Brown rice: the big shift

casaveneracion.com organic brown rice

It’s something that we tried to do when the girls were still in grade school — shift to brown rice. We bought a few kilos on trial, the girls all but spit out the rice and that was that. Not that we blamed them. Ten years ago, there weren’t many brands of brown rice to choose from and the one that we bought was unfortunately too rough. Not a good introduction to brown rice at all for our girls.

Why the attempt to shift to brown rice in the first place? Well, some health fads are nothing but fads and hypes but the scientific information about brown rice being more beneficial to our health does not fall under fads and hypes. If you’re not familiar with rice processing, white rice is what you get after the grains have been polished and the layers underneath the husks — the bran and germ — totally removed. Along with the removal of the bran and germ is the loss of natural vitamins, folic acids, minerals and dietary fiber. To produce brown rice, the husks are removed but the bran and germ are retained.

But if brown rice is so nutritionally rich, why didn’t our generation grow up eating it? Well, that’s culture and social class snobbery for you. Because brown rice was cheaper, it was associated with being poor. In short, you only ate brown rice if you weren’t rich enough to afford white rice. In fact, when I was growing up, brown rice was for the poor rural folk. The irony, of course, is how the stupid snobbery has worked against us. If it weren’t for the fact that brown rice has now become fashionable, many would still probably stay away from it.

casaveneracion.com organic brown rice

The even bigger irony is that now that brown rice has become all the rage especially for the health-conscious, it is no longer as inexpensive as it once was. Some brands of brown rice are even more expensive than white rice. That’s organic rice you see in the photos and it cost something like PHP56.00 per kilo. And that is more expensive than jasmine rice. Next time, I’ll buy non-organic brown rice and compare the price, the texture and the flavor.

Is brown rice cooked any differently from white rice? From what I’ve read, to maximize the nutritional value of brown rice, it should be soaked in water before cooking to allow it to “germinate” or “sprout.”

Germinated rice contains much more fibre than conventional brown rice, say the researchers, three times the amount of the essential amino acid lysine, and ten times the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), another amino acid known to improve kidney function.

The researchers also found that brown rice sprouts – tiny buds less than a millimetre tall – contain a potent inhibitor of an enzyme called protylendopetidase, which is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease…

… To make the rice sprout, the researchers soaked it in water at 32 degrees C for 22 hours. The outer bran layer softened and absorbed water easily, making the rice easier to cook. Cooked sprouted rice has a sweet flavor, the researchers report, because the liberated enzymes break down some of the sugar and protein in the grain. [Soaked brown rice is better for you]

Does brown rice cook like white rice? In the case of the organic brown rice that I bought, it needs more water than most white rice varieties I’ve used. Is it good for making rice dishes usually associated with white rice like Chinese-style fried rice? Sure, it is. See, brown rice isn’t exactly a rice variety. Any white rice variety can have its brown counterpart. So, there’s long-grain brown rice, short-grain brown rice, sticky brown rice, etcetera. Anyone who tells you that you can’t make risotto with brown rice doesn’t know what brown rice is all about. You can get starchy short-grain brown rice and make a risotto with it. The more serious issue is availability. If you’re among the lucky ones who have access to every imaginable brown rice, just choose as though you were buying white rice — if you prefer long-grain, get long-grain brown rice, and so on, and so forth.

What about storage?

Brown rice, because of the oil content in the attached bran, aleurone and germ, is susceptible to oxidation. As a result, brown rice has a shelf life of only six months. Keeping brown rice in a refrigerator or cooler will extend the shelf life. White rice, if stored properly, has an almost indefinite shelf life.[Menurice.com]

Well, this is Asia and, except for my late grandmother who hoarded rice because she experienced traumatic rice shortage during World War II, I don’t know of anyone who will keep rice longer than six months.