What champagne is among wines, basmati is among rice varieties. Call it unique or incomparable or simply the best, all sobriquets fit and how!
Basmati means ‘the queen of fragrance’ in Hindi and there could not be a more suitable name for this immensely aromatic rice variety.
Like true champagne comes only from the Champagne region in France, true basmati is grown only in Himalayan foothills known as the Terai region in India. Basmati derives its unique characteristics from the fine alluvial soil of the Terai that is nurtured by monsoons and Himalayan glacial melts.
As they say, imitation is the best form of flattery. There are many pseudo-basmati varieties in the market but they can only try to ape the real basmati without coming anywhere close in terms of aroma, flavor and texture.
So what makes basmati the best rice variety ever? With due apologies to Shakespeare for giving a foodie twist to his poetic words, let me count the ways in which I crown thee the Queen of Rice –
- Basmati is unbelievably aromatic – When a pot of basmati is cooked in the kitchen, the whole house goes fragrant. The reason is an aromatic compound named 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, which basmati has about 12 times more than any other variety of rice. As you know, half the joy of eating lies in savouring the aromas of food. So even before you begin digging into a plate of basmati rice, your mind is already in pleasure zone.
- Basmati is beautiful to look at – You can call Basmati the supermodel among rice varieties. The grains are unbelievably long and slim (6.5 mm – 7.5 mm). On boiling, these nearly double in length (and in overall volume) but stay pleasantly slender in circumference. The grains retain a hint of firmness, goes fluffy and stays separate. No sticking, no clumping. With its long pearly grains, a plate of basmati rice is a visual delight too.
- Basmati is outstanding in taste – The taste of basmati is heavenly. Slightly nutty with a hint of sweetness, it goes beautifully with curries, gravies, beans and pulses. Two premium rice based north Indian delicacies – biryani and pulao – will be impossible to make with any other variety of rice. Not just savouries, basmati is equally great in sweet preparations like meethe chawal, kheer and phirni, three absolutely delightful Indian desserts won’t be half as delicious if not for the basmati rice that goes into them.
- Basmati becomes better and better with age – Like quality wines, basmati’s quality, flavour and cost too go northwards with ageing. The older the grain, the superior the flavor, the higher the price.
Cooking basmati, plain boiled or for a fancier preparation, is an art in itself. First the rice is washed well and then soaked undisturbed for at least half an hour in cold water. Then it is lovingly cooked in a wide and heavy bottomed pan with enough room to let it swell magnificently. In the end, some clarified butter is poured on top that adds further depth to basmati’s already amazing flavor.
At Tandoori Flames, we use only and only genuine and aged Indian basmati in all our rice preparations – right from the plain boiled rice that goes beautifully with dal tadka and dal makhani to richer pulaos that are delicious with raitas and the awesome biryanis that are the acme of Indian non-vegetarian cooking.
So if you wish to discover what makes basmati the best rice ever, do be sure to order a rice dish the next time you visit us.