Unlocking the Goodness of Grains Part 2: Rice Day 3: Unlocking the Goodness of Grains Part 2: Rice

Unlocking the Goodness of Grains Part 2: Rice

The grain we’re exploring today is a major staple of our diet in India. Whether you go to the North, South, East, or West, you will find diverse ways of cooking and preparing this super grain. Say hello to rice!

How Many Types of Rice Are There?

Imagine this: there are a whopping 40,000 kinds of rice all around the globe! But guess what? India is home to a staggering 6,000 varieties, although long ago, it had a whopping 110,000 types. Back in the day, before the Green Revolution, we used to cultivate all sorts of rice, millets, lentils, and more.

However, things changed over time. The popularity of white rice and the single type of wheat we know today grew, thanks to the Green Revolution. But rice isn't just white – it is found in other colors like brown, red, purple, and black. Such specialty rice (colored rice) contains higher nutritional content as compared to white rice. 

In fact, colored rice contains anthocyanin pigments, which are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants that help with brain development. Research shows they also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. 

Not only are red and black rice super nutritious, but they are also pest-resistant (during storage), drought-resistant, and easy to cultivate for farmers!

We discuss this more in detail below.

 

Introducing Rice to Babies

Against the rich backdrop of Indian tradition and culture, rice holds a special place of honor and sacredness. It's not just a grain; it’s a symbol of abundance, fertility, and all things prosperous. Rice is commonly used in religious ceremonies, rituals, and festivals. It’s also the reason why it’s a traditional practice to introduce rice as one of the first foods for babies (commonly given as rice kanji or payasam).

The recommended age to introduce rice to babies is 6 months. It’s a great idea to go beyond white rice and introduce different colors and varieties of rice. Here’s an overview of the local/regional varieties of rice cultivated in India:

  • Basmati
  • Joha
  • Jyothi
  • Navara
  • Ponni
  • Pusa
  • Sona Masuri
  • Jaya
  • Kalajiri (aromatic)
  • Boli
  • Palakkad Matta

Some of the local/regional varieties of colored rice are:

  • Himalayan red rice 
  • Matta rice
  • Assam red rice
  • Kairali
  • Jyothy 
  • Bhadra 
  • Asha
  • Rakthashali 
  • Red Kavuni 
  • Kaivara Samba 
  • Mappillai Samba
  • Kuruvi Kar
  • Poongar

Native or locally grown rice is also known as indigenous rice. What does this mean? Just that indigenous rice varieties are healthier (than white rice), organically grown, native to the region, and have a low glycemic index – making them super beneficial for our health, our environment, and our farmers!

 

Choosing the Right Kind of Rice for Your Baby

White rice: This is a good energy source that provides B Vitamins, folate, and Vitamin E. The amount of these nutrients depends on how it's processed. It also contains some calcium and iron.

Colored rice: These varieties are often more nutritious because they're semi or unpolished, retaining the nutrient-rich bran layer. This layer contains many vitamins, minerals, and fibers, making colored rice a nutrient powerhouse compared to polished white rice.

Remember those anthocyanin pigments we talked about? They're like superheroes for your baby's growth and development.

  • Red rice is packed with iron and zinc.

  • Black rice is rich in protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

By occasionally swapping white rice for red or black rice, you’re giving your child an extra boost of nutrition. It’s a simple way to enhance the goodness they receive.

 

Is Rice Safe for Babies?

It’s a valid concern any parent/caregiver may have. Amid recent concerns about arsenic and toxic heavy metals in rice due to water pollution, it's crucial to take precautions. 

But that is the reason thoroughly washing rice or grains is so significant! By washing the rice multiple times and soaking it before cooking, you can minimize the risk of any contaminants, ensuring a safer meal for your baby.

So don’t worry much as long as you wash and soak rice before you cook it with fresh water.

 

Preparing Rice for Babies

India is a diverse country in so many ways, especially when it comes to cooking and eating. That’s why we’re exposed to a wide variety of rice preparations that are influenced by the different regions and communities of India. 

Here are some popular rice preparations that we’re sure you love and that your little can start enjoying:

  • Dal chawal or dal rice
  • Khichdi
  • Rice porridge
  • Curd rice
  • Sambhar rice
  • Pulao/biryani
  • Fried rice
  • Tamarind rice
  • Jeera rice
  • Lemon rice 
  • Coconut rice
  • Flaked or puffed rice
  • Kadhi chawal (kadhi with rice)
  • Rajma chawal (kidney beans with rice)
  • Idli and dosa
  • Upma
  • Idiyappam
  • Pongal
  • Puttu
  • Adai
  • Appam
  • Adirasam
  • Kozhukattai
  • Modakam
  • Payasam
  • Sevaiyan or vermicelli

 

Tips to Remember Before Your Baby’s Rice Journey

Remember these tips when introducing rice to your little one:

  1. Choking and Gagging

    Rice is generally not a choking hazard, but it can sometimes lead to gagging, especially if your baby tries to handle individual grains. Gagging is a normal part of the learning process as babies explore solid foods. Rest assured, the body's reflexes kick in during gagging, protecting the airway from choking.

    For a more comfortable rice-eating experience for your little one, try mixing rice with dal, sambhar, or curd to add moisture. This can help minimize instances of gagging.

  2. Rice Balls

    To make rice easier for your baby to handle and enjoy, consider serving ready rice balls. Simply cook the rice until very soft, mash it together, and shape it into a ball. These rice balls not only offer a delicious finger food option but also reduce the risk of gagging.

  3. Allergen It's worth noting that rice is NOT a common allergen, making it a safe choice for early introduction.

How to Cook & Serve Indigenous Rice

Indigenous rice varieties are nutritious making them a great addition to your little one’s diet! They are drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, do not require pesticides, and require lesser labor and farm inputs. This makes them good for the farmer and good for the environment!

Below are the details of local rice, ways to cook them fully, and recipes they can be used in. The table after this contains regular rice recipes and offers ideas for serving rice (white or colored) to your baby. Keep reading!

Select Spice
Kichli Samba
How to cook it

- Wash and soak 1 cup of rice for 10 minutes. 

- 1 cup of rice = 2 cups of water

- Pressure cook for 2 whistles on medium flame. 

- If making the pulao or biryani in a pan, use 2.5 cups of water and cook covered on low flame for 5 minutes.

Recipes/when to use

Suited for a variety of rice preparations like lemon rice, pulao, or biryani, it’s a perfect alternative to polished basmati rice. It gives a brilliant aroma while cooking!

Nutrition

High in fiber and B vitamins.

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- A traditional rice variety

- Small sized

- White color

- Has a nutty flavor

Seeraga Samba
How to cook it

- Wash and soak 1 cup of rice for 10 minutes. 

- 1 cup of rice = 2 cups of water

- Pressure cook for 2 whistles on medium flame. 

- If making pulao or biryani in a pan, use 2.5 cups of water and cook covered on low flame for 5 minutes.

Recipes/when to use

It can be a great alternative to basmati in dishes like biryani, jeera rice, peas/veg pulao, dal rice/khichdi

Nutrition

High in selenium, fiber, and antioxidants

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- White in color

- Aromatic

- Grains are extremely fine 

- Starchy, so it absorbs the flavor of spices it’s cooked in!

Matta
How to cook it

- Wash and soak 1 cup of rice for 1 hour.

- 1 cup of rice = 2 cups of water

- Pressure cook for 6 whistles on medium flame.

Recipes/when to use

Can be had as plain rice, with dal, rajma, or pulses; can also be used to make idli, appam, or chilla

Nutrition

Rich in antioxidants and Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C; also contains minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and fiber

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- Reddish-brown in color

- Typically, medium-grained with slightly coarse texture

- Grains are usually longer than other varieties

- Unique aroma; nutty and earthy flavor

Poongar
How to cook it

- Wash and soak 1 cup of rice for 30 minutes.

- 1 cup of rice = 2.5 cups of water

- Pressure cook for 5 whistles on medium flame

Recipes/when to use

Great for making idli, dosa (especially neer dosa), idiyappam, puttu, kanji/porridge; even good for sweets like payasam. Or serve as rice with meals

Nutrition

Rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron, Vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, and molybdenum

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- Traditional unpolished red rice variety 

- Lovely nutty flavor

Kullakkar 
How to cook it

- Wash and soak 1 cup of rice in 3 cups of hot water for at least 1 hour.

- Pressure cook for 8-10 whistles on medium flame.

Recipes/when to use

Can be used to make idli, dosa, uttapam, or porridges.

Nutrition

High in zinc, iron, and antioxidants

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- Red rice variety that’s extremely filling.

- Nutty texture

Rajamudi 
How to cook it

- No soaking required.

- 1 cup of rice = 2.5 cups of water

- Pressure cook for 4 whistles on medium flame.

Recipes/when to use

Cooks really fast and can be had as part of a typical Indian meal. It can easily replace white rice in dishes like dosa or idli. This rice flour can be used to make roti, chilla, pulao, bisi bele bhath, fried rice

Nutrition

Easy to digest; high in fiber, zinc, and antioxidants

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- Short and thick grain

- A natural reddish-brown color

- Mild flavor

Sona Masoori Hand-pounded rice/semi-brown rice
How to cook it

- Wash and soak 1 cup of rice for at least 15 minutes.

- 1 cup of rice = 3 cups of water

- Pressure cook for 2 whistles on high flame and 5 minutes on simmer.

Recipes/when to use

Can be easily cooked and had with dal, sabji, sambhar/rasam. Good for pulaos or as an accompaniment to fish, chicken, or mutton curries, Chinese rice dishes

Nutrition

Contains complex carbs, iron, calcium, manganese, B vitamin, Vitamin K and E, and protein

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- Short grain

- Dark brown in color

- Nutty taste and aroma

Kalabati/kalabhat (black rice)
How to cook it

- Wash and soak 1 cup of rice for 30 minutes.

- 1 cup of rice = 2 cups of water

- Pressure cook for 6-7 whistles on medium flame. 

Recipes/when to use

Can be used for making porridge, biryani, desserts, rotis, and more.

Nutrition

Rich in iron, Vitamin E, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, zinc; contains more protein than brown rice.

Color/ Appearance/Flavor

- Deep black color which usually turns deep purple when cooked

- Sweet, nutty, chewy taste and texture

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