Rob Qld
In this installment of Tabletop Wrestling, Jay Friedman and Hanna Raskin debate whether brown rice deserves a place at the table.

Jay Friedman


Which Rice is Right? Two Eaters Show Their Colors

Rob Qld
In this installment of Tabletop Wrestling, Jay Friedman and Hanna Raskin debate whether brown rice deserves a place at the table.

Jay Friedman is sticking to white rice.

As a white rice lover, I simply don't understand brown rice.

Oh, I've heard the arguments that brown rice is healthier. But why make that assumption?

If it's about the fiber found in the bran of brown rice, it's my understanding that in a typical serving size, there relatively little more of it than what's in white rice. Besides, brown rice becomes rancid faster than white rice because the fatty acids in the germ go bad.

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And then there's the question about whether we should even be eating brown rice. Compared to cows, humans have only one stomach, with ours challenged to process brown rice's outer bran and the plant toxins they contain. This can result in bloating and other digestive problems. White rice, in contrast, is considerably easier to chew, digest, and assimilate.

For me, the rice debate really boils down to taste. If you like the nuttiness and chewiness of brown rice (and you think it's better for you), then by all means enjoy it. I'll take white rice, as I think brown rice dulls the flavor of food for which it serves as a bed, especially Asian food. (Actually, it doesn't have to be a background player. Eat a bowl of high quality, Koshihikari white rice on its own and its natural sweetness will amaze you.) The soft and fluffy texture of white rice is the canvas I prefer on my plate.

This is especially true for sushi. I'm aware that there's a new place in Pioneer Square that's serving sushi with GABA rice--germinated brown rice that's known as hatsuga genmai in Japan. I've never been a fan of the ridiculous rolls we have in the U.S., but if you want a "Bad Boy" roll with cream cheese and teriyaki sauce that's deep-fried, then the brown rice it contains will further cover the flavor of the fish. Give me simple nigiri, with a luxurious layer of delicately sliced fish sitting on a perfect platform of polished white rice. That's beautiful and delicious--and still healthy.

But Hanna Raskin is a brown rice fan.

Like Jay, I have no intention of judging other eaters' rice opinions. If a rice lover wants to limit his diet to rice that's been milled and polished to a porcelain sheen, that's surely his prerogative. But I'd hate to give up the comforting nuttiness of brown rice, which happens to have white rice licked on every health-related score.

Just as I want white bread with my barbecue or on either end of my Fluffernutter sandwich, there are situations in which white rice is undeniably the best choice. I much prefer white rice for delicate preparations, such as sushi (although if my eating-out schedule has been especially indulgent, reaching for the brown rice rolls in the grocery cooler gives me a quick feel-good fix.) But I love brown rice with a Thai curry, since the dish's creamy sauce softens brown rice's tougher grains and its seasoning can stand up to brown rice's flavor punch.

And as someone who grew up getting cookies from a whole-grain bakery run as a worker's collective, I'm extraordinarily fond of the Moosewood-type dishes that can't be made without brown rice. I'm still sold on the virtues of cold cooked brown rice with almond milk for breakfast, and most of my happy memories from six months spent waiting tables at a vegetarian restaurant revolve around a salad of baby greens, chargrilled vegetables, goat cheese medallions, tahini dressing and a scoop of brown rice.

While longtime brown rice acolytes may associate their favorite grain with nuclear disarmament rallies and singalong sessions led by guys with woven guitar straps, science strongly suggests that even eaters who don't have personal hippie histories would do well to make the switch from white to brown rice whenever it's culinarily appropriate.

"We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes," Qi Sun, co-author of a 2010 study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine, was quoted as saying in a Harvard School of Public Health release announcing the findings.

And brown rice's health benefits aren't limited to diabetes prevention: Unlike white rice, which has been scrubbed of 67 percent of its vitamin B3; 80 percent of its vitamin B1; 90 percent of its vitamin B6; half of its manganese; half of its phosphorus; 60 percent of its iron and 100 percent of its dietary fiber and essential fatty acids, brown rice is packed with nutrients. Studies have linked brown rice consumption with weight loss, lower cholesterol and a reduced risk of heart disease. While those advantages may be irrelevant when preparing a dish that demands soft white rice, such as jambalaya, they're sufficient reason to ask for brown rice instead of white with your next order of Hunan spicy tofu.

Follow Voracious on Facebook & Twitter. Follow me at @hannaraskin

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