The plain grain's gone global

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Remember when rice choices in most stores were pretty slim: brown or white, short grain or long? Today, bags of Arborio and boxes of basmati are offered alongside these basics, and jasmine rice is no longer relegated to Chinese take-out.

The increased selection opens up a world of recipe possibilities. With the right rice, you don’t need a mile-long ingredients list to make dishes with international flair. Creamy Arborio rice can be turned into crispy Italian rice balls. Fluffy jasmine and basmati rices give sweet pudding and fried rice just the right texture. And exotic discoveries such as China black rice lend a depth of color and flavor to international recipes like bibimbap, a Korean main dish with a spicy kick. So stock up on a few rice varieties the next time you shop—and start making these global grains your recipe staples.

What’s in a name?

A lot, when it comes to rice. Here is a quick guide to some of the choices you’ll find on those boxes and bags of grains

ARBORIO This Italian short-grain rice is used for risotto because its high starch content makes it creamy and thick when cooked.

BASMATI Fragrant, fluffy, and light, this rice, grown in the Himalayan foothills, is standard in Indian recipes and pilafs.

BHUTANESE RED The bran pigments of this chewy, short-grain rice give it its reddish hue. Use in any recipe that calls for brown rice.

BROWN Unlike white rice that is “polished” to remove the bran coating, nutty-flavored brown rice is a whole grain that’s high in fiber.

CHINA BLACK (FORBIDDEN) The color may be more purple than black, but this medium-grain rice has a wow factor and a deliciously nutty flavor.

JASMINE There are no jasmine flowers added to this Thai variety; but the long-grain rice has a light, slightly floral flavor and aroma.

SUSHI The sweet, sticky short-grain rice is also great in desserts and risottos.

TEXMATI This American-grown cross between basmati and long-grain white rice is light and fluffy, with a more neutral flavor than true basmati rice.

WEHANI A California-created basmati cousin, Wehani splits when cooked, making it a luscious choice for soups and casseroles.

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