Rice Flavor

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The flavor of rice depends on the variety and the degree to which it is milled. The outer portions of the rice grain contain more free amino acids, sugars, and minerals, and proportionally less starch. The more a rice kernel is milled, and so the more of its surface is removed, the less flavor and the higher proportion of starch it contains.

The aroma of standard white rices has green, mushroomy, cucumber-like, and “fatty” components (from 6, 8, 9, and 10-carbon aldehydes), as well as a slight popcorn note and floral, corn-like, hay-like, and animal qualities. Brown rices contain these and also small amounts of vanillin and maple-sugar-like sotolon. Aromatic rices are especially rich in the popcorn-like aromatic component (acetylpyrroline), which is also an important element in screwpine leaves, and cooked popcorn and bread crust. Because it is volatile and not regenerated during cooking, the popcorn aromatic escapes during cooking, and its concentration declines. This is one reason for presoaking aromatic rices; this step shortens the cooking and minimizes aroma loss.