I’m half Vietnamese and grew up on white rice. In our house there was always a rice cooker on the counter and it was perpetually filled with white, fragrant, fluffy jasmine rice.
This is embarassing to admit, but I didn’t know that you could cook rice in a pot on the stove until I was out of college and visiting a friend. I was flabbergasted and totally enthralled. Who knew you could cook rice that way? How neato. How lame was I! Look, everyone I knew had a rice cooker, okay? When each of us kids went off to college or moved out on our own, my mom sent us off with a rice cooker and 25-pound bag of rice. Other people’s moms sent cookies, my mom sent rice.
About five years ago I started exploring different kinds of rice: brown, wild, arborio, Basmati, Bhutanese red, Chinese Forbidden (dark purple), Japanese rose, Thai red … it was like a whole new world had opened up for me. Each of these rices offer a wide variety of flavors from sweet to nutty and even floral. And rice varietals are generally identified by grain length: short, medium, and long. The shorter the grain, the more liquid it soaks up and the starchier (stickier) it becomes.
Such a wide spectrum of rice varietals makes it an incredibly versatile food that can combine with just about anything. For someone watching their gluten intake this can be a real Godsend along with being a treat for the palate.
Varietal rices can most easily be found at Asian and east-Asian ethnic grocery stores. In Vallejo, I like Seafood City market (primarily Filipino) for a wide selection of mainstream Asian rice—lots of different white, red and brown rice.
If you’ve never tried anything other than white or brown rice I encourage you to explore the many other varietals available. If you can boil water, you can make rice.