The Main Types Of Rice
Italian embassy head chef Danilo Cortellini talks us through the main varieties – and how to cook with them…
Best for: Indian dishes
Basmati is a fantastic rice usually used for Indian dishes and curries as the grain is long, slender, non-sticky and fluffy when cooked. Start by washing and draining the rice first when cooking basmati to help remove its starchy coating. A simple way to do this is by soaking in water, draining it and then repeating the process until the water runs clear. The easiest way to cook basmati rice is to boil it in water. I often find people don’t know how much they need to add to water, but my top tip is to use double the quantity of water to rice. Stir the rice and water slowly and then cover the pan loosely until it returns to the boil, which usually takes around 8 minutes, then cook according to the packet instructions.
Best for: Versatility
Long grain is one of the most popular rice types, thanks to its subtle flavour. It’s also available in several varieties including aromatic, white and brown, which makes it very versatile. Like basmati rice, you need to use double the amount of water to the amount of rice, and you should cook it in the exact same way. Rinse, boil and cover until all the water has been absorbed. Resting your rice after it is cooked is also a useful technique. Simply pop it to one side once you’ve finished cooking it and cover with the tea towel. This will let the rice absorb any remaining water. I then use a fork to make the rice extra fluffy and split up the grains before serving.
Best for: Thai sticky rice
Fragrant rice is soft and slightly sticky, bringing a unique flavour and texture to your dish. It’s the ideal rice for if you’re making any Thai or Vietnamese dishes, as it complements the flavours and spices perfectly. Fragrant rice is best cooked in the same way as basmati and long grain rice, but because it is slightly stickier, it’s best to leave it for roughly five minutes before fluffing. Fragrant rice is also great for using in a stir-fry. If you’re using freshly cooked fragrant rice, set aside for 30 minutes before serving, due to its sticky texture.
MEDIUM GRAIN RICE
Best for: Sushi
Medium grain rice isn’t as commonly used compared to others, but it’s a great grain to use. Uncooked medium grain rice is almost oval in shape, and contains a lot of starch, making it sticky in consistency when cooked – an essential element for when making sushi. It is also commonly used for paella and stir-fried rice dishes. For this rice, I would use the same ratio of water to rice, i.e. one cup of rice to one cup of water. As with all rice, make sure you wash the grains first to remove the excess starch.
Best for: Risotto
Being Italian, risotto is my favourite grain to cook. I find the best way to cook risotto rice is by following three key steps. The first is to lightly toast the risotto grains in a dry pan with no oil. This allows the rice to reach a higher temperature, so it is coated uniformly and stays al dente for longer. I then stir the risotto very steadily, adding a little stock at a time, stirring often. The last step in making a risotto is called ‘mantecatura’, and this is the key step – with the right movements you can make the risotto creamier and increase its natural ooziness. Add some grated grana padano cheese and butter to the rice and stir with energy to incorporate extra air until the risotto is nice and creamy.
Best for: Paella
Bomba rice is grown in different regions of Spain, mainly in Valencia and Delta del Ebro. Bomba can absorb three times its volume in liquid but expands only in width and not in length. These characteristics make it particularly suitable for rice dishes such as paella, but it is also commonly used in soups. Unusually for short grain rice, it is not sticky, which helps give paella its distinctive characteristics.
Best for: Desserts
Another grain originating from Italy is pudding rice. It is a short grain rice that is chalky in appearance and clings together to make that creamy and stodgy rice pudding texture. Pudding rice should be prepared in the exact same way as other grains of rice and should always be washed first. Many will often bake pudding rice, but it can be easily made on the hob over a low heat.