If you've ever perused the boxes of rice on the shelves of the grocery store, you may have noticed something called converted rice. Is this a type of "instant" rice? How is it different from regular bags of uncooked rice?
What is Converted Rice?
Converted rice (also known as parboiled rice) is a type of rice that's been partially cooked and dried, which allows the rice to hold on to more nutrients compared with ordinary white rice. In fact, another name for converted rice is parboiled rice. The parboiling alters the starches so that the grains hold their shape better, stick together less, and also are less likely to stick to the bottom of the pot.
Converted rice takes 20 to 25 minutes to cook, which is a bit longer than regular white rice, whereas instant rice, which has been completely cooked and then dried, and takes about 5 minutes to cook.
The Anatomy of Rice
To understand what converted rice is, first let's look a grain of rice. Rice is the seed of a grassy plant in the genus Oryza. When it's first harvested, the rice seed consists of four parts: the germ, which is the reproductive part of the plant, and the part with the most nutrients; the endosperm, or starchy portion, which comprises the white rice granule; the bran, which is the edible outer covering of the white rice; and the husk or hull, which is inedible, and is considered part of the chaff.
Usually when processing rice, after harvesting and drying, the rice has its hulls or husks removed. In this form, with its bran and germ still intact, it becomes brown rice. To make white rice requires additional steps: the brown rice is milled, to grind away the bran and the germ. It's then polished and packaged, sometimes after undergoing an enriching process which replaces some, though not all, of the nutrients, like iron and B vitamins, that were lost during the milling process.
Converted rice is made in a slightly different way. After drying, the whole rice grains are pressure cooked, with their hulls still on. This process forces some of the vitamins and minerals from the bran and germ, along with some of its color, into the starchy portion of the rice. The hulls are then removed and the grains are milled and polished in the usual way.
The result is a slightly darker grain of rice, with more nutrients than normal white rice but fewer than brown rice. It also has significantly less fiber than brown rice, since the fiber is derived mostly from the bran.
Using Converted Rice
Cooking converted rice is a matter of simmering it in a covered pot for 20 to 25 minutes, which is a bit longer than ordinary white rice, but much quicker than brown rice, which can take up to 40 minutes.
You'll notice that when cooked, converted rice grains remain quite separated from each other, with less stickiness than ordinary white rice. It has a slightly sharp aftertaste, and the grains are firmer, less fluffy, than ordinary white rice. The grains themselves are darker, almost yellow.