Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pantry Item: Rice, Rice, Baby

Last week I ate rice - lots of rice.

This got me thinking about the different kinds of rice I have stocked in my pantry, which include
jasmine rice, arborio rice, Uncle Ben’s Original Rice, and a huge bag (20 lbs!) of Japanese short-grain sushi rice.

The Japanese sushi rice was what I ate exclusively growing up in my parents’ home. The brand I tend to purchase is Kokuho Rose, which can be found in many major supermarkets. I like this rice for its stickiness. I use it primarily for making vegetarian sushi rolls (e.g., California or Philadelphia rolls) or for making onigiri (rice balls) wrapped in sheets of roasted nori (seaweed) for a quick weekend lunch or snack.

For most dishes that call for any kind of white rice, I turn to jasmine rice. Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice originally from Thailand. The grains fluff up nicely and have just a little bit of stickiness to them. Jasmine rice has a soft texture and a slightly nutty flavor. It can be used in Asian, Indian, Latin, Middle Eastern, and other ethnic dishes. Cooked jasmine rice also refrigerates better than other cooked rices, in that it does not get as dried out and hardened when cold. For that reason, jasmine rice is ideal for making fried rice using any leftover rice cooked the night before.

I buy Uncle Ben’s rice out of habit, although I'm personally not a fan of it. My partner, who is vegetarian-inclined, uses Uncle Ben’s for some rice dishes he makes, including yellow rice and
arroz con pollo, which means rice with chicken.

Arborio rice is a must-have pantry item. It is a short-grain Italian rice (the grains almost look like perfectly round balls) that releases a lot of starch when cooked. I use arborio rice for making all kinds of risottos, the basic recipe for which involves gradually adding some kind of broth to the rice (over the course of, say, 30 minutes) and then mixing in grated parmesan cheese right before serving. I also use arborio rice for Mark Bittman’s tomato paella recipe.

If someone were to ask me what kinds of white rice he or she should stock in his or her pantry, I would recommend purchasing a bag of jasmine rice and a bag of arborio rice. And if you think you may be inclined to make vegetarian sushi rolls, then I would recommend purchasing a small bag of Japanese sushi rice. Actually, on second thought, I can probably just give you some of mine!

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