The most common confusion in the minds of rice-eating people, specially the recent converts to parboiled rice, is that ‘parboiled rice’ is the same as ‘brown rice’.
This is as much a fallacy as the one that says that ‘organic rice’ is brown rice only. It is as dumb as saying that all Indians are brown when we know that we can be black, brown and white in just one fully Indian family of known genealogy.
In parboiled rice, it just does not matter whether it is red, brown, purple, black or white. The process of parboiling would have transferred a part of the thiamine, or Vitamin B, from the bran to the kernel. Obviously, the rice will have more fibre if the bran is not polished off. The bran is not necessarily brown.
WHAT IS PARBOILING?
Parboiling is the process of soaking, steaming and drying rice paddy before it is milled or hulled. It can be done for white, red, brown or even the black rice that is now becoming popular and still fetches about ₹ 400 for a kilogram of rice because it is rare and new in Goa.
Brown rice can be ‘polished’ to partly, or fully, remove the bran after hulling to remove the outermost husk. A fully brown rice can become shades of brown or even white after parboiling, hulling and polishing!
As any farmer’s family that has been growing long duration (135 to 145 days crop period) Jaya variety will tell us, this grain will be white, whether it is parboiled, locally known as ukdde derived from the word ukadd meaning ‘to boil’, or unprocessed (suroi, suroy).
The Jaya rice is white at source: it does not become brown or black when parboiled. The same is the case of Goa Dhan-1, a pure-line selection made at ICAR-CCARI from Goa’s salt-tolerant land race, Korgut (NBPGR Accession No INGR14055).
Dr K Manohara, ICAR Scientist (Rice Breeding), has made another pure-line selection from mixed Korgut seed and named it Goa Dhan-2: it is red/brown kernel. Because of the colour preference, he has crossed brown rice variety, Jyoti with semi-dwarf Goa Dhan-1 to get Goa Dhan-4 (JK) that is dwarf with brown kernel rice. It is gaining popularity with the farmers and consumers in Goa.
THEN & NOW
The process of parboiling was a familiar one during my childhood. My friend, Clarice Vaz, has also shared her memories and photos with me. The harvested paddy was winnowed to remove the chaff and dried in the sun.
The woven bamboo mat known as dalli (attori in Saxtti Konkani) of old has now been replaced by tarpaulin sheets and other alternatives. When rice was needed for consumption, a batch of rice paddy was soaked in cold water for one and half day (36 hours) to give it a moisture content of 30 to 35%.
Thereafter, the rice paddy was drained in bamboo baskets (panttem) and put into a copper pot (known as anddo) with fresh cold water and heated on woodfire (now replaced by electric parboiling equipment) with periodic stirring with a challo (a big perforated bowl-shaped copper ladle with a bamboo handle). It was boiled until a few grains began to split.
The rice was then dried on the woven mats and stirred, by walking across the mat while dragging one’s feet through the grain, for two or three days. It was then cooled and milled.
Fortunately, these practices are being revived now as people are realizing the benefits of parboiled rice, specially the rice that is brown like us!
The author is the former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan