Rice - Parboiled vs. regular
In college, I once bought minute/uncle ben's (I can't remember) rice. Made it according to directions and it was unedible (I grew up on kokuho brand rice). Yesterday, I bought a bag of parboiled rice out of curiousity.
What is the difference between parboiled rice and regular rice (flavor, texture, fiber, nutrition)?
Is uncle ben's coverted rice same as parboiled or is that a whole nother beast?
(Over on the Site Talk board, they're ranting about people posting on Chowhound when Google would answer a fact-specific question such as yours)
Not all parboiling is the same. Parboiled rice (especially Basmati) as done in India and some parts of Southeast Asia, where the nutrients from the husk are preserved in the hulled and later polished rice has become an essential part of maintaining nutrition in those countries where it's done. American know-how has made a much more convenient product. Minute Maid and Uncle Ben's "converted" cooks the rice longer so that it can be "instantly cooked" out of the box. The purpose is not to improve the nutrition, but to make it easier to cook for Americans who think of rice as otherwise being complex to make. This actually leaches whatever nutrients and flavors there may be left after polishing, out, leaving a virtually nutritionless and tasteless final product that is pretty much pure simple carbohydrate. Go eat a teaspoonful of sugar instead - it's about the same thing, but much more flavor.
I find that I can cook a large quantity of parboiled (converted, golden) rice (in an electric rice-cooker) and freeze individual portions in plastic sandwich bags without the grains gumming together. I haven't found that this method works with any other rice. Freezing 16-20 portions that I can zap later is so convenient that I use parboiled for that reason alone. Note that parboiled is NOT the same thing as Minute Rice. If you want something Minute, get some Near Eastern brand cous-cous, which is just as Minute as Minute Rice and tastes more interesting. Personal opinion, the only thing Minute Rice is fit for is use in a filling like the meat that goes into stuffed peppers. BTW for detailed information on nutritional content go to the USDA Nutritional Database. It lists everything.
Parboiling is an age old practice in Bangladesh and parts of India. Unhusked rice is dried to about 14% moisture and then parboiled and dried again. Rice is then husked and milled. The result is that nutrients from the bran are driven into the grain and the rice is more nutritious than regular milled white rice. Such rice is now readily available here in Colombia. It is a healthy option where micro-nutrient deficencies are problematic.
I've never had Uncle Ben's and had always assumed it was just parboiled rice. applehome just set me straight on that.
Parboiled rice has more nutrition than regular white rice, but it changes the texture and flavor. It was a process invented in south india, where rice was steamed in its husk, dried, and then husked again. Its used frequently in kerala and the rest of southern india, but I personally prefer white rice. Its used sometimes to make dosais and idlis. Uncle Ben's is nearly the same as converted
Minute Rice is instant rice - Ready in 5 minutes (if you can stand it.) UGH.
Dictionary: con·vert·ed rice
n. A white rice prepared from brown rice that has been soaked, steamed under pressure to force water-soluble nutrients into the starchy endosperm, and then dried and milled.
Uncle Ben's Converted Rice (Original): Long Grain Parboiled Rice Enriched with Iron and Thiamine. Cooks in 20-25 minutes.
Uncle Ben's Instant Rice: PRE-COOKED Long Grain Rice Enriched with Iron, Thiamine, and Folic Acid. Ready in 5 minutes. Ugh.
I grew up on Uncle Ben's but for some reason (I can't recall exactly why) I switched to Carolina Rice (non-converted, although they do sell converted rice under their "Gold" designation) some time ago...and just recently bought Uncle Ben's again out of old habit. Probably go back to Carolina anon...
BTW, for the op who grew up on Kokuho Rose - that's Calrose, a form of Japonica that's been grown in California and Texas for many years, well before WWII. Japonica is short to medium grain rice that is starchier than the long grain non-aromatic rices that Americans like (Carolina/River). Long grain rices tend to not stick together as much. So don't buy American rices expecting the same flavors and consistencies you would get from Calrose.
Also - remember that Japonica is NOT the same as the super short grain sticky rice (mochigome, in Japan), which is eaten as a staple in some Southeast Asian countries. Japanese use sticky rice for mochi, but not to eat day to day with their meals.
If you want Japonica or Calrose, stick with the Japanese named brands (although actually American) that come in bags, (Kokuho Rose, Nishiki. Botan) - the boxes, whether instant, converted, minute or otherwise aren't the same thing at all.
And I don't mean to say that parboiled long grain rices are a bad thing - I buy burlap bags of converted basmati at the Indian food store - super nutty flavor and delicious. But you can't make sushi or nigiri out of it. Everything has its place. Maybe even Minute Rice... nah...
The rices I have at home and their uses:
1. CalRose and Nishiki: the same Japonica used for sushi, musubi, and hot with Japanese foods, including sashimi.
2. Basmati; an aromatic Indica I use with curries of all sorts - both south and southeast Asian.
3. Jasmine; another aromatic Indica I serve with very spicy Thai dishes
4. Long grain IR72 Indica types for almost all Latin American and much Asian - including Chinese cooking
5. Japonica Lao NE Thai sticky rice just for serving with laab and Lao beef salads.
6. Parboiled rice (IR72 Indica type) for cooking with seasoned stock to serve with middle Eastern, north African dishes.
I get 4 and 6 here in Colombia. The rest I continually haul back from visits elsewhere. The best recent find was the Lao Neue Sanpatong (common in Thaiiland and Lao and a modern version of the traditoinal Khao Dok Mali) from Giant Foods near the friendship Heights (??) metro in DC.