It is likely the world’s most abundantly consumed food, the primary dietary staple of half the world’s population. But in recent years, rice has made major menu inroads in the USA, too. During the 1990’s, per capita rice consumption doubled over the previous decade, and its popularity continues to grow. Today, the average American eats about 24 pounds of rice annually.
Much of the growth in rice’s popularity can be traced to restaurant use. According to a recent survey, 75% of U.S. consumers who dine away from home claim to “eat rice in restaurants on a regular basis.”
For the consumer, the attraction is three-fold:
* Increasingly popular ethnic cuisines often feature rice-based dishes.
* Rice has a healthful image.
* And the neutral to nutty flavor of rice is appealing.
Whole grain rice gaining favor for its nutritional benefits
Health conscious consumers seeking lower-carb, heart healthy foods are increasingly turning to whole grain rice—such as brown rice—as a smart choice.
Brown rice is simply white rice that has not had the brown-colored bran covering removed. Because brown rice still has the bran intact, it has more fiber than white rice. One cup of brown rice has 3 1/2 grams of fiber while the same amount of white rice has less than one gram. We all need from 25 to 38 grams of fiber in our diet every day.
Brown rice also contains nutrients like magnesium, manganese, and zinc. White rice has reduced levels of these nutrients, but is often fortified with iron, and some B vitamins.
Exotic rices becoming mainstream
Ethnic “fragrant” rice, such as Basmati rice from India and Pakistan, and Jasmine rice from Thailand, have garnered a growing following thanks to Indian and Thai restaurants that have multiplied across the U.S. in recent years.
Black rice has stepped into the spotlight as well, especially on menus featuring Pan-Asian cuisine. It’s another low-carb choice, is high in antioxidants, and looks stunning on the plate. You’ll see black rice used frequently in sushi dishes.
Renowned Chef Ian Pengelley of trendy London restaurant Gilgamesh has built a number of his culinary creations around black rice. Included among his offerings are Black Rice Risotto with King Crab, Stir Fried Black Rice, Black Rice Sushi Roll, and Black Sticky Rice and Barbequed Pork Wrapped in Bamboo Leaf.
And the days of the bland rice side dish are being replace by an abundance of flavored rices. Market leader Uncle Ben’s offers a bacon dozen, including Tex-Mex, Thai, and Mediterranean styles.
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