There are hundreds varieties of rice grown around the world. Rice is a staple in India, Asia, Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean. Yet, for all this, few know of the different types of rice.
Rice originated in India, and it is first mentioned in the Yajur Veda (c. 1500-800 BC) and then is frequently referred to in Sanskrit texts. In India there is a saying that grains of rice should be like two brothers, close but not stuck together. This holds true until you come to South India, where Pongal is a porridge-like rice dish.
Rice is often directly associated with prosperity and fertility; hence there is the custom of throwing rice at newly-weds. In India, rice is also the first food offered to the babies when they start eating solids or to husband by his new bride, to ensure they will have children.
For completeness, this article shares some information with that post.
Forms of Rice
Rough, Paddy or Cargo Rice
The kernels of the rice are still within the hull. Before the rice can be packaged or cooked, the outer hull or husk must be removed.
The kernels of rice from which only the hull has been removed. Brown rice may be eaten as is or milled into white rice. The light brown color of brown rice is caused by the presence of bran layers which are rich in minerals and vitamins, especially the B-complex group. Cooked brown rice has a slightly chewy texture and a nut-like flavor.
Milled White Rice, Polished Rice
Regular-milled white rice, often referred to as white or polished rice is the most common form of rice. The outer husk is removed, and the layers of bran are milled until the grain is white.
Parboiled Rice (Puzhungalarisi in Tamil)
Rough rice that has gone through a steam-pressure process before milling. This procedure gelatinises the starch in the grain, and ensures a firmer, more separate grain. Parboiled rice is often preferred for an extra fluffy and separate cooked rice, and also is used to make a variety of pancakes, cakes and snacks. The grains do not stick together when cooked, and it is a favourite in India as the grains hold together without breaking or disintegrating when mixed with various curries.
In India, the original par-boiled rice is used along the Southern coasts, where the process of boiling the rice before husking and milling makes the grains tough and indestructible, and pushes the B complex vitamins into the inner kernel. Generally, par boiled rice is also aged rice and is believed to taste better and retain more nutrition. This rice is used for everyday eating in the South. It is said that it tastes best for Idli, and some prefer it for Pongal. Good quality par boiled rice, which is specially processed for making idlis is sold as Idli Rice in Indian Grocers.
The power packed Red Parboiled Rice (sivappu puzhungal arisi) is said to be highly nutritious.
Boiled Rice | Precooked Rice (often used interchangeably with Parboiled Rice)
White or brown rice that has been completely cooked and dehydrated after milling. This process reduces time required for cooking.
Raw Rice | Same as Polished Rice (Pacharisi in Tamil)
Rice that has not been parboiled or precooked.
In South Indian it is said that raw rice gives best tastes in muruku/chakli, Puttu, and some prefer it for Pongal.
Grains that are broken in the milling process are used for dishes such as Upma and Pongal in South India. Some reports say that the milling of rice produces 50% whole rice, 16% broken rice, 20% husk, 14% bran and meal. Grains also break before and after milling in transport. Mechanical separators are used to separate the broken grains from the whole grains
Alternatively, grains can be pounded to form broken rice.
Poha is steamed and rolled/flattened rice – make sure that you get this and not puffed rice. Poha comes in different thicknesses – Nylon (very thin and crisp), Paper, Thin, Medium, Thick and Dagdi (thick and chewy). The thicker types are soaked before use. There are also poha types made from red rice and brown rice.
Red rice is generally unpolished rice containing more fibre than polished rice. It takes a little longer to cook than white rice and is beautifully nutty in flavour. Red Rice is grown in Bali and India – a protein-rich, partially milled variety, matta rice, is used along the Konkan coast of India, South of Mumbai. Sri Lanka also has a red rice.
Read some more about Kerala Red Rice here.
Rava and grits refer to the coarse state of ground rice or wheat. In general it refers to wheat but can be used to describe rice. Grits are made with rice and other cereals.
This fine powder is made from ground rice. Rice flour is used to thicken sauces and curries or binds mixtures. It is also used in desserts. Cornflour or besan can be substituted, but doesn’t impart the same texture.
Sticky Rice (Glutinous Rice)
In Northeast India, people commonly harvest and use variants of sticky rice, and there are dozens of varieties. Sticky rice has a distinct aroma, and based on strain of rice the colour can vary from brown to red. A special variant of sticky rice called bora saul is harvested widely in Assam.
Common Rices of India
Ambemohar rice, a raw rice, also called Govindbhog rice, is very short grained and fragrant, grown in the Himalayan foothills of Maharashtra. It has the aroma of mangoes. Many consider this rice to be superior to basmati. It can be difficult to find, as it is a low-yield rice and farmers are gradually converting to other varieties.
Some families will mix this rice with a cheaper rice to use for every day cooking. Specialty dishes using Ambe Mohar rice include Masala Bhat, Sweet Saffron Rice, and Sweet Coconut Rice.
The pearl of the North of India, this is a very fine long grain, highly aromatic and semi translucent rice grown in the foothills of the Himalaya mountains. The better varieties are aged for a year before being sold.
Jeerakasal Rice (Wayanadan Kaima, Jeerakasamba)
Jeerakasal rice is a scented variety of rice grown mostly by the members of the tribal communities of in Panamaram, Sultan Bathery, and Mananthavady areas in Wayanad (Kerala). It has shorter grains compared to Basmati rice, but is equally aromatic and flavourful. It is famous for being a scented rice and usually use to prepare Biryani.
Kitchari Rice, Idli Rice, Pongal Rice, Kanni Rice
Rices packaged for various and specific uses, and generally the variety of rice is not indicated. Kanni Rice is a general purpose broken rice with a smooth flavour that can be general purpose or used for kitchari.
Patna Rice, Parimal Rice
Patna Rice is a native of Bihar State. Patna is the capital of Bihar, lying on the southern bank of Ganges river, where other rivers (Ghagra Stone and Gandak) merge with Ganges making it look like a vast sea of fresh flowing water. The soil of the plains and the weather are responsible for the mild flavour and texture. Patna Rice is a long grain (over 6 mm) rice, about 4 times the length than the width. When cooked, the rice is fluffy and the grains do not stick together. During the British occupation, Patna Rice was favourite of the British.
Panta is not as hard as Basmati rice, and is milky white in colour with a pleasant aroma. The grains have slightly rounded edges, and the cooked rice has a mild, earthy flavour.
A mild flavoured, parboiled, long grain rice widely used for its subtle sweet taste.
Medium grain aromatic rices grown in Tamil Nadu. Ponni goes so well with sambar and is a soft and delicious rice. It can be purchased as a raw rice or parboiled.
Rosa Matta Rice, Puzhukkalari, Chambaavari (Red Rice)
A red rice common in Kerala and other parts of the Konkani coast. Also called Puzhukkalari and Chambaavari. It has a robust, earthy flavour. See here for details.
Samba Rice (Seeraga Samba Rice)
Samba rice is an aromatic variety of rice grown in Tamil Nadu, some other parts of India and Sri Lanka and is often incorrectly equated to Jeerakasal rice. It has shorter grains than Basmati rice, but is equally aromatic and flavourful. It is famous for being a scented rice and usually use to prepare Biryani.
A Bengali par-boiled rice.
Medium grain aromatic rice grown in Andhra Pradesh. It is a boiled/steamed rice with excellent flavour, but can also be purchased raw. (See above for explanation of Boiled Rice).
Bright white and slender rice from Gujaratr. Softer on the palate than other rice and this brings out its sweet flavour.
Zeera (Jeera) Samba (Seeraga Samba), Kaima, Kala Bhaat, Kali Jeera, Kaima and many more. There are hundreds of rices across India.
Check out our easy Rice recipes here.
browse some Rice recipes
- How to Cook Rice – Absorption Method
- How to Cook Rice – Oven Finishing Method
- How to Cook Rice – Steaming Method
- Rosa Matta Rice
Spiced and Flavoured Rices
- Black Pepper and Cumin Rice
- Clove, Cardamom and Cinnamon Rice
- Coconut Rice
- Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice
- Lemon Rice
- Pepper Cumin Rice
- Peppered Rice
- Tamarind Rice
- Turmeric Rice
- Urad Dal Garlic Rice
- Sri Lankan Coconut Rice
- Sri Lankan Ghee Rice with Pandanus
- Sri Lankan Turmeric Curd Rice
- Carrot Rice
- Cumquats Rice
- Eggplant Rice
- Masala Lemon or Lime Rice (Masala Elumichai Sadham)
- Mango Rice
- Mango and Lemon Rice
- Zucchini Rice
- Bisibelebath from Goa
- Bengali Bhog Kitchari
- Bengali Five Lentil Kitchari
- Bengali Soft Kitchari
- Bengali Vegetable Kitchari
- Buttery, Steamed Kitchari
- Cauliflower, Mung and Broken Wheat Kitchari
- Cracked Wheat and Mung Kitchari
- Gujarati Kitchari
- Masoor Sprouts Kitchari
- Parsi Kitchari
- Urad and Red Rice Kitchari
- How to Make Kitchari in a Thermos
- Kolache Poha with Coconut and Tamarind
- Poha Chaat
- Poha with Onions
- Poha with Potatoes and Peanuts
- Sweet Poha with Banana and Honey