Kinds of Rice

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

There are thought to be more than 100,000 distinct varieties of rice throughout the world. They all fall into one of two traditionally recognized subspecies of Oryza sativa. Indica rices are generally grown in lowland tropics and subtropics, accumulate a large amount of amylose starch, and produce a long, firm grain. Japonica rices, with upland varieties that do well both in the tropics (Indonesian and Filipino types sometimes known as javanicas) and in temperate climates (Japan, Korea, Italy, and California), accumulate substantially less amylose starch than the indicas, and produce a shorter, stickier grain. There are also varieties that are intermediate between indica and japonica. Generally, the higher the amylose content in a rice variety, the more organized and stable the starch granules, and so the more water, heat, and time it takes to cook the grains.