Raise your hand if you dislike brown rice and love white rice but know that white rice isn’t the healthiest thing to eat all the time. If you did, we are members of the same club. I’ve tried to like brown rice but it’s too heavy for most Asian foods and takes so long to cook.
Several years ago, I discovered Japanese short-grain rice that was partially milled. It was at Nijiya market, a small chain based in California that organically grows its own rice in California. And, you could buy it at 100, 75, 50, 25 and 0 percent. The 100 percent is white rice and 0 percent is brown. (The Nijiya online store doesn't carry a full selection.)
I bought the 50 percent Akitakomachi rice and found that it cooked up at the same rate as regular white rice. Amazing and with half of the bran intact, the rice retained some of the healthy aspects of brown rice. I wanted to call it brown rice but my husband coined the term “beige rice.” The rice was delicious – separate fluffy grains with a faint earthy sweetness. We found ourselves eating more rice than we normally did. It was better for us, no?
Why did it take so long for me to share this? It’s because I thought that it was rice that could only be found at Nijiya market. Unless an Asian ingredient is more or less widely distributed, I’m reluctant to recommended to you. It would be a terrible tease.
But I had a revelation when I was in Tokyo in 2010 doing research for the tofu book. One day, Japanese food authority Elizabeth Andoh took me boutique food shopping at Takashimaya. Turns out that in Japan -- get this – you can buy unmilled rice and specify to the vendor how much bran you want removed! The vendor dials your request into a milling machine and you get customized rice on the spot. I was floored and came back to the U.S. thinking that Nijiya beige rice was an extra special Japanese experience to have in America.
That all changed late last year. Studying the rice area at a Chinese market in San Jose, I realized that there was partially milled beige rice. I just never spent enough time deciphering the Japanese rice bags to identify the stuff. I decided to try Sun Valley Rice’s “Gen Ji Mai” rice, a medium-grain rice that promised more nutrients than white rice.
There was also Sukoyaka brand, among others, but the Sun Valley was on sale. Labeled “brown rice,” the bags can easily be dismissed as regular brown rice. They’re not. You’ll notice that these rice are more expensive than regular white and brown rice. My on-sale price was $14 for 15 pounds. The Nijiya market rice is about double that but you’re paying for organic. You pay a premium for the beige rice.
There are packaging claims that the rice contains outrageous amounts of nutrients not found in white rice. I am not sure if I feel that much impact but it’s a great, more fiber packed alternative to white rice. As a side note, when we do make white rice, it tastes extra extra good.
How do you cook beige rice? In my limited experience, I’ve found that beige rice cooks up with the same amount of water and in the same amount of time as white rice. That said, for stove-top cooking:
- short-grain beige rice: 1 cup raw rice: 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
- medium-grain beige rice: 1 cup raw rice: 1 1/4 cups water
If the rice is “new crop” back off the water by about a tablespoon. The cooking process remains the same. (See “How to Cook Perfect Rice” for guidance.)
Where to buy beige rice? I found mine at Lion Market and imagine that it’s sold at Ranch 99 as well. Japanese markets, such as Mitsuwa, Nijiya and Marukai will have it. Korean markets like H-Mart probably stock it but I never noticed. It’s also sold online but it’s a little weird to buy rice from Amazon. Watch the shipping costs.
If you already know about this rice, what do you think of it? If you’re new to beige rice, check it out.