The late comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.” There is, to be sure, immense comfort in eating the same thing bite after bite, and for me, white rice is the blandest, sweetest, and most soul-nourishing carb in existence.
In Korean food, side dishes (banchan) are seasoned with a heavier hand (whether salt, sugar, or vinegar), because nine-and-a-half out of ten times, you’re meant to eat them with a bowl of unfettered white rice.
There’s a reason rice is the bedrock of so many other cultures’ cuisines, too: It’s a blank canvas for flavor. Here are a few of my preferred options.
A large bag is great for everyday consumption. Nishiki
How much rice do you eat in a week? If the answer is a lot, then mail-ordering a larger bag, like this 15-pounder, can be a real help when it comes to stocking your pantry (and saving money). Nishiki is among the top brands for your standard white medium-grain rice, perfect for everyday eating.
A well-known flavor produced in California. Botan
The Calrose rice variety was developed in California in the late 1940s and continues to dominate rice production in that state. Prized for its tenderness and clean taste, Calrose is another good option for your quotidian rice supply—despite the “extra fancy” label on the Botan brand’s bag. Nishiki also offers a good Calrose, if you’re looking to buy in bulk.
Packaged in a lightweight, resealable bag. Kokuho
Sometimes in life, rice should be sticky, and Kokuho’s grains cook up to the ideal consistency for sushi. The stuff can also stand alone, or at least seasoned with a little salt, sugar, and rice vinegar. Plate alongside a piece of salmon or soy sauce–slicked broccoli, and dinner is served. Extra credit: This bag comes with a resealable zipper, which I am especially fond of.
The grain on this particular brand is especially long. Royal
A great basmati is light, fluffy, and aromatic, and this version from Royal Chef’s Secret delivers on all fronts. The “world’s longest grain” touts the copy on the bag. You’ll want this rice if you’re planning to serve a curry, stew, or other soupy main that needs a pillowy rice to soak up the sauce.
Fragrant and reminiscent of pandan, a tropical plant used in Southeast-Asian cooking. Four Elephants
Basmati’s long-lost cousin, jasmine rice is especially aromatic once cooked. The brand Four Elephants sources its grains—revered for authentic fragrance and taste—from Thailand.
A minute and 30 seconds later, these grains come out of the microwave perfectly cooked and fluffy. CJ
Super-popular in South Korea, CJ’s Hetbahn microwaveable white rice comes in a single-portion size perfect for solo eaters. And while nothing beats a bowl of just-made stovetop rice, this shelf-stable product—cooked and packed within 24 hours of milling—tastes surprisingly fresh.
Due to its high starch content, this product produces the creamiest texture. Riso Bello
When making risotto, you need the starchiness of a fatter, shorter grain like arborio rice. This six-pack from Riso Bello is a fine option. The same brand actually sells another less commonly available shape called carnaroli, which is also very good for risotto.