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How to Cook the Perfect Basmati Rice

How to Cook the Perfect Basmati Rice

A steaming, fluffy pile of perfect basmati rice stirs the imagination and conjures far away places. Basmati is an integral part of Indian cuisine; the word “basmati” literally means “fragrant” in Hindi, the most prominent language in India, where approximately 70% of the world’s basmati rice is grown. Basmati has a unique, nutty aroma and has a light, airy texture when cooked.

Basmati is a long-grain rice, which means that the grain of rice is about four times as long as it is wide. The unique starch composition of long-grain rice means that it cooks lighter and more feathery and does not stick together like other types of rice. Medium-grain rice, like arborio (used frequently in risotto), is slightly shorter and has more starch content. Short-grain rice is the starchiest and stickiest of all rice—think sushi rice, the classic in this category.

Basmati rice is extraordinarily versatile and can be prepared with butter and fresh herbs as an accompaniment to curries and braised meats. It’s healthier than white rice because it has less starch, which also allows whatever flavorful sauce you might use to completely coat the rice. When buying basmati rice, look for a grain that is slightly off-white or golden, which means that it has been aged a few years. If possible, buy basmati rice that is packaged in a cloth bag labeled “extra long-grain” rather than rice in plastic bag.

Cooking basmati is easy and requires minimal preparation. Washing basmati before cooking is essential to ensure that the starch is removed. You do not need to wash the rice until the water runs clear, like sushi rice, but you should wash it a couple of times either in a fine mesh sieve or filling a pot with cold water, stirring the rice with your hands, then draining and repeating. Soaking the rice can produce softer rice, though it is not necessary. To cook, use a rice cooker or a heavy-bottomed pot over the stove. For every cup of basmati rice, a cup and a half of water is needed for cooking.

Stovetop White Basmati Rice

SERVES 4-5
PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
Salt (to taste)

Preparation

Rinse the rice using a fine mesh sieve and cold running water; or measure the rice into a heavy bottom pot and cover with cold running water, stir, drain, and repeat.

Soak the rice for up to an hour (optional).

Pour water into pot, add salt, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Immediately turn down boiling water to a low simmer and let simmer, covered and undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let steam for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

Cheesy Herbed Basmati Rice

SERVES 4-5
PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 tbs. olive oil
1 cup basmati rice (uncooked)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup water
1 cup broth (chicken, beef, vegetable)
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup green onions
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
3 tbs. fresh Parmesan cheese, Grated
1 tbs. fresh basil
1 tsp. fresh thyme
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Preparation

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large sauté pan. Add rice and garlic to the pan and cook until rice is slightly toasted (approximately 2 minutes). Add water, broth, and salt to the pan. Cover and reduce heat to simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (approximately 15 minutes). Stir in remaining ingredients for a perfect rice dish.

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