So called no-carb diet has been popular for awhile, I also see here in Norway that some people are saying good-bye to breads and potatoes. Maybe it is an effective way to lose weight and stay healthy, but no-carb diet is not for me as I am an asian who has been eating rice as my staple all my life and I LOVE rice. But I do hear white rice is not healthy compared to brown rice. Hmmm… If people ask me what I think about these two kinds of rice, I probably hesitate to join the discussion as I really have not cooked brown rice often and much enough to talk about it. Let me stop for a moment and ask this question, “Do I really know about white rice and brown rice?” If you are reading this article, please ask the same question to yourself and hopefully you will sail with me out into this food research.
I started my research by reading 2 of the very informative internet sites, one is called “Rice Knowledge Bank” (see? I told you I love knowledge banks!) created by the International Research Institute of Rice and the other is Whole Grain Council’s information page. Both of them have excellent information but there were not so many illustrations there, so I did a little drawing myself. (sorry for the poor drawing…) First we need to learn the anatomy of rice!
That little thing on the corner is not a RicE, it is me RIE. 🙂 The brown part has many names but it is commonly called a RICE HUSK. It is the outermost layer of rice and it protects rice inside. Rice husks are too hard for us to digest and we do not eat it but it is widely used for industrial use. In Japan we have pillows that are filled with buckwheat husks that shape themselves to your head and neck. Very comfy! I remember my grandmother loved the pillow. Under the rice milling process rice husks are removed and we get BROWN RICE. Brown rice is covered and protected by a layer called BRAN which contains minerals, vitamins, fiber and oil. There is a part called GERM inside. As a rice grain is a seed, it needs nutritions to sprout and create a new plant and germ is exactly the part that contains the necessary nutritions. When brown rice is milled further and brans and germs are both removed we get white rice. This is why white rice is called “left over rice” or “polished rice”, and you will easily see why brown rice is superior to white rice in terms of minerals and nutritions, all the good substances in the bran and the germ are stripped off.
All the information I have been reading was strong enough to send me to a health food store. I came home with a bag of organic brown rice. There seem to be some milling degrees and some brown rice had a darker color with more brans and germs than others, I think the brown rice I bought are probably more milled and polished, but it is surely better than white rice and let me start with this one. I opened and read my cooking book and learnt brown rice needs more water and time to cook.
My Japanese rice cooker can cook brown rice and it has a measurement guideline for the water, it looks like the ratio is 1 part rice and 2 part water. Maybe it was not necessary to soak the rice in the water for 30 minutes but I did it anyway just like I do with white rice. I added a pinch of salt too.
After 30 minutes it looked like this. The rice had absorbed water and it looked fine. I turned on the switch and here we go! It really took a longer time to cook, I think it took almost an hour or so. In Japan many people cook brown rice with a pressure cooker and it goes much faster than an electric rice cooker. Maybe I should buy a pressure cooker?
Freshly cooked brown rice had a pleasant nutty smell and the texture was chewy but not gummy. One grain of brown rice sure does look bigger than a white rice grain, the color is a pale gold and I thought it looked different from my ordinary bento and it was so pretty in my dark wappa bento box! But I noticed brown rice gets dry faster than white rice and I think it is because the layer of bran was cooked and torn, it absorbs air right away. If you make Onigiri with cooked brown rice, it might be better but it will be helpful to wrap with plastic wrap or Onigiri wrap too. If you like to wrap it with nori, you can take fresh nori with you and wrap your onigiri right before you eat. I also like to recommend using a wappa bento box as it helps breathe and keep brown rice more moist until lunch time. Some brown rice may have stronger nutty smell and I expect a wappa bento box can be helpful. In Okazu put more moist type of food. If you put only raw carrots or cucumbers, brown rice will absorb water from the vegetables and probably your salad will be dry. I read on a Japanese bento website that sesame seeds and brown rice help each other and it works better if we eat them together. I could not find the reason or scientific evidence of the theory but yeah, why not? I like sesame seeds!
I made one bento and freezed the rest. (I defrosted and ate it 3 days later and it was all fine) I had a healthy lunch with brown rice in my wappa bento box on the day Germany won the World Cup. Oh, one more tips. use good solid chopstick and don’t use light chopsticks as brown rice is heavier than regular white rice!