Versatile and Delicious Short Grain Rice

Written by Ona J Bass on . Posted in food

Short grain rice is the delightful stuff that is the basis for sticky rice, risotto, and sushi. Rice grows around the world and appears in dishes from many different cultures. It comes in three main types: Long, medium and short grain. Long grain rice is the kind you want when the goal is a dish with distinct grains, medium rice is a balance between distinct grains and a soft-textured rice base.

There are several different kinds of short grain rice, and it is available as white rice or as brown rice. The good news is that all types of short grain rice add up to one final conclusion: delicious!

Short Grain Rice Types: Brown and White

As with most rice types, the difference between short grain brown rice and white short grain rice is the milling process. Brown rice still has the bran and endosperm left in the rice kernel. This makes it more nutritious than white rice, and gives it a nutty, whole grain kind of flavor. Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, up to about fifty minutes of cooking time, and requires careful measuring and watching to avoid scorching. It won’t be as sticky as the white short grain rice but can still be used in some recipes that call for sticky rice.

Cooked Rice Nutrition

Short grain brown rice nutrition is very similar to other brown rice types. In a ¼ cup or 45 gram serving of dry plain, brown rice there are 150 calories, 1.5 grams of fat – no trans or saturated fat, no cholesterol, sodium or potassium, and the total carbohydrates in brown rice are  35 grams. Of those carbs, 3 grams are fiber and only one gram is sugar. The serving also delivers 6 grams of vegetable protein, and four percent of the daily iron requirement for an adult human.

By way of comparison, raw, unenriched rice nutrition for white rice is 179 calories, ¼ gram of which is fat, .075 grams of which is saturated fat. Total carbohydrates in white rice are 39.575, no fiber, no sugars. There are only 3.5 grams vegetable protein. This is a significant trade-off in terms of nutrition but might be acceptable in recipes that require the higher glutinous response available in white rice.

How to Cook Short Grain Brown Rice

Cooking short grain brown rice is not very different from cooking white rice, but you can anticipate a longer cooking time. Because it does take longer to cook, you will want be careful of the water to rice ratio, making it 2 cups of water to one cup of rice.

Basic Short Grain Brown Rice Recipe

  • 1 cup short grain brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • Season to taste.

Place the rice in a colander or sieve and rinse with cold water. Don’t worry about having the water run clear as you might for some white rice recipes, just give it a good rinse and check for any unwanted debris. In a medium sauce pan, combine one cup rice with two cups cold water.

Place the pan over a heat source and bring the mixture to a boil. When it begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and place a lid over the rice. The lid traps heat, moisture and nutrition inside the pot. It is helpful to use a glass lid so that you can check the rice without losing moisture. Cook for approximately fifty minutes, or until the rice is light and fluffy and all moisture is absorbed. Makes around four 1 cup servings

Some suggested seasonings or additions:

Breakfast Rice: Butter, brown sugar, fresh or stewed fruit

Cold Lunch Rice: minced fresh or stewed tomatoes, chopped green onions, lemon pepper or salt, pepper and lemon zest. Top with your favorite salad dressing.

Yummy Dinner Rice: sauté chopped onions, sweet green peppers and snow peas in a light oil of your choice. When the onions are translucent, add cooked rice. Continue cooking until the rice is heated through and well flavored with the vegetables. Sprinkle with teriyaki or soy sauce and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Sweet Sticky Rice Dessert: Use an ice cream scoop to shape the rice into balls. Cook together 1 can of coconut milk, and 1 cup sugar. When well blended, pour over the rice balls, and top with fresh mangos or peaches.

The Long, Medium and Short of it: Long Grain vs Short Grain Rice vs Medium Grain Rice

There are a wide variety of rice types grown around the world, but they can be essentially divided into long, medium and short grains. Long grain rice has, as you might expect, long narrow grains. Short grain rice has chubby, short grains that are nearly as wide as they are long. Medium grain varieties fall between these two extremes and are used for many basic cooked rice recipes.

Long grain varieties cook up into distinct grains of rice and are often served as a base or as a side dish for fish, roasted meat or poultry. It can also be served with cubes of tofu. Medium grain rice is a lovely base for a vegetable pilaf. Short grained rice varieties tend to clump and stick together when they cook, making them the perfect type for any dish that needs the grains to adhere to each other.

Kinds of Rice

In addition to long, medium and short grained rice, milled or not milled, there are thousands of varieties or cultivars of rice.

The best known are Asian rice, Oryza Sativa; African Rice, Oryza glabberima; and wild rice, Zizania – which isn’t properly a rice at all, but instead is a type of seeded grass. Asian rice is further divided into two types, Indica – which is long grained and not sticky, and japonica, which is short-grained and very sticky.

Exploring rice is truly an amazing culinary journey as there are more than 40,000 cultivated varieties. The International Gene bank has more than 90,000 samples of cultivated and wild rice stored.

There are three popular types of short-grained rice that are used in many locations around the world: Arborio, sticky rice and sushi rice.

How Long is Rice Good for?

Preppers and frugal housewives around the world are likely to ask the burning question, “How long is it good for?” As with many foods, the real answer is, “that depends…” Dry, white rice when protected from sunlight, bugs and vermin will keep almost indefinitely. Brown rice, because it contains the volatile oils found in the endosperm will keep only three to six months.

You can extend the shelf life of brown rice by placing it in a moisture proof container and freezing it.

Plain cooked rice will usually stay good four to six days in a refrigerator, or about six months in a freezer. That makes it a good “cook ahead” dish for busy families. Like all dry goods, rice should be stored in a dry, darkened area that has a stable temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

What is Short Grained Rice

Short grained rice is brown or white rice with plump little kernels that are nearly as wide as they are long. They are traditionally used to make sticky rice and risotto, dishes originating half a world away from each other but both depending on the way short grained rice thickens and sticks together as it cooks.

Sticky Rice

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water

Place one cup of white, short grained rice in a medium sauce pan. Cover the rice with water. Use your fingers to swirl it around, then strain the water off the rice, using your fingers at the edge of the pan to keep the rice in and let the water out. The water will be a milky color. Repeat until the water runs clear.

Add 2 cups water to the 1 cup of rice, place on a cooking surface, cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, reduce the heat and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Try to avoid stirring. If the rice needs shifted from the bottom of the pot, lift it and gently shake to move the rice back and forth.

This basic preparation is the base for many other recipes.

Risotto

Risotto is an Italian dish made using short grained rice. It usually takes about 20 minutes to cook, and you should not plan to do anything other than cook the risotto while you are making it. In some ways, it bears a strong resemblance to making southern USA white gravy in that it involves stirring, paying attention and sticking with the process. Assemble all your ingredients and tools before beginning so that you can focus on the risotto process.

Essential Ingredients:

  • 2 cups short grain white rice (do not rinse!!!)
  • 8 cups liquid, preferably vegetable or meat broth. Can be packaged but use low sodium varieties.
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Optional/selections of ingredients

1 shallot, or a bunch of green onions, or an ordinary onion, chopped, or chives

Final ingredients:

  • Grated cheese (parmesan works well)
  • Cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Sautéed vegetables (can be cooked before browning the rice)
  • Spice to taste

Utensils:

2 Large sauce pans, cheese grater (or buy cheese already grated), spatula for stirring, ladle for dipping broth, chopper to prepare vegetables, small containers to hold prepared items.

Steps to Make Risotto:

  1. Warm the broth in one of the large saucepans and set it near the primary heat source where you will be working. Keeping a low temperature under the broth is ideal.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan that can hold at least two quarts. Cook the shallot, or other onion variant in the butter until it is glazed and limp. A shallot will give the most delicate flavor, but if one is not available at your local store, you can substitute another sort of onion variety.
  3. Add the dry, uncooked rice to the butter. Stir until it is glazed all over and warmed through but not brown. Browning seals in the starch that helps thicken the sauce.
  4. Add the ½ cup dry white wine and begin the cooking process. Allow the wine to almost completely be evaporated or absorbed into the rice.
  5. Add a cup or two of the warmed broth and continue to stir the rice. When the spatula leaves a nearly dry trail through the cooking rice, add another ladle of broth.
  6. Repeat step five until the rice is just a little past al dente but still a little bit chewy.
  7. Remove from heat and add the butter, cream or other selected additives to the mixture. The cooler ingredients will slow the cooking process.
  8. Serve at once on a heated plate. The mixture should be fluid enough to spread out slowly across the plate, but thick enough to make a cohesive disk.

If you have leftovers, you can reheat Risotto, although it is never quite the same. One reason for this is because the rice absorbs the soup and you lose the rich creaminess. One way to help bring it back to a semblance of its original state is to reheat it in a double boiler with a little white wine to moisten the mixture. You could also turn it into a second-day casserole by spreading it in a glass baking pan and topping it with grated cheese.

The Joy of Cooking with Short Grained Rice

The best part of cooking with short grained rice, brown or white, is the amazing way it can thicken up a dish. Although gluten-free, it acts as a thickening agent for soups, stews, and even tasty deserts. Ground into flour, it can be used to make rice dumplings, a thin wrap that can enclose meat, vegetables, fruit or a sweet paste.

Short grained rice is an amazing addition to anyone’s cooking repertoire. It is nutritious, and – as an added bonus – arborio, a variety of short grain rice, has one of the lowest glycemic indexes possible for rice, rivaled only by Basmati.

Finally, short grain rice, whether it is brown or white, has a distinctive stickiness that is not shared by long-grain or even some of the medium grain rice varieties. This ability to stick together or to create thickness will make a huge difference in many recipes and is one reason why this plump little grain is a real culinary winner.

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Ona J Bass

Ona J Bass

Ona Jo Bass grew up on a small farm in the middle of the United States. Food and farming are two things that go together. She learned how to harvest food and prepare simple meals from scratch. As a young woman, she discovered that you can’t always walk out the back door and pick a meal. Cooking from scratch helped stretch her budget and, after a few mistakes, she learned how to make tasty food from basic ingredients from the grocery store.

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