In various parts of the world, the quality of rice is defined by the variety which is grown locally and the influence it has on national cuisine:
in India, the favoured rice does not absorb cooking liquids, remains firm when cooked and does not become glutinous – the grains do not stick together.
in Japan the preferred rice varieties do not absorb liquids, should be firm and have grains that bind together.
in Italy the preference is for rice which absorbs cooking liquids and flawours well, with firm grains which do not stick together..
The cuisine of the various countries reflects the characteristics of the locally available rice:
Indica varieties, the Aromatics and Integral types, are principally used as an accompaniment to main dishes;
Japonica varieties are those used for risotto and similar dishes;
Waxi varieties are employed for sweets and desserts;
Parboiled rices are best used in precooked commercially prepared foods in which the quality of the basic materials are not of prime consideration for the consumer.
The legal classification of rice (short, medium, long, common, semi-fine, fine and superfine) refers only to the size and quality of the grains, not to the culinary or intrinsic properties of the rice itself.
In the kitchen, the quality of rice is governed by: its variety, the length of aging and the methods used in processing.
Contact with air can lead in time to infestation by insects and in turn causes the rice to become rancid, even more likely if the rice is stored at high temperatures: once rice has been whitened and processed it must be immediately vacuum packed.
The Merits and Defects of Rice
To check how well rice has been processed, it is necessary to place a few grains:
on a white plate: to reveal the colour of the rice and any dark defects;
on a dark plate: to distinguish broken, damaged or waxy grains, natural deformities and the presence of different varieties.
Grains of different size or variety will not cook at the same rate and will produce:
dishes of uneven and irregular appearance and consistency;
a particular type of starch water which produces an unwelcome mushiness.
Rice and Starch
Rice contains 90% of starch in the dried substance. During cooking rice loses that starch which is classified unstable, and the more starch thus lost, the lower and more inferior the quality of the rice: a characteristic confirmed when the cooking water becomes white.
Washing rice before cooking encourages the grains to dissolve and become mushy.
Italy: Rice& Risotto
Throughout the world, Italian rice is identified with risotto, a dish of growing interest and appreciation in restaurants internationally. Playing in the risotto as an “amplifier” of the cooking flavours, rice for risotto is that which, after cooking, provides firm, unattached and tasty grains.