What tastes like white rice but looks like light-brown rice, and is just as healthy as the latter? Converted white rice. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘what?’ but please, ladies and gentlemen, stay calm—it’s not as complicated as it sounds. We’re going to take this step by step. First on our list…
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What is Converted Rice?
Converted rice, simply put, is brown rice that has been parboiled and re-dried. Parboiled or partial boiling just means you cook the rice, but not completely. That is, you cook it halfway and stop so that the rice is not yet done. This rice can then be packed and used in an actual food recipe.
This rice is not a stand-alone meal and cannot be eaten as it is —it’s not done, remember? Converted rice usually comes already converted and can be found in your local supermarket. But if your local supermarket is greatly understocked and you can’t find this ingredient, you can always make it. This rice is also known as parboiled rice. If you hear someone using the term parboiled rice, rest assured that they’re referring to converted rice.
Please note that converted rice and raw converted rice are not the same things. Raw converted rice is more or less an error of semantics because converted rice itself is not entirely raw. It has already been parboiled. But the term is used to refer to rice that has been parboiled, but not yet cooked for eating purposes. Converted rice just means parboiled rice in a general sense.
The Best Way to Prepare Converted Rice
As we’ve said above, converted rice is parboiled brown rice. This means that if you have brown rice, you can perform ‘rice conversion’ to get converted rice. Just follow the instructions below:
- First off, place a pot over medium heat and fill it with water that is double the amount of rice you wish to convert. So, if you want to parboil a cup of rice, you need to pour two cups of water into the pot. Add a leveled teaspoon of salt.
- Next, put the quantity of rice you wish to convert into a clean bowl and rinse it. This is an optional process, and some people go the extra mile of soaking the rice for about 20 minutes. This might take away some of the bitterness and make prepare the grain for absorbing water.
- Pour the rice into the pot of water and allow it to boil. You will know when the rice has boiled because the water in the pot will bubble up. This should take about 5-10 minutes, but the time depends on the amount of heat you’ve applied and the quantity of rice you’re working with.
- When the rice has boiled, remove it from the cooker, and pour it into a sieve to drain out all excess water. Then quickly rinse the rice with cold water to prevent further cooking so the rice doesn’t get overdone. Sieve it again before you let it dry.
- Finally, when the rice is sufficiently dried, remove the husk and bran layer, then store the rice for future use in a cool dry place.
The Anatomy of Rice
For ease of understanding, let’s back up a little and talk about the agriculture behind the grain. There are four layers in every grain:
- Germ (this is definitely not a microorganism)
The husk is the thin, dry, outer protective coating of each grain. The grain is picked straight from the farm with the husk attached. The husk is inedible, so try to resist the urge to try it. Usually, this layer is shed during the processing and packaging of the rice.
The bran is also a protective cover, but it’s different from the husk in that it is edible and amazingly high in antioxidants, fiber and the B family of vitamins. The edible germ of the grain is what is planted to yield more grain and the endosperm or kernel is also edible and packed with carbohydrates.
The bran and germ are also very high in minerals, vitamins, protein, and fiber. In fact, most of the good stuff in the grain, such as the nutrients listed above, are contained in the bran and germ.
The Health Benefits
Plenty of people are concerned about this, and it’s understandable. The whole steaming and boiling process makes you wonder if the rice will be any good for you once it’s done. Actually, the rice is still healthy, and it’s the steaming or boiling process that makes it a much healthier option than white rice.
The steaming or boiling allows the nutrients contained in the bran and germ layer to stay locked in the kernel. This is good because when the husk and bran layers are removed, the grain still retains its nutrients. There is a nutritional difference between brown rice, white rice and converted rice, but more of that soon. Parboiling also eliminates any contaminating agents that may be present in the rice.
During parboiling, the starch in rice is converted to a gelatin form. This gelatinized starch makes digestion easier. The converted rice has a beige color due to the removed husk, and it tastes like white rice.
The starch content of converted rice is not as high as in white rice, which makes converted rice healthy as an alternative option and great for people on a strict diet.
Converted rice is a great source of magnesium, amino acids, thiamine, fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin B6.
So yes, parboiled or converted rice is actually healthy and can be eaten after cooking. The rice is cooked practically the same way you would cook brown or white rice. It can be made in a rice cooker, on the stovetop or in a microwave. And of course, you can also incorporate it into other food recipes that use rice.
Is there a converted rice substitute?
Sure thing. Converted rice isn’t the only rice that is available to us. If you can’t get converted rice or you want something more nutritious, or even if you just want to try something different, you can use brown rice or white rice. That makes three types of rice, and there are a lot of brands out there for each option. Pick a brand with good quality rice when shopping.
Three Types of Rice
Brown rice has only the inedible husk removed. The bran and germ layers are intact. Brown rice is whole grain, all layers complete. Because of the bran and germ layer, it takes a longer time to cook but it still has a nice flavor and a good texture when cooked.
White rice is mechanically refined rice with the husk, bran and germ layers removed, leaving only a starch-filled kernel. This alters the flavor (definitely the least flavorful of the three), appearance, and texture of the rice. Because the nutrient-filled bran and germ layers are removed, white rice has very little protein left. The leftover kernel is easier to chew and digest and has a longer shelf life. Also, when you pour the white rice in water, the water becomes cloudy afterward.
Another major difference between brown, white and converted rice is the cooking time and glycemic index. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, glycemic index is a measure of the rate at which ingested food causes the level of glucose in the blood to rise. The FDA tells us the glycemic index of white rice is 73, brown rice is 68 and parboiled rice is 38.
Cooking time for converted rice is shorter than that of brown rice but longer than white rice, hence, white rice has the shortest cooking time. Note that the longer the time spent for the rice to cook, the more resistant it becomes to clumping. One reason you may prefer parboiled rice is that the rice is the least sticky of the options.
So on one hand, we have rice that’s highly nutritious but takes longer to cook and doesn’t last long. And on the other hand, we have rice that’s not as nutritious but takes a shorter cooking time and a longer shelf life. And then, (on our third hand?) we have converted rice, which is somewhere in between and just perfect.
Amazing Recipes Suitable for Converted Rice
Alright. Now that we have understood what converted rice is, and what it’s all about, the next question is…
How can I use it?
Just like rice.
Any recipe that has rice in it can be used with converted rice. Here are a few to get you started:
- Fried rice. This recipe has been around for ages. Originally from Asia, fried rice is perfect for family holidays or special events. And it’s not that complicated to make. You can use converted long grain rice to make the fried rice.
- Coconut rice. This is rice baked in coconut milk with seasonings. This is definitely worth trying out and with your parboiled rice—you’d be in for a treat.
- Jollof rice. This is a specialty in West Africa, especially Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria. It’s a recipe reserved for parties and special occasions, but you don’t have to worry about waiting for a special occasion to make it.
- Mexican rice and beans salad. This is a very healthy way of cooking rice. It gives the added protein of the beans and vegetables and uses minimal heat and oil.
- Speed rice supper is my favorite of all the rice recipes. It’s fast, simple, nutritious, delicious, and the ingredients are universal. Just use whatever you have in your refrigerator and then top it off with sliced eggs.
- Egg fried rice. Why pay for it at a restaurant when you can make your own? Converted rice is suitable for egg fried rice. It also goes extremely well with spiced chicken wings.
- Cauliflower rice is a very easy meal to make. You’ll need two main ingredients—cauliflower and coriander. To make it: cut out the core and stalks from the cauliflower and grind up the rest in a food processor creating “grains” the same size as rice. Boil your rice and mix it in a bowl with your cauliflower grains and coriander. Place the mixture into the microwave for 5-8 mins. And that’s it! You can add more spices as you wish.
- Pudding. You can make different kinds of pudding with converted rice. Here’s a nice one: you’ll need meshed rice, skimmed milk, bay leaf or lemon zest, and a pinch of nutmeg. Heat the oven to 150°C/fan (130°C/gas). Wash the rice and drain well. Butter a heatproof baking dish, then slather it with the rice and sugar and stir the milk throughout. Sprinkle the nutmeg over everything and top with the bay leaf or lemon zest. Cook for 2 hours or until the pudding wobbles ever so slightly when shaken.
If you’re thinking of skipping these delicious meals and would prefer something simpler, you can also stick to a plain dish of parboiled rice boiled in broth instead of water. Using chicken or vegetable broth is an amazing way of giving your rice a richer taste. You can also drizzle soy sauce over it for a saltier flavor.
Though converted rice is widely used as a main dish, it can also be used as a side dish for stuffed hens, pork chop casserole, or Pacific paella. If you’re using converted rice as the main dish, then surely you will want to spice things up with a nice side dish.
That’s all there is to converted rice.
Not difficult at all huh?
So next time you’re faced with the choice, make sure you go for converted rice as you’ve seen its many benefits. Tada!