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Rice, like wine, ages gracefully with time. And if Merlot or Chardonnay are the premium varieties of wine, then basmati would be a fitting analogous pair. Basmati rice is hands down, the crown of all rice varieties.
But what makes basmati rice so special? Is it because it sounds fancy? Or is it the basmati price that makes it so rare? How does basmati rice amp up the flavour of biryanis or curries?
Here is everything that you need to know about basmati rice:
Basmati Rice is a variety of rice that is cultivated at the foothills of the Himalayas. Its grains are long, thin, and pointed, and come in a variety of colours. According to the Directorate of Rice Development, India is the lead exporter of basmati rice globally, with the Middle East, the UK, and the US as primary import destinations.
In Hindi, the word ‘basmati’ means ‘queen of fragrance,’ and it stands true to this name. The woody, popcorn-like scent is complimented with its distinct nutty and spicy flavour, both of which are a product of 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline (AP2). Due to its low starch content, cooked basmati rice grains are fluffy and non-sticky, with each individual grain separate from each other.
Typically, basmati variety can be categorised as white and brown rice. Brown basmati is basically unmilled basmati with its husk intact. White basmati is softer and fluffier, while brown is nuttier and possesses more intense flavours. Brown basmati can be equated to whole grains.
Apart from the above, a publication by APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) states that India recognises 29 varieties of basmati under the Seeds Act (1966), including Dehraduni Basmati, Pusa Basmati, and Karnal Local Basmati, amongst others.
Different cooks have different methods to cook basmati rice. For example, some recommend soaking the rice for at least 20-30 minutes before cooking it, while others discourage soaking basmati rice. Thus, the instructions on the packaging will offer the best direction for cooking the rice.
However, when you are cooking with basmati premium rice, these standard steps apply:
Sauteeing the rice grains in some butter or oil coats every individual grain and imparts a nutty, smoky texture to the rice.
Everyone knows that basmati is a premium grade rice. Hence, it must also be stored accordingly. Here are a few tips for storing basmati rice:
Here are some interesting facts about basmati rice:
Basmati is comparatively lower on calories and contains several other micronutrients, which makes it a healthier option. Furthermore, it is also often enriched with additional minerals to add to its nutritional value. According to an international report published in the Journal of Pediatrics, basmati rice has the least amount of arsenic content amongst all varieties, which adds to its health benefits.
If you are trying to lose weight, then the basmati rice can come to your rescue. The two main factors that come to play is the low glycemic index (GI) and high amylose content of basmati. With a GI of 50-58 (as discovered in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition), it offers sustained energy to the body. At the same time, amylose takes longer to digest, which makes you feel full for a longer duration.
Due to its low GI, basmati offers better blood-sugar regulation, making it diabetes-friendly. However, do consult your physician before incorporating it into your diet. Similarly, those with gluten allergies or lactose intolerance can switch to basmati rice and basmati rice-based products like flour, milk, etc.
Long-grain basmati rice is not only delicious but counts as a whole grain, especially brown basmati rice. As a result, it offers all the benefits of whole grains, such as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer, heart diseases, along with reduced inflammation.
If you wish to get your hands on basmati of the premiumvariety, here is what you should look for:
It is clear that basmati rice holds a special place when compared to its counterparts. Besides its health benefits, basmati’s delicious fragrance and ability to absorb flavours from spices, gravies, curries, and condiments make it a culinary delight. Thus, basmati justifies its price and emerges as a “must-have” food ingredient in your pantry!
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