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Food

Why Riceberry Is The Next Big Super Grain

Nutrient-dense riceberry is delicious, easy to cook and perfect for stir-fries, curries or any rice-based salad.
By Renée S. Suen
Why Riceberry Is The Next Big Super Grain

Photo, iStock.

In most grocery stores or food markets, you’ll find aisles dedicated to rice and rice products. It’s a household staple in many countries and comes in a mind-boggling number of varieties.

But it wasn’t until I went through 20 football fields’ worth of exhibit halls a few years ago at the THAIFEX-World of Food Asia international trade show that I encountered my latest obsession: Thai riceberry, a new type of super nutritious (and delicious) brown rice.

Home to more than 6,000 varieties, Thailand is one of the world’s leading rice producers, exporting 20 million tons of it every year. To address issues threatening the industry—including harvest loss due to climate change—researchers from Thailand’s Kasetsart University Rice Science Center have developed several new rice strains, including riceberry.

A cross-breed of Jao Hom Nin (a non-glutinous Thai purple rice) and Khao Dawk Mali 105 (Thai Jasmine), riceberry has all the desirable characteristics of its parents: It’s high in antioxidants and minerals like zinc and iron, and it cooks up light, fluffy and fragrant without needing to pre-soak.

riceberry - different containers of ricelined up at a supermarketThai Riceberry is the  perfect for eating with a stir-fry, to absorb saucy curries or to swap into any rice-based salad. Photo, Renée S. Suen.
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“I love brown rice [but] love riceberry more because it has a ton of health benefits,” says Chef Nuit Regular, co-owner of multiple Toronto restaurants (Kiin, Pai, Sabai Sabai, Sukhothai) and author of the cookbook Kiin, adding that she’s also a fan of riceberry’s texture.

How to use riceberry

Rice is a pantry staple in my household; I now use riceberry in its place. It’s the perfect vehicle to eat with a stir-fry, to absorb saucy curries, to accompany stews or broths chock-full of vegetables or meat, or even as a quick and simple side to a pan-seared steak and a tossed salad.

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Chilled, the nutty-tasting cooked grain has great integrity that holds its own in any rice-based salad (its purple shade also provides a pretty background colour to nuts, dried fruit, chopped peppers and herbs). Boiled congee-style, the Chinese rice porridge is great eaten with leftovers from Cantonese barbecue, like soy-braised chicken or barbecue pork, leftover stir-fry, or simply with crispy pork floss and a handful of chopped scallions.

Like many grains, riceberry also lends itself well to weekly meal prep. Simply cook a larger batch and freeze portions of leftover riceberry in thin, flat layers in between microwave-safe plastic wrap. To reheat, just place one of the frozen rice packs in the microwave on high for a minute and a half or until warmed through. Or re-steam in a pan with 2 to 4 tablespoons of water on low, stirring frequently until the water is absorbed and the rice is heated through.

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While I do enjoy cooked riceberry as it is, it’s often blended with equal parts Jasmine rice. Sold as a mix (or you can combine the two rice varietals yourself), the speckled rice can be prepared using the same foolproof method as making Jasmine rice.

How to cook riceberry

One reason I love riceberry so much is it’s prepared exactly like Jasmine rice. (Read more about Jasmine rice and other varieties of rice, including how to cook with them.)

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Here’s how:

  • Thoroughly rinse the grains
  • Put 1 part riceberry to 1.5 parts water in a medium pot
  • Cook, covered, over medium-high heat until the water comes to a boil, then simmer at low heat with the lid slightly ajar for 10 minutes, or until the water level has reduced and small steam holes in the rice appear
  • Cover and remove the pot of rice from the heat (turning off the stove) and let sit off-heat for 10 minutes more. Fluff the rice with a fork or utensil before serving.

Using a rice cooker

  • Place riceberry and water in a rice cooker (on white rice setting) and switch on to cook. The rice cooker will automatically turn off when the cooking process is complete. Let the rice rest for 10 minutes before removing the lid. Fluff with a fork or utensil before serving.

Riceberry congee

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  • To make congee: Bring 6-8 parts water to 1 part riceberry to a boil over medium heat in a pot, covered with a lid that’s slightly ajar. Turn down to simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Salt to taste.

Where to find riceberry

Full disclosure: in my first year of cooking with riceberry, I searched all over Toronto looking for it. I’ve since found it here and there at Fiesta Farms or 4Life Natural Foods

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Here are some select local retailers where you’ll most likely find riceberry (also labelled rice berry, black jasmine, or black berry rice):

Vancouver

Persia Foods
Price Smart Foods

Ottawa

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Herb & Spice
Natural Foods Pantry

GTA

Farm Boy
Vientiane Trading
Sunny Food Market
Field Fresh Supermarket
4 Life Natural Foods
Baldwin Naturals
Essence of Life Organics
Evergreen Natural Foods
Fiesta Farms
Noah's Natural Foods
Tutti Frutti

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Montreal

Bio-Terre
Ecollegey
Food de toi
Fruiterie Mile-End
P.A. Nature
Pomme d'Api
Alimentation Poivre et Sel
Épicerie moderne Verdicchio & Sons
Fleur Sauvage
Les Douceur du marché

Like so many other food products these days, riceberry is also available on Amazon.

Floating Leaf Riceberry Rice, $20 for 1 kg

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A bag of Floating Leaf riceberry rice.

This riceberry rice is grown in Thailand and distributed by a Canadian-owned family business.

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