Rice is a grain that is cultivated in more than 100 countries and is one of the world’s staple foods. It can be grown on hillsides, in soil, or in irrigated waters, either deep or shallow. The different cultivation techniques, as well as cross-breeding, have resulted in thousands of varieties of rice, including sticky rices, wild rices and fragrant rices: all can be categorised as long-, medium- or short-grain. Long-grain rices such as basmati are thin, dainty and pointed. Medium-grain and short-grain rices are plumper, starchier and more absorbent. Examples of medium-grain rices are risotto and paella rices such as arborio and calasparra. Short-grain rices include pudding rice and sushi rice.
While many people in the West think of rice as a simple side dish, it’s exciting when cooked as a meal in its own right and readily absorbs other flavours. In some cultures, rice is considered so sacred that it is served as the main part of the meal and cooked as plainly as possible.