Specialty Rices Add Variety – Fresh Tastes by Bev

By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB


Filling, low-fat, nutritious, and mild, rice has long been a bladder-friendly staple in the IC sufferer’s diet. The most commonly used rice in America is of course white rice, and that’s the one most of us are familiar with. But for millions of people around the world, rice is much more colorful and flavorful than that.

All rice begins as a brownish-colored grain. Rice, like wheat, has an outside covering called bran, an inner part called the endosperm, and a tiny center (from which the plant grows) called the germ. The white rice we are all familiar with is polished, or refined rice. That means the outside bran and the inner germ have been stripped away. The little white kernel we eat is the endosperm. But when the rice is refined this way, it loses the fiber, iron, and much of the B vitamins that make it so nutritious.

In this country, white rice is usually fortified with the nutrients lost in processing. White rice is also sold as “parboiled” or “converted”. (That means it has been partially cooked. One advantage is that the grains stay fluffy after cooking and don’t stick together.)

But even if the nutrients are replaced, white rice still lacks the fiber that was stripped away in the refining process. This situation may cause a bit of trouble for those of us with IC. Refined white rice can be constipating. So are opiate pain relievers, antihistamines, and some of the other medications used to treat IC.

Brown Rice

Brown rice, however, is a whole grain. The fiber-rich outer and inner parts have not been removed, and it still contains all the naturally occurring vitamins along with trace minerals such as copper and zinc. Though brown rice takes a little longer to cook, it’s considered more nutritious and may actually be less constipating than the polished white rice.

Wild Rice

Wild rice is another grain we commonly see in grocery stores. More expensive than brown or white rice, it’s not really a rice at all. It’s the seed of a wild North American water grass. Because it’s actually a seed, it contains more protein than rice does and because it’s a whole grain and not refined, it’s also a good choice if you want to increase your fiber intake. Wild rice has a bold, nut-like taste and a chewy texture. It is often mixed with white or brown rice in various dishes.

Jasmine & Basmati Rice

Two flavorful long-grain rices from the Orient that can add variety to an IC diet are Jasmine rice and Basmati rice. Jasmine rice is a variety of refined white rice that has a mild, almost flower-like aroma reminiscent of popcorn. Soft and slightly sticky when cooked, it’s a favorite with Asian chefs. Try it with vegetable stir-fry dishes or to accompany pork or poultry. It blends well with sweet sauces and dishes spiced with cinnamon or coriander. If you can’t find it at your local grocery store, it’s available at health food stores and Asian markets. Basmati rice has an aroma and flavor similar to Jasmine rice, but it is fluffier and less sticky.

Glutinous Rice

If you are using chopsticks, then you want a glutinous rice that sticks together. Glutinous rice is medium-or short-grained and is typically served at Asian restaurants. Neutral in taste and soft textured, glutinous rice pairs well with almost any food.

Japonica, Purple Thai & Colusari Red Rice

Three colorful rices that can often be obtained at health food stores are Black Japonica, Purple Thai, and Colusari Red. Now I’ll warn you, these rices are so colorful that they’ll also color any vegetables or meats you cook with them, but they make very attractive side dishes.

Black Japonica has a chewy texture and a starchy flavor. It performs well in rice salads and stuffings for turkey or bell peppers. It also combines well with other rices. (If you want black and white rice, cook each separately).

Purple Thai has a faintly fruity taste, but it’s not sweet. Sometimes you’ll find it in stores as “Purple Thai Sticky Rice”. It makes interesting rice pudding dishes but is also useful in salads.

Colusari Red rice has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture similar to that of wild rice. It makes a colorful but simple side dish when served as buttered rice, or combine it with a little wild rice and blanched almonds. (If you can’t find it locally it’s available by mail order from Indian Harvest Specialtifoods, Inc. (800-294-2433). You can order by phone or send $12.90 for a 1.5 lb. box to: Indian Harvest Foods, P.O. Box 428, Bemidji, MN 56619-0428. See their catalog of other hard-to-find foods at www.indianharvest.com )

Arburio Rice

Arborio rice is a wide, medium- to long-grain rice used in Italy for their famous risotto. When cooked, it has a creamy texture and its flavor is enhanced when cooked in vegetable or chicken broth. (If you use broth, be sure it contains no MSG, hydrolyzed soy or vegetable protein, or preservatives. One good brand, Hain Healthy Naturals, is nationally distributed and sold at many health food stores as well as some larger supermarkets.)

Recipes of the Month

Rice and Pea Medley

– serves 3

  • 2 cups chicken broth or turkey broth
  • 1/2 cup white converted rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 dash ground coriander
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about half an hour or until all the moisture is absorbed by the rice. Stir and serve.

171 calories per serving; 3 g. total fat per serving; 7 g. protein per serving

Cilantro Lime Rice

The original recipe by Carol Hecht (Los Angeles Times, December 1999) was inspired by the cuisine of Trinidad. This is my bladder-friendly version. The Caribbean flavor goes well with warm flour tortillas wrapped around refried pinto and grated Mozzarella cheese. Serve with sliced pear for dessert.

  • 1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated lime zest
  • 1/4 tsp. salt or onion salt
  • 1 dash pepper (optional)
  1. Place hot rice in a serving bowl. Add cilantro, lime zest, salt and pepper if desired. Mix well and serve.

113 Calories per serving; 1 g. total fat per serving; 3 g. protein per serving