Rice has been a staple food of the Filipinos for as long as anyone can possibly remember. Being an agricultural country, endowed with vast lands and rich soil for planting crops, the Philippines mass produces rice for local as well as international consumption.
It is common knowledge that there are many types of “rice” grown and harvested in the fields. But, we don’t really dig deeper to learn them one by one. We simply dig in them to satiate our hunger. But, with the emergence of genetically-engineered rice and the major controversy that surrounds it, more and more Filipinos are asking about their staple food.
Because rice is high in carbohydrates, a macronutrient needed by our body to survive, it is almost never absent in the Filipino meal plan, cooked in various creative ways. But, how do we know we have good rice at our tables? What is that standard we use to choose? Is it the whiter the better? Is it the less unnecessary mix-ins the better? Is it the more processed the better? Many Filipinos prefer the well-processed white rice for its clean and polished appearance. Now, why is that?
The idea that white is beautiful has long been framed in the Filipino mentality. That is why whitening soaps, creams and even medications to make the skin spotless white are so popular not only among the Filipino women but even to men as well. Based on Philippine history, this love for white could linked to the Filipino’s colonial mentality or the idea of the colonized that their colonizers culture is far superior to theirs. Spaniards, the Japanese and the Americans all belong to races with white skin which could explain the Filipino’s fascination for everything white from people to food.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) actually believe that the less processed a rice is, the more nutrients – especially Vitamin B, manganese, selenium and magnesium – found in it. But why do we keep buying the white grain? We’re going in circles.
To know more, let us look into some common varieties of rice in the Philippines, how they are similar and how they differ.
1. BROWN RICE
Dehulled rice or commonly known as brown rice is the rice variety that is being referred by many nutritionists as healthy. Why? Brown rice is the variety with the bran layer and germ remaining, giving it a chewy texture while keeping the nutrients intact.
In a July 2013 feature article posted in the PhilRice website, food Scientist, Dr. Marissa V. Romero was mentioned discussing a 1995 research on the benefit of regular brown rice consumption in the reduction of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes (because of its low glycemic index) and even cancer.
Furthermore, PhilRice encourages brown rice consumption because of its high milling recovery rate thus increasing yield and adding to the country’s rice stocks.
2. BLACK RICE
Once considered as a forbidden rice that can only be eaten by emperors, black rice is gaining popularity because of its many studied benefits to the body. Like brown rice, black rice is rich in many nutrients such as vitamins B and E, iron, zinc and fiber that is good for digestion. It also has anti-oxidant properties that fight free radicals’.
3. WHITE RICE
This is the most common variety served in the Filipino table. Though not as nutritious as its less polished counterparts, white rice is still essential in the diet as a source of energy, phosphorus and iron. Because of its more neutral taste, it can complement any dish or viand. Every Filipino household’s food selection is rather incomplete without it.
4. RED RICE
A common variety here in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia, red rice is rich in anti-oxidants and is a good anti-inflammatory food. It is believed to help prevent allergies and cancer. Like brown rice and black rice, red rice is also rich in B vitamins.
5. GLUTINOUS RICE
Glutinous rice is a short-grained opaque rice variety commonly used in many Filipino and other Southeast Asian cuisines. If you have heard of Suman, Suman Latik and Ibos in the Hiligaynon language of the Philippines, it is the type of rice used in these foods. Often mistaken, glutinous rice is termed as such because it is sticky and not because it contains gluten. Also called sticky rice, glutinous rice is high in starch and low in fat.
6. Other rice varieties in the Philippines
Angelika, Azucena, Sinandomeng, Sampaguita, Dinorado, Ifugao Rice, Maharlika, Milagrosa pino, Segadis Milagrosa, Kalinayan, Malagkit, Wagwag, Baysilanon, IR-841, IR-64
As I researched about “rice” in general, I discovered that a variety of rice is being discovered in daily basis. And I thought how long it would take to create an article on all the varieties of rice in the Philippines, let alone the world. Perhaps writing a book on it would be better. As I’m sure there already is that is being continuously being updated. The important thing is, for us Filipinos to value our staple food. One that we, our palates, our bodies have become too accustomed to that we even neglect it. It’s funny how we often neglect the most essential things. I hope this article made you think about rice even just for a minute, its value in our daily lives and how without, life is unimaginably different.
Most of the mentioned rice varieties are now sold in supermarkets as well as wet markets, with brown and black rice reasonably higher in cost than the more common white.
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