Wider and shorter than long grain rice, these medium rice varieties are generally 2-3 times longer than wide and average about 1/4 inch (5 to 6 mm) in length. Cooked medium grains have a moister and stickier consistency than long grain rice. Medium grain rice is ideal for risottos, paella, desserts and puddings.
Chefs tend to refer to Californian or southern versions of medium grain rice as true medium grain. The California medium grain may be known as Calrose, and requires growing regions that have special temperate climates. Medium grain growing regions include California, parts of Korea and China, Japan, and Australia. Where the rice is grown in countries other than the US, it is popularly eaten alone. It tends to be softer and a little stickier than other long grain varieties of rice.
In contrast, southern medium grain rice is not quite as soft, or as sticky. While the California version is a japonica strain of rice, southern versions are from the Indica strain. The rice tends to have more flavour, and is usually more yellowish than white when cooked (in white rice versions). It’s popular in the southern US, and it usually accompanies meat or beans with sauces.
Arborio rice bears some resemblance to California medium grain rice, but it’s very different when cooked. The outside of the grain becomes creamy, while the inside remains slightly firm. Arborio rice is especially popular in Italy, and is often used in dishes like risotto.