Of all the international foods that have become mainstream in the U.S., some lovely rice varieties from Asia remain largely unknown.
When we want to add something extra to a dish, we often replace the white or brown rice with red rice of black rice. As with brown rice, red and black are whole grain.
Red rice is an unhulled or partially hulled rice variety that has a red husk (most rice has a brown husk). The rice grains are also red in color. As an unhulled rice, red rice has a nutty flavor from the bran (like brown rice) and high nutritional value from the germ.
The nutrition and fiber roughly compare to brown rice, as are the cooking proportions: 2 cups of fluids per cup of rice.
The red color comes from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that create red, blue and purple colors. They give color to radicchio, red onions, red/purple cabbage and purple potatoes, among other foods.
TYPES OF RED RICE
As with all agricultural products, there are numerous varieties of red rice: More than 2,000 rice varieties are grown throughout the world. Depending on the variety, red rice can be long or short grain.
The grain grows well in both high elevations, such as Kingdom of Bhutan in the eastern Himalayas and the Palakkad District of the Indian state of Kerala, and low elevations including the wetlands of the Camargue region of southern France, and cargo red rice from Thailand.
The varieties you are most likely to find in the U.S. include:
Camargue red rice, from the southern part of France, grows in marshlands where the Rhone River meets the Mediterranean. The Camargue region produces a short-grained, slightly sticky red rice.
Bhutanese or Himalayan red rice, grown at 8,000 feet, is similar to Camargue rice. It’s the chief rice in the Bhutanese diet, and has a distinctive mineral profile because it’s irrigated with glacier water.
Thai red rice or cargo rice is a long-grain variety similar to white jasmine rice in fluffiness.
Colusari rice, grown in the Sacramento Valley of California, has a burgundy hue that holds its color when cooking. A russet-red variety, Wehani, was developed from an Indian basmati-type seed.
You can substitute red rice in any rice recipe—even rice pudding! Here’s an everyday grain bowl recipe from Good Eggs.
RECIPE: RED RICE & SUNCHOKE GRAIN BOWL
This savory grain bowl uses ingredients that may not be part of your regular grocery list: red rice, sunchokes (formerly called Jerusalem artichokes), beet greens and the Middle Eastern spice, sumac. The recipe is from Good Eggs, with the note:
“This recipe is a great reminder to treat beet greens as a valuable vegetable in their own right. Once you see how much flavor they add to this bowl, you’ll never compost them again!”
A NIBBLE tip: Beet greens are “free” when you buy fresh beets. Some people who buy beets at farmers markets ask the farmer to remove the tops (the beet greens) so they don’t have to do it at home. Seek out the nearest beet seller and ask him/her for the tops. If you don’t want to seem like you want something for nothing, say they’re for your rabbits.
Top: Himalayan Red Rice from Olive Nation. Middle: Cooked red rice from Jugalbandi.info. Bottom Photos: There are different shades of red rice, as shown in this comparison between burgundy Colusari and the lighter red jasmine rices. Photos from InHarvest.com.