Certiﬁed Japanese rice sommelier Yuichi Sato completed a training course learning about 300 varieties of rice in Japan. Only about 50 people qualify each year, but you could say that undertaking the challenge was in Sato’s blood. He grew up learning about rice from his grandfather, who was a rice farmer in Niigata prefecture. He’s currently the managing director of Tawaraya Rice, which supplies rice to the top Japanese restaurants here.
TYPE OF RICE
Black rice tastes nutty and retains a firmer texture compared with the rest.
Out of all the types of rice, this has the most fibre. Pitted against brown rice, it’salso higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate content. But where it loses out to brown rice is in its glycaemic index (GI) value.
The texture is coarser than that of white rice and it is likely to have a shorter shelf life.
All rice has sugar, but brown rice is a better option if you’re battling diabetes. It is lower on the GI than white rice. The ranking is based on how different foods affect blood glucose levels. Swop high-GI foods for low-GI alternatives to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.
Red rice is more nutty and fragrant.
Red rice possesses anthocyanin, an antioxidant linked to health claims such as improved heart health and cancer prevention. It contains a similar amount of fibre to brown rice but twice the amount of iron and six times the amount of zinc. It boasts a GI value in between brown rice and black rice.
With a light floral aroma and soft, sticky texture, it tastes like Thai jasmine rice. (The dark purple jasberry rice is a variety of non-GMO rice which stems from decades of natural cross breeding.)
Touted to possess three times more antioxidants than blueberries and 10 times more antioxidants than green tea, it is parked within “superfood” territory. The whole grain rice also has high levels of anthocyanins. Plus it contains vitamin E (said to be good for vision and reproduction) and betacarotene (plays a part in preventing breathing disorders like asthma and bronchitis).
Koshihikari (the most cultivated white rice in Japan) tastes soft and fluffy; Yumepirika (a recent cross-breed) has a natural gloss, some sweetness and a soft, springy texture.
Eaten in small portions, white rice is a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
This combo, curated by Sato, is handpicked from different parts of Japan and is brimming with fibre, vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The pack includes red beans, corn, glutinous millet, polished barley, rolled barley, rice-shaped barley, glutinous barley, adlay, red sorghum, black rice, amaranthus, barnyard millet, glutinous foxtail millet, red rice, green skin brown rice and glutinous brown rice. It’s $16 for two bags of 200g – order it from www.tawaraya.com.sg and Redmart.
TYPE OF RICE FUN
PAIR IT WITH...
Rumoured to have once been reserved for the Chinese emperor and forbidden to anyone else, black rice – like red rice and purple rice – contains anthocyanins.
The bold colour makes black rice stand out. Use it in rice pudding with coconut and mango.
Brown rice is a wholegrain. Unlike white rice, it contains the fibrous bran and the nutrient-rich germ as well as the starchy endosperm. Japan and Taiwan in particular are known for their brown rice.
Brown rice goes well with meat and curry. And relatively small quantities of it can fill you up fast, which makes it great for salads.
Red rice gets its colour from anthocyanins, which are also found in blueberries and red-purple fruits and vegetables. Japan and Taiwan are known for their red rice.
The vibrant colour makes red rice stand out in fried rice and salad bowls.
Jasberry rice creator Siam Organic is a social enterprise helping small scale farmers in north-east Thailand to grow their way out of poverty; the farmers are provided with Jasberry seeds, organic fertilisers and training. On top of that, farmers earn up to 200 per cent more for Jasberry rice harvests than conventional commodity rice.
Jasberry rice is available at Cedele All Day Dining outlets and can be found in their mixed mushroom garlic tossed rice.
Niigata prefecture is home to the best rice. Koshihikari in particular is dubbed the “King of Japanese Rice”, and grows well there because of the weather. However, Hokkaido rice is catching up. It used to be difficult to grow rice in the cold climate, but Yumepirika – a newer variety of white rice – has been cultivated to withstand the temperatures.
Koshihikari rice complements dishes rich in flavour, while Yumepirika is good for making onigiri rice balls and in bento lunch boxes.
TEXT HOE I YUNE PHOTOGRAPHY TAN WEI TE ART DIRECTION SHAN