Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Really is “Converted” Rice Anyway?

By Cecily Costa.

Growing up in a large family you would have thought I had rice all time because it is so cheap. Truth is, my mother couldn’t cook rice and would always burn it. The closest I got to having rice was Rice-A-Roni once a month...or at my best friend’s house where her Armenian mother would make this amazing rice pilaf. Turns out her secret was parboiled rice. It was consistent and perfect every time.
I never really understood what parboiled (or converted) rice was until recently. I thought you might be interested in the lesson too. Truth be told that I actually prefer the taste of and texture of white rice, but I was very surprised that parboiled rice is actually higher in nutrients than regular rice. The diagram below is from Wikipedia and does a great job showing the process.

In the 1930s, the German-British scientist and chemist Erich Huzenlaub (1888–1964) invented a form of parboiling designed to retain more of the nutrients in rice, now known as the Huzenlaub Process. The process consisted first in vacuum drying the whole grain, then steaming, and finally vacuum drying and husking. Besides increasing rice's nutritional value, it also made it resistant to weevils and reduced cooking time. In 1932, Forrest Mars, Sr. (i.e. M&M Mars), moved to the United Kingdom with the goal of growing the Mars food company internationally. While in the United Kingdom, Mars learned of Erich Huzenlaub's work with rice. Huzenlaub's London based company was called "Rice Conversion, Ltd." The two eventually formed "Mars and Huzenlaub" in Houston, Texas, which gave Forrest Mars partial ownership of the "Huzenlaub Process" rice conversion patent. In 1942, through Mars's guidance and sponsorship, Huzenlaub created "Rice Conversion, Inc." with a Houston food broker, Gordon L. Harwell, forming Converted Rice, Inc., which sold its entire output to the U.S. and British Armed Forces. The advantage of this product was that it could be air-dropped to troops in the field without risk of weevil infestation, and it could be cooked more quickly than other rice products. Additionally, the converted rice product would retain more nutritional value. In 1944, with additional financing from the Defense Plant Corporation and an investment by Forrest Mars, it built a second large plant. In 1959, Forrest Mars purchased Erich Huzenlaub's interest in the company and merged it into his Food Manufacturers, Inc (i.e Uncle Ben’s).