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Information about all types of rice including white rice, brown rice, long grain rice, short grain rice, Arborio (risotto) rice and wild rice plus lots of rice recipes


Rice is one of the most important staple foods in many cultures and regions, especially in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. Rice is a grain which belongs to the the grass species Oryza sativa of which there are more than 40,000 cultivated varieties grown in over 100 countries on all continents except Antarctica.


Although it is not a true water plant, substantial amounts of water are required to grow it and cultivated species  are therefore mostly considered to be a semi-aquatic plant.


Gluten free, it is an ideal ingredient for those who suffer from allergies.


Origins and History of Rice


Whilst it's impossible to pin-point the exact origins of rice,  historians believe that rice was grown for food in Asia (India, China and Thailand)  as long ago as 5000 years BC. The first recorded reference dates back to 2800 BC when the Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, established annual rice ceremonies to be held at sowing time.


Although rice was known in Europe as early as Roman times, it was probably only used as a major food source until the 9th Century AD. It was introduced to the Americas in the late 1600s although it's popularity increased dramatically when African slaves and Asian indentured workers arrived on the continent


Anatomy of Rice

Each rice grain is made up of many layers.  The outermost layer is the husk or hull which is made up of two interlocked halves which protect the grain. The husk is always removed in the milling process.

The bran layer is actually made up of several thin layers which are mainly composed of fibre, Vitamin B complexes, protein and fat.  It is the most nutritious part of the grain, and when left in tact creates brown rice.

The inner part of the grain is the rice kernel, which is composed mainly of starch is what is left after the milling process to create white rice.


At the base of each grain is an embryo or germ, which  if planted will grow into a new plant.


Cultivation and Processing of Rice


Because the rice plant requires lots of water in its early days, followed by a long  period of hot dry weather, certain countries, such as the UK, have never been able to successfully grow rice. Even in the countries where it is grown, in general many farmers have to either flood the fields or drain the water from them at certain times during the growing cycle according to their particular climate, so for this reason the method for growing rice varies from region to region.

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Rice is usually grown as an annual crop and the soil is prepared, fertilised, smoothed over and flooded before seedlings, which were started off in beds, are planted, traditionally by hand. During the growing season, irrigation is maintained by various methods then the fields are then drained before harvesting commences.

At the point of harvesting, the rice is known as "paddy".  It first has to be slowly air-dried to reduce moisture after which it is screened to remove stones and dust particles.  Next the outer husk is removed and the rice is then cleaned again and graded before being sold as brown rice.  It can be further processed into  white rice by milling when it subjected to an abrasive action which removes the bran layers which surrounds the white grain.

Types of rice

In general rice varieties can be divided into two basic groups - long grain  and short grain

Long grain rice

Long grain rice is a slim grain which is 4-5 times as long as it is wide. Sometimes called "all purpose" rice, it can be used in many recipes and cooked in a variety of ways.  It is one of the most popular types of rice for everyday cooking in many cultures.

Types of Long grain rice



Brown Long Grain Rice (Wholegrain Rice).  This rice has a nutty flavour and is nutritionally the most complete rice available as it retains more vitamin , mineral and fibre content. Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice and the cooked grains have a chewy texture.

White Long Grain Rice. This is a more refined rice which is white in colour and which cooks much more quickly than brown rice. It is one of the easiest rices to cook as the grains remain separated. A good choice to accompany spicy or very flavoursome dishes.

Basmati Rice A very long, slender grained rice which has a fragrant flavour and aroma. It can be white or brown and is the rice and is the preferred rice used in Indian cuisine. Although he grains separate when cooked they are more fluffy than ordinary white rice.



Jasmine Rice (Thai Fragrant Rice) Originating in Thailand this is an aromatic rice, although  less fragrant than basmati. It has a soft and slightly sticky texture when cooked and is often used in Thai and Chinese cuisine.




Wild Rice. Technically wild rice is not actually rice but an aquatic grass. Native to North America, it was traditionally grown wild in lakes and prefers to grow in deep water. It takes a lot longer to cook than ordinary rice,  around 45 minutes boiling, but is prized for its a nutty flavour, texture and colour.  It is often sold in rice mixes.



Short/Medium Grain Rice

As the name implies, short grain rices are much shorter in length than long grain varieties - often having an almost round appearance. They tend to contain more starch which has the effect of making the finished cooked rice softer and more sticky or creamy depending on the recipe.


Types of short grain rice



Arborio Rice. Arborio Rice is an Italian variety of rice which is used to make risotto. It has a distinctly chalky centre however when properly cooked, it develops a unique texture with a starchy creamy surface and a firm bite in the centre.



Japonica Rice. This can be short or medium grain.  It comes in a variety of colours including red, brown and black which adds added interest to rice recipes. It has a moist but firm nature when cooked.




Camargue Red Rice. This rice is a relatively new variety cultivated in the wetlands of the Camargue region of southern France. It is a short-grained, un-milled rice with a brownish-red colour and is quite sticky once cooked. colour.




Pudding Rice. This is usually sold as a white rice and is most often used for desserts such as rice pudding where it's starchy qualities make for a smooth and creamy finish. It can also be used for recipes such as paella and risotto.




Glutinous Rice.  Is also usually sold as a white rice and is prized for its high starch content which, when cooked properly, makes the rice very sticky and the grains hold together. It is used in various Asian cultures.



Preparing rice for cooking


Rice can contain little stones or chaff, particularly the cheaper brands, so it is advisable to  pick through the rice and remove any foreign bodies.


Some rices such as basmati and Thai fragrant benefit from being rinsed before being cooked as this removes any loose surface starch which will help keep the cooked rice from sticking. Place in a sieve and rinse under cold running water.  Other long-grain and brown rices don't need rinsing.


Never wash pudding or risotto rices.


How much rice per portion


In general, if serving as a side dish you should allow about 100g/4oz of long grain rice per person.  Risottos need about 75g/3oz per portion depending on the recipe and other ingredients being used.  When using short grain rice for puddings, it depends on the individual recipe, however in general allow 35g/1˝oz per portion.

How to cook Rice

When you cook any rice, the starches gelatinise and it becomes tender. However starch levels vary according to which variety of rice is being used, and the amount of starch in different types affects how it turns out once cooked. For this reason there are different preferred methods for cooking for the different rices.

How to cook Long Grain Rices

There are two main methods for cooking plain long grained rice.

General tip
Adding salt and/or other seasonings to plain rice before cooking gives the rice a better flavour, as does cooking in stock, particularly when using white rice which can be very bland.

The absorption method.  This involves cooking rice in just enough water which will all be absorbed by the time the rice is tender creating a dryer fluffier finish.  Use twice the amount of water to rice by volume, i.e. cups or fl.oz . Place in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes (depending on the rice used) until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is just tender. Best for cooking white ling grain rice.

Boiling. This method uses a larger quantity of water which will need to be drained off once the rice is tender.  Boiling is considered the easiest method provided you don't over-cook it however it can result in a slightly watery rice. Place the rice in a large saucepan cover with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil then cook for 10-15 minutes or until the rice is just tender. Drain very well then return to the saucepan, cover and leave for a few minutes before serving.

How to cook Short Grain Rices

When it comes to short grain rices , the cooking method is very different due to the nature of these rices. Short grained rices are generally used for their starchy quality and agitating the grains whilst they are cooking releases more of the starch.


Arborio and Pudding rice. When cooking risottos and stove-top puddings, frequent stirring helps produce a creamy texture.   Both these rices dishes usually require ample cooking liquid, and with Arborio rice the liquid is often added a little at a time to ensure the grains take up the liquid evenly without falling apart. Coking times vary depending on the recipe, but in general stove-top cooking requires at least 30 minutes and oven cooked dishes upwards of 1 hour.

Glutinous Rice. When cooking glutinous rice (also known as sticky rice), it is best to use much less liquid than for other short grain rices. Also, because glutinous rice has a tough outer shell, it needs to be softened by soaking in water before cooking otherwise the rice could remain hard inside. Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with just under twice the amount of water to rice by volume.  Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours before cooking.

Absorption/Boiling. After soaking, bring to the boil in the soaking water, then reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until all the liquid has just been absorbed. Cover with a tight fitting lid, remove from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.   The rice can also be cooked in the same manner using coconut milk or stock for a richer flavour.  

Steaming. Many cooks prefer to steam their glutinous rice, wrapping it in cheesecloth or the more traditional banana leaves if available. Soak the rice as above, then drain and place in a steamer, wrapped if necessary, and steam for 30-40 minutes until soft.

Rice Recipes

Click here for lots or sweet and savoury rice recipes including starters, soups, main courses, accompaniments and desserts.


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