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I love the Chinese food we get from takeaway shops, and often to save on the cost we will cook our own rice at home. This is good, but the rice never seems to have the same texture as takeaway rice - it's less sticky, and much harder to eat with chopsticks. I usually use plain long grain rice as that's what I have in the cupboard. Does anyone know what kind they would use in a Chinese restaurant or takeaway?

Also, out of interest, what kind is used in authentic Chinese cooking? (I am well aware that this is vastly different from what we eat as "Chinese food" in the West!)

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Well in Chinese cooking we use a wide variety actually. Typically speaking...

Medium or Long Grain Rice

  • White Rice
  • Fried Rice

Sweet Rice or Glutinous Rice

  • Sticky Rice (You commonly see this at Dim Sum places in the sticky rice dishes wrapped in lotus leaves, among other places.)

There are others of course, but those are the common ones you'll find since you were asking about Chinese Takeout. The shorter the grain, the more "sticky" it will be. However, that doesn't mean that long grain rice should come out grainy either. I suppose different restaurants will do it differently, around here they generally use long grain rice for "white rice". This is how my mother taught me to make rice:

  1. Wash Rice a few times till there isn't any more murkiness.
  2. Add water till it reaches your first knuckle on your pointer finger when the tip is just barely touching the rice (should generally work for any amount of rice).
  3. Bring to boil, turn to simmer (covered). Check back in 10 to 15 minutes If the water is mostly gone, and it isn't at the texture you like, you can always add a bit more water.
  4. Let it sit for a few minutes after the heat is off.

In China, you'll find all different grains. I've seen both short and long grains, and have seen plain white, long grain rice served as well.

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Glad you asked!

I'm a Chinese person who lives in Shanghai.

Based on what I see and my girlfriend's preferrence, native young guys in Shanghai are after rice from Thailand, in Chinese "泰国香米". It looks long and thin, just like @talon8 said. This kind of rice has sweet smell.

Personally, I prefer rice from Wuchang. Wuchang(五常) in a place in Heilongjiang Province, in the North East China. Wuchang rice is basically considered the best in China by elders.

Also, rice in Chinese cuisines is served alone, while in many South Asia cuisines rice is mixed with pork or other kinds of meat.

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  • Welcome to the site Matt, thanks for your input. – BaffledCook Mar 24 '13 at 19:01
  • Google translates the first one to 'Thai rice' (I assume what's sold as 'jasmine rice' in the U.S.) A bit of research into Wuchang rice suggest that it's a highly aromatic short grain rice. (and that there may have been attempts to pass of fake Wuchang rice in 2010) – Joe Oct 19 '14 at 21:28
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I think Jasmine Rice is what you see in many Chinese restaurants. Short grain rice (aka sushi rice) is more popular for Japanese food. The stickiness of regular (as opposed to glutinous) rice is a factor of the amount of water you use. The more water, the stickier. Glutinous rice is not really used for regular food, its mainly for special dishes and desserts.

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There are several types of rices used in chinese cooking. In general, rice is categorised in length: Long, medium and short or glutenous. The length makes a difference, more or less starch. Longer the less starch, the shorter or more round, more starch. Some other factors to consider when cooking rice is liquid amount and time/heat in cooking rice.

I use the term "white rice", which is just brown rice without its shell/husk.

Plain white rice for eating with a meal is usually just long grain rice or even Thai jasmine rice for the fragrance. Depending on rice texture needed: more sticky, more water. Less sticky, less water.

Fried rice is usually made of the same rice as plain white rice, long grain or jasmine rice. Home style friend rice, typically uses day old rice, but restaurants will use fresh cooked rice, just made with less water to make the rice a bit less sticky.

Chinese porridges or jook, can use any type of rice, but usually more short grain to make the porridge thicker in texture. This dish uses more liquid and a long cooking times to get the most out of the rice. Some porridges are very thick and some are less. Typically the breakfast porridge is a bit thicker. When people are sick or for the elderly, a thinner consistency porridge is in order, helps for easier digestion.

Japanese/Koreans tend to use medium to short grain for their rice of choice. This tends to me much more sticky, but without it being soft. Typically sushi rice is made of this short grain rice. One-giri or rice balls are also the same rice, but not seasoned with vinegar as the sushi rice.

Dessert rice is usually the shortest grain rice, or sweet glutenous rice. Mochi,is short grain sweet rice. It is freshly cooked, and actually beaten and mashed to make it one homogenous texture. Other types of sweet rice dishes are usually steamed to get the right texture for the dish.

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  • Hello and welcome! It's a nice answer, +1 from me. I had to edit out your health claims though, they're off-topic here. – rumtscho Mar 6 '16 at 9:31
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I wrote a blog post on this issue, in terms of conclusion:

  • In the case of boiled rice with Chinese dishes, use japonica rice (Medium Grain Rice).
  • In the case of cooking porridge, use japonica rice (Medium Grain Rice).
  • In the case of fried rice, use indica rice (Long Grain Rice).
  • In the case of Claypot, use indica rice (Long Grain Rice). Glutinous rice is used to make traditional foods such as zongzi.

And southern Chinese like to eat indica rice, northerners like to eat japonica rice.

I will paste the complete method of discrimination, why and the story here:

A stereotype is very popular outside China. It says, “Chinese people can not live without rice.”

This stereotype is incorrect, because in fact, only people in southeast and northeast of China or in the eastern plains of China have the preference of eating rice. For people living in the northwest and southwest, they may eat rice as often as Europeans and North Americans – only a few times a month.

For the Chinese in the northwest, they prefer eating food made of flour, such as all kinds of noodles, cakes, steamed bread, Liangpi and so on.

However, for Chinese people who eat rice, they also have different tastes. This difference in diet between the north and the south exists in many kinds of Chinese food, even a bowl of simple rice.

To sum up in one sentence: Chinese in the south like to eat indica rice, while the Chinese in the north like to eat japonica rice.

Several different kinds of rice that Chinese people often eat

In areas where rice is not the main food, the differences between different kinds of rice may not be understood, so let’s briefly introduce several popular rice in China and how to eat them.

The two most mainstream rice types are indica and japonica rice mentioned above. Chinese people will cook these two kinds of rice directly, and then eat them together with different Chinese dishes.

In fact, these two kinds of rice are easily distinguished from each other in appearance. Indica rice is an elongated ellipsoid, while Japonica rice is close to a sphere.

enter image description here

Indica rice on the left and japonica rice on the right

In agriculture, the size of the refined japonica broken rice is less than 15%, while that of fine indica rice is no more than 30%; The protein content of indica rice is over 8%, while that of japonica rice is only 7%; The gel consistency of japonica rice is more than 70, and that of indica rice is only more than 60, so japonica rice is obviously much stickier than indica rice.

These data make these two kinds of rice have completely different flavors.

If you have tried to cook at home, you may find that sometimes even if you put the same amount of water and cook for the same time, the hardness of the rice is different. It is possible that the rice you bought is a different variety of rice.

The amylose and protein content of japonica rice is less than that of indica rice, and it is not as soft and delicious as indica rice. The gel consistency of indica rice is not enough and it is not sticky after cooking.

As far as cooking scene are concerned, Chinese prefer japonica rice when cooking rice and porridge, while Chinese prefer japonica rice when cooking fried rice. In addition, if you want to make Japanese sushi, you should also choose japonica rice, because Indica rice is difficult to kneading into rice balls.

Besides these two kinds of rice, Chinese people also grow and eat glutinous rice. The nutritional value of glutinous rice is much higher than that of japonica and indica rice, but eating too much glutinous rice can lead to indigestion problem.

Glutinous rice contains as much as 90% amylopectin, which means that when you cook it, it will become sticky. Chinese people do not usually eat glutinous rice for every meal like japonica rice or indica rice, but use it to make a variety of snacks and festival foods, such as Zongzi, Glutinous Rice Chicken, Cifangao, Eight Delicacies Rice, Rice Cakes and so on.

Glutinous rice is also divided into japonica rice and indica rice, but the overall taste is not different, they can be used to make sticky food.

The Food War between Rice

Although japonica rice and indica rice are the main food in China, people’s evaluation of them has changed several times in the past decades. Once upon a time, people who liked japonica rice looked down on those who liked indica rice. Later, people who ate indica rice looked down on those who ate japonica rice. Now everything has returned to the original state.

To understand why different kinds of rice cause this cultural phenomenon, we need to connect the planting sites of japonica and indica rice with the history of China in recent decades.

First of all, we need to understand that japonica rice and indica rice are grown in different areas in China. Japonica rice is mainly planted in the northern yield areas (Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning province), while indica rice is mainly planted in the south (Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong).

Although indica rice and japonica rice have their own taste and cooking methods, this regional planting method itself separates the preferences of Chinese people living in the south and north: the northern people like japonica rice, while the southern people like indica rice.

Before the reform and opening-up, the three northeastern provinces Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning province, have been economically developed areas of the People’s Republic of China, and also the major grain producing areas in China.

Differences in agriculture also makes the two kinds of rice different: Northeast China is located in the high latitudes, where only one batch of rice can be harvested every year. As a result, land there is more fertile than that in the south.

This makes the average quality of japonica rice sold in China higher than that of indica rice. This makes the Chinese before the reform and opening up generally believe that the rice produced in Northeast China (japonica rice) is the best rice.

However, in the early stage of reform and opening up, this situation has undergone obvious changes.

On the one hand, the economy of the southeast coastal area is developing rapidly, and people here are the first to embrace private economy. A large number of southerners travel to all parts of China to do business, which makes their eating habits spread along with the population movement.

On the other hand, fragrant rice from Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, has entered the Chinese market as an absolutely high-end product.

Before 1992, the supply of grain and oil in the People’s Republic of China was part of the planned economy, and local residents could only buy limited varieties of grain from state-run grain and oil stores by rationing. The system was abolished in 1992, and residents were able to buy food, including rice, from any store.

In the same year, Thai fragrant rice became the first batch of overseas cereals to enter the Chinese market. Although the price of fragrant rice in Thailand was very expensive for ordinary Chinese people at that time, it was this price that made it synonymous with “high-end rice”.

Thai fragrant rice is a well-known rice in the world. It has a very unique aroma. This aroma is not available in other rice. Besides fragrance, Thai fragrant rice is also a kind of indica rice, which has the oval appearance of indica rice.

When Thai fragrant rice defines the image of high-end rice, the status of indica rice in the eyes of Chinese consumers has also been improved. During the period from rice to 2010s, people who like to eat indica rice will despise those who eat japonica rice.

However, it is obvious that not all indica rice is as good as Thai fragrant rice. With the development of consumption level, people’s purchasing power generally increases. After everyone tasted rice from different regions, people began to fall in love with japonica rice again.

Now, even considering the dietary differences between the north and the south, Chinese consumers generally prefer japonica rice to indica rice.

What Kind of Rice Should be Recommended?

Unlike Japan and Thailand, China’s rice brand awareness is weak. There may be rice from different places or different kinds of rice from the same place in the same brand. People often distinguish the type and quality of rice by its producing area.

Therefore, buying Chinese rice mainly depends on the place of origin or variety, just like buying Chinese Longjing Green Tea. The word Longjing is a place name, not a brand. Here are some favorite rice producing areas for Chinese consumers.

  • Panjin rice

Panjin rice is produced in Panjin City, which is located in the southwest of Liaoning Province, the center of Liaohe Delta.

There are four distinct seasons here, with rain and heat at the same time. Farmers raise crabs in rice fields to form an ecosystem, which makes Panjin rice soft and delicate.

  • Wuchang rice

Wuchang rice is produced in Wuchang City, which is located in the middle of Heilongjiang Province.

Wuchang rice is the imperial rice used by the royalty in the late Qing Dynasty, its grains are full, the texture is full, the color is clear and bright, the fragrance is rich, and it has more rice flavor. After cooking, there seems to be a layer of oil on the surface of the rice grain.

  • LiuLin Rice

Liulin rice is produced in Liulin Village, Donggang City, Liaoning Province, which is close to the Yalu River and the Yellow Sea. Farmers use a mixture of fresh water from the Yalu River and salt water from the Yellow Sea to give Liulin rice a unique flavor.

Here, in addition to planting Chinese native varieties of japonica rice, but also grow Japanese varieties of japonica rice “Koshihikari”. The Koshihikari Rice produced here is one of the few rice that can compete with Japanese origin in quality.

  • Zengcheng silk rice

Zengcheng silk rice is a kind of indica rice, which is an excellent rice species derived from Zengcheng wild rice. Its rice grain is slender and shiny, so it is called silk rice. In the Qing Dynasty, it was regarded as the best rice variety at that time and was known as “Rice Jasper”.

Silk Rice is chewy, fragrant, and the grain is loose and dry. If you stirring cooked silk rice with soup water, you will see the rice ball spread out, and the soup is still crystal clear and uncloudy, which is the best choice for claypot rice.

  • Wannian rice

The producing area of Wannian rice is Wannian County in the east of Jiangxi Province, which is the southeast bank of Poyang Lake.

Because of its long sunshine, abundant precipitation and long frost-free period, it is called “God’s place for rice production” by Dr. Richard Stockton MacNeish, an agricultural archaeologist.

Although it is located in southern China, and it is a kind of indica rice, the annual planting rule is enforced here, so it is very expensive.

Of course, in China, it is not just rice that is worth tasting. If you have the chance to travel to China, you will find that there are differences in rice in each area.

There is an old Chinese saying that “firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea” is used to describe the most important consumer goods in the history of ordinary people in China for thousands of years, and rice ranks second. For many Chinese people, rice is one of the main courses of every meal, and people can even eat rice without any other dishes.

But to tell the difference between rice, even if only the difference between japonica rice and indica rice, you need to have a special love of rice, eating rice at least once a week. Of course, if you are still cooking rice in the BBC Food way, it doesn’t matter what kind of rice it is, because that cooking method destroys everything.

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  • Hi, welcome to SA and thank you for your contribution! Have a look at the Tour and Help Center. I find your answer very interesting and well written. Seeing as you have published this as a blog post elsewhere, you could maybe replace your answer with the summary and link to that post. I think the answer would also benefit from some external links and references, and I think the final remark on BBC Food should probably be left out (even though I know what you mean and do agree). – LSchoon Jul 30 at 9:58
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    Also, you should be aware that by posting on here you implicitly license your contribution under CC BY-SA 4.0, in case this conflicts with any policies of the blog you wrote the post for. – LSchoon Jul 30 at 9:59
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the best way to find out what exact rice the takeaway shop uses is to get to know the owners/cooks well by being a constant polite patron. once you've established a connection with them they will generally tell you what rice they use if you're kind and polite in asking in a round about way. example of an old friend whose eaten there many times asking after rice type (oh I just love the white rice you guys here, it's good in your fried rice and plain, cold warm or hot it accompanies the sauces well. what brand/type is it? I would like to stock it into my own pantry) as for chinese rice types you can find the various province's types on any google search for that particular topic. each one will be different and then will be further sub divided into preference by cooking style (i.e chinese people like noodles as much as rice in Cantonese cooking, etc..)
I have personally eaten ALOT of take out and I make it a point to go to every chinese restaurant in my local area and while traveling I try to have that local area's chinese at least once. I probably have visited over the course of 10 years about 120-150 restaurants in many locales in the united states. and I've been cooking my own version of chinese just as long. I do hope the above answer helps.

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Some of these answers are inaccurate. The stickiness and softness i.e the texture of a rice is mostly affected by the rice type, irrespective of the cooking timing or water content (although this also affects it). You are not going to get anything like e.g Thai jasmine rice texture (that is popular in asia) with an American locally bought rice because before takeaways were heard of, the norm was that the average American likes a chewy full bodied grain that does not stick to the neighboring grain and can easily be cooked like spaghetti. Asians however have been bred with the sticky soft type grain. I know this because i spent half my life in both worlds.

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Look for any sticky rice (or short-grain rice) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_rice

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-3

Best Chinese restaurants buy in bulk Basmati rice makes a hell of a differences!

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    But... basmati rice is traditionally used in India, not China, right? (Also, surely every restaurant buys their basic ingredients in bulk, whether they're good or not.) – Cascabel Oct 19 '14 at 21:19

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