Delicious, comforting, and filling—there are not many families who don’t have a rice dish at least once a week!
And when it comes to rice, the world experts must be are the Chinese, as this is the homeland of this store cupboard staple.
But the huge range of different rice available in the stores can be quite daunting! How do you know which one you need for your recipe!
So, which are the best varieties of rice for Chinese food? The best rice varieties for Chinese food include Jasmine rice, basmati rice, and American long-grain rice. The type of rice you choose will depend if you want soft, sticky rice, or one that holds its texture and individual grains when cooked.
Are you looking for the best rice for Chinese food? Read on to find out what makes the best rice for Chinese dishes, and find out our picks for the 5 best varieties of rice you can buy for your next Chinese-themed dinner!
What Is Rice?
Rice is one of the most well-known store cupboard staples, and it is all too easy to take something as commonplace as rice for granted!
So let’s just take a moment to appreciate the wonder and versatility of rice, and the huge role it plays in keeping the human race fed and nourished.
What many people don’t realize is that rice is actually a type of grass. That’s right—it is related to the green stuff that grows on our carefully tended lawns!
Rice is the seeds of a grass family called Oryza sativa, which was first cultivated in China over 10,000 years ago.
Today, rice makes up one-fifth of the calories consumed by humans around the world, making it the most important food crop grown in modern society.
The rice we buy from the grocery store is the dried seeds of this grass, and is normally cooked by boiling it in water until soft, but before it loses its shape and texture.
When the seeds are harvested, they are milled to remove the outer husk. Further processing may take place, depending on the type of rice.
It stands to reason that something we’ve been eating for this length of time now has a huge number of uses all around the world.
Just about every country or region has its own signature rice dish, from the classic Italian risotto to flavor-packed Jambalaya from Louisiana.
How Is Rice Used In Chinese Food?
Rice has been a key part of Chinese cookery for thousands of years and has made its way into many different classic Chinese dishes.
The most basic way in which rice is eaten is as plain steamed or boiled rice, served as a base for vegetable or meat dishes in a rich sauce.
The other staple dish that is famous in Chinese cookery is fried rice. This is one of the best ways to make use of left-over rice, and it is always worth cooking extra rice for dinner so you can make fried rice the next day!
Rice also finds its way into many other types of Chinese food. It is popular in sweet dessert dishes, and can also be baked in the oven as a one-pot dinner.
Some types of Chinese rice are served as a snack, along with strips of succulent roasted seaweed to wrap it in. Perfect messy finger food!
What Is The Best Rice For Chinese Food?
The best rice for Chinese food depends entirely on the dish you are cooking.
Each different type of rice has different attributes and qualities. Some retain their texture and individual grains, whilst others become sticky and mold together when cooked.
Each rice variety also has slight subtle differences in flavor and sweetness. Some are nuttier than others, while some are more aromatic.
Let’s take a look at some good all-round rice varieties for Chinese food, plus some more specialist varieties intended for specific dishes.
The 5 Best Varieties Of Rice For Chinese Food
Feeling confused about all the different varieties of rice on sale at the store? Let’s take a look at the best rice for Chinese food, and work out which one will suit your recipe!
1. Jasmine Rice
Best For: Steamed Rice
Our Top Pick: Asian Best Jasmine Rice
Although Jasmine rice comes from neighboring Thailand, it has now become one of the most popular rice varieties served in Chinese restaurants.
In fact, many Chinese food fanatics rate the quality of a Chinese eatery on whether they serve Jasmine rice or not!
Jasmine rice is a type of long-grain rice, prized for its delicate aromatic flavor and subtle but delightful taste. It is slightly stickier than other types of long-grain rice, which is why it does not tend to be used to make fried rice.
The best way to enjoy this premium-quality rice is by simply steaming it over a pan of boiling water. This will make it light, fluffy, and perfect for soaking up the flavors of any accompanying dishes.
If you are boiling your Jasmine rice, bear in mind that it needs slightly less water when cooking than other types of long-grain rice.
If you have never cooked Jasmine rice before, take care to follow the instructions on the packet carefully to avoid overly sticky, soggy rice.
2. American Long Grain Rice
Best For: Fried Rice
Our Top Pick: Hill’s Select Long Grain White Rice
Fried rice is a restaurant and takeaway favorite that often comes top of our order list, but this popular dish is super easy to recreate at home!
The secret is to pick the right kind of rice, as this makes all the difference between light and fluffy fried rice, and a dense, stodgy mess.
The variety of rice most often used by Chinese restaurants to make fried rice is American long-grain rice.
The great thing about this rice is that it does not tend to stick together, making it perfect for creating a fried rice dish where every individual rice grain is coated in delicious flavor.
Top Tip! If you’ve never made fried rice before, the secret to success lies in using rice cooked the day before!
This should be spread out on a tray to dry out, creating the perfect surface on every grain to soak up the flavor without clumping together.
3. Basmati Rice
Best For: Good All Rounder To Serve With Savory Dishes
Our Top Pick: Premium Aged Basmati Rice
Whilst Jasmine and American long-grain rice both have their plus points, many people prefer to stick to Basmati rice.
The reason for this is that Basmati rice is a good all-rounder. It can be boiled or steamed to serve with meat or vegetable dishes, and it makes reasonably quality fried rice too.
Basmati rice does have a stronger flavor and aroma than Jasmine rice, giving it the potential to overpower more delicate ingredients. It has a slightly nutty taste and works well with robust flavors.
4. Japonica Medium Grain Rice
Best For: Sweet And Savory Dishes Which Require Sticky Rice
Our Top Pick: Chico Organic Japonica Medium Grain Rice
Japonica rice consists of small grains of roundish rice, that tend to be sticky and moist when cooked. This can be used for both sweet and savory dishes, as it has a mild and subtle flavor that works well with most other ingredients.
Sticky rice is popular for dishes that require stuffing, as it binds other ingredients together. It can also be used in some Chinese dumpling recipes. As a dessert, it is a key ingredient in sweet rice cakes and stuffed lotus root.
If you’re struggling to find Japonica rice in the store, look for medium grain rice instead. In some countries, the name Japonica is not used, and it is labeled as generic medium grain rice instead.
5. Brown Rice
Best For: A Healthy Substitute For White Rice
Our Top Pick: Goya Natural Long Grain Brown Rice
Although brown rice is not as traditional as white rice in Chinese cooking, it is fast rising in popularity due to the huge health benefits of this grain.
Brown rice is made from the same grains as white rice, but is less processed and dried with the germ and bran intact.
These provide various nutritional benefits, such as added fiber and several vitamins and minerals. Brown rice will help to satisfy hunger, whilst also regulating blood sugar levels.
You will find most kinds of rice have a brown version, so you can pick the variety that best suits your recipe.
One thing to note with brown rice is that it has a much more pronounced nutty flavor, which can overwhelm a delicately prepared Chinese dish. It works well with thick, rich sauces, but is often too robust for light and fragrant dishes.
Brown rice also takes much longer to cook than white rice, and it retains a slightly chewy texture when cooked.
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