are also attached to this.

Varieties and types

There are over 100,000 or more varieties of rice of which some 8,000 are cultivated by man for food. The rest are ’wild rices’ but they must not be mistaken with the long, black grains of wild rice, which is a different plant altogether

There are three main types of rice:

  • The 6-mm long grain, which when cooked, remains separate.
  • The 5-6-mm medium grain, is a little shorter than the long-grain rice and this variety remains firm and light when cooked but does tend to stick when cooled.
  • The 4-5-mm short grain, with round grains, tends to stick together when cooked. There are a number of intermediate types as well. The classification is according to the type of mechanical or physical processing the grain receives after harvesting.

Paddy Rice: Is un-husked rice in its raw state, with no further treatment after threshing. Brown Rice: Also called ’cargo rice’, as this rice was transported in cargo ships from the Far East to Europe. It has a characteristic beige colour and is the most nutritious form of rice; its nutty flavour is rather strong.

White Rice: Is brown rice from which the germ and outer layer of pericap have been removed, It is also called unpolished rice.

Polished Rice: Is white rice, which has been hulled and polished, In some countries it is enriched with metals and vitamins in order to restore some of its nutritional value. The polishing is done to give the grain a shining whiter look.

Glacé Rice: Is polished rice covered with a fine coat of French chalk suspended in a glucose mix and then processed to give it an attractive sheen.

Steamed Pre-treated Rice: Is paddy rice that has been carefully cleaned, soaked in hot water; steamed at a low pressure and then de-husked and blanched. Pre-cooked Rce: Is rice that has been husked, blanched and soaked, boiled for 2-3 minutes and then dried at 200°C / 400°F. It Is popular In France. Camolino Rice: Is polished rice that is lightly coated with oil.

Puffed Rice: In India it is roasted on hot sand, while in the USA it is treated with heat at high pressure and then at low pressure.

Wild Rice: Is the seed of a water grass, though related to the rice plant. It grows one seed by one seed up the stalk of the plant. It is very expensive and is some times mixed with brown rice.
Indian Basmati Rice: Indian Basmati is aromatic rice, but has a very different aroma and taste from Thai Jasmine rice or other perfumed rice, Some 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 high amylase content and a firm almost dry texture when properly cooked. The raw kernel is long and slender like southern long-grain rice, but slightly smaller. The kernels increase in length by more than two and a half 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 the elongation achieved in cooking. Once again, there are many ’knock off varieties grown in the US, but none match the authentic Indian Basmati for flavour; aroma, texture, and appearance.

Surinam Rice: A rice sought after by connoisseurs, has very long, thin grains and is native to Surinam.

Perfumed Rice: This long-grained rice comes from Thailand and Vietnam and has a very distinctive taste. Mostly served at feasts or on very special occasions.

Sticky Rice: Is long-grained, and is high on starch content. It is rarely available, Best suited for Chinese cuisine.

Carolina Rice: Thomas Jefferson travelled to Piedmont to find out why Italian rice fetched a higher price than Carolina rice and to improve the product genetically he smuggled a seed out in his pocket. But the name is no longer used to describe a particular variety.

Popped Rice: Is heated to 200°C in oil and resembles popcorn.

Rice Flakes: Is steamed husked rice, flattened into thin flakes, eaten at breakfast with milk and sugar or as a savoury snack fried and tossed with salt and spices.

Preparing

Medium and round-grain rice should be washed before cooking to keep them from sticking, Rinse the rice under cold running water until the water is clear Basmati rice (other
perfumed rices) must be soaked in cold water before being cooked. Add rice to cold water in a bowl and stir Replace the water when it turns milky and repeat this process until the water is clear Rinsing the rice prior to cooking gives it a lighter less creamy texture.

Cooking

Rice can be boiled in water stock, juice, milk, yoghurt or coconut milk, according to different methods:

  • Basmati rice is delicate, perfumed and aromatic, and requires less cooking liquid. It must be cooked over very low heat after achieving a rapid boil in the beginning. For pre-soaked rice it is suggested that I % cups of liquid be used for I cup of rice; while I Yi cups of liquid be used if the rice is not pre-soaked. To soak, use 2 cups of cold water for I cup of rice for 30 minutes. Then drain the rice and let it stand for 10 minutes before cooking. Pour the rice into a saucepan, add the right quantity of liquid and bring to the boil, reduce heat and then cook, covered, over very low heat for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for 10 minutes.
  • Use I cup of rice with 2 cups of liquid. Place the liquid and rice in a pot and bring to the boil; lower heat, cover, and then simmer gently until all the liquid is absorbed. Alternatively bring the liquid to the boil and then add the rice and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Add the rice to a large quantity of boiling water; bring back to the boil, lower heat and cook until the rice is of the right consistency; drain, To further reduce the moisture dry the rice in the oven at 250°C for 10-12 minutes.
  • Brown rice needs to be soaked In water for I hour and then cooked in the same water for 40-45 minutes.
  • Wash the rice as described above for Basmati nee. Then place the rice in a pan and cover with cold water Cover the pan and bring to the boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and cook until small craters are formed on the surface. Lower heat further and simmer covered, for 15 minutes. Care must be taken not to overcook the rice, as this will make it stick to the bottom of the pan.

The cooking time varies depending on the type of rice being cooked and on individual preference. The cooking times given are approximate:
Parboiled rice 25 minutes; white rice 15 minutes; brown rice 45 minutes; and instant rice 5 minutes.

Guidelines for boiling rice

  • For firm rice, reduce the quantity of liquid.
  • For soft rice, use a little more liquid.
  • If the rice is to be served later reduce the cooking time to allow the rice to cook when re? heated. If liquid is left after the rice is cooked, remove the cover and increase the heat to evaporate the extra liquid. If too much liquid remains when the rice is cooked, drain it and use the liquid to make soups, sauces or stews, Do not stir the rice excessively during the cooking process and specially once the rice is cooked, as this will break the grains.

Guidelines for streaming rice

Put a double boiler over boiling water and pour the rice into the top of the boiler Cover the double boiler and simmer over medium heat. Heat the fat and then add the washed/soaked rice. Mix well coating the grains with the fat. Add double the volume in liquid, cover the pan and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Rice cooked in this manner remains firm and does not stick.

Guidelines for storing rice

  • Brown rice contains the rich germ and should be stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator to avoid it going rotten and to prevent the absorption of odours.
  • White rice should be stored in a cool, dry place, which is insect free.
  • Cooked rice is highly perishable and will keep for a few days in the refrigerator if stored in a covered container. However it can be frozen for 6-8 months.
Nutritional information
Per 100 gm Long-grain cooked brown rice Long-grain cooked white rice
Protein 2.6 gm 2.7 gm
Fat 0.9 gm 0.3 gm
Carbohydrates 23 gm 27 gm
Fibre 1.7 gm 0.4 gm
Water 73% 68.7%