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Role Of Basmati Rice In Indian Cuisine


“One type of rice nourishes one hundred types of people.” – Author Unknown

Meet the type that nourishes one thousand types of people – Basmati! It is an aromatic variety, with long, slender grains, that have a slight nutty flavour. In my previous article on, I referred to it as “India’s most prised culinary gift to the world”. India exports it all over the globe, and it is used in a variety of dishes, including pilafs, puddings and salads. But ever wondered, how do we Indians use it? I enlist for you, probably the three most common uses of Basmati in India.

Biryani: A spicy (I am saying spicy, not hot!), robust curry with succulent pieces of mutton (The term in India almost always refers to goat meat.) / chicken/ fish is layered with “just done”, soft and fluffy Basmati in a large pan. The layers of rice are sprinkled with saffron-infused milk, dices of butter, fresh coriander, and refreshing mint leaves. Topped with browned onions, the preparation is then sealed, the lid of the pan held tightly into place with some wheat dough. Finally, it is placed on a small fire, some burning charcoal placed on the lid, to give heat from both top and bottom. Since the contents of the pan are sealed, no aroma is lost. The rice soaks up the juices from the meat.

It is impossible to cook a successful Biryani unless Basmati is used. It can withstand prolonged cooking, unlike other varieties that become mushy.

Boiled Rice: (I can hear you saying, “No-brainer!”, but read on!) Boiled with salt, and eaten with dal (lentil curry) has to be the most common way for North Indians to consume this variety. Restaurants/ dhabas use drainage method, which keeps “every grain separate” and fluffy. At home though, people use the simpler, absorption method, which uses a measured quantity of water. A simple meal of Dal Chawal (Chawal is Hindi word for rice.) is elevated to celestial heights when served with desi ghee! (Clarified butter) Rajma Chawal, the vegetarian dish comprising of chawal and an onion, tomato, ginger and garlic-based red kidney bean curry, can give any meat preparation a tough fight!

Kheer: Almost every country in the world has its own way of preparing this dessert. India is no exception. Slender grains of Basmati are slowly simmered in full-cream milk with sugar, juicy raisins, crunchy almond flakes and sweet-scented cardamoms, to a creamy, comforting treat! A few restaurants enhance this creaminess further by adding some khoya/ mawa, a dairy product made by reducing whole milk to the point where most of its moisture evaporates, and fat & protein are left behind! The world’s most expensive spice, saffron, when added gives kheer a warm, sunset yellow hue.

Pudding made with this variety is less sticky in texture than the one made with short-grain ones.




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