Long-grained rice refers to Oriental varieties with long, slender grains. The best known variety is Basmati, an aromatic, fragrant, long grain, slender rice, with a nutty flavour.
'Basmati', when literally translated from Hindi, means 'queen of fragrance'. It is considered one of the best varieties of rice in the world, and has been exported to several countries for centuries. Authentic Basmati rice is sourced from the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India. Whilst Basmati rice can be sourced from India and Pakistan, Indian Basmati is traditionally considered premium.
The colour of Basmati is translucent, creamy white. Brown Basmati Rice is also available but the most commonly used is white Basmati. The grain is long (6.61 - 7.5 mm) or very long (more than 7.50 mm and 2 mm breadth). The length-to-width ratio is another criterion to identify Basmati rice. This needs to be over 3.0 in order to qualify as Basmati. Above all, the grains must also be properly aged to reduce their moisture content in order to obtain the perfect aroma and flavour.
Basmati generally comes as dry, separate grains. Upon cooking, the texture becomes tender but remains firm without splitting, and it is non-sticky. The rice elongates almost twice upon cooking but does not fatten much. The aroma is also significant.
There are many varieties of Basmati rice in India, including certain bogus ones. But, it is difficult to identify the original ones until you have experienced it!
Soaked and cooked long grained rice
The rice needs to be soaked for 20-30 minutes. Then, the soaking water is discarded and twice the amount of water by volume is added to the rice for cooking. It can be cooked in a pressure cooker or in a pan. It can also be cooked by adding 3-4 times the water in a pan and draining the excess water once cooked. Always boil the rice just a little less than done, to keep the grain whole and separate. Take a grain between your thumb and index finger and press. If it breaks on pressing but does not leave a hard speck, then it is done.
Soaked long grained rice
Soaking the rice beforehand helps in giving a fine texture to the cooked rice and also saves on cooking time. Rice should be rinsed in water 3 to 4 times till the water becomes clear. Then the rice should be soaked in at least twice the amount of water for 20-30 minutes. Drain the water and use as required.
How to Select
• Basmati rice is available pre-packaged as well as in bulk containers.
• If purchasing pre-packaged rice, check to see if there is a "use-by" date on the package since long grain rice, owing to its natural oils, has the potential to become rancid if kept too long.
• Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the rice are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness.
• Whether purchasing rice in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture, contamination with stones and debris, or infestation by insects.
• The rice is fluffy and dry and the grains do not stick together after it is cooked.
• Steaming, boiling and baking are excellent preparation methods for Basmati rice, which can be used in pulaos, salads and a variety of cooked dishes.
• Basmati rice combines well with sauces and curries.
• It is also perfect for biryani and pulaos.
• Kheer, Sweet Saffron Rice and Phirni may be prepared as desserts.
• Heat cooked rice with milk or soymilk. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and honey for a delicious rice pudding.
• Use leftover Basmati rice for cold rice salads that are great for on-the-go lunches.
• Be creative and add tofu plus your favourite vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices.
• For a simple yet delicious lunch or dinner entrée, serve beans and rice accompanied by the vegetables of your choice.
• Basmati rice can be spruced up with toppings of your choice such as nuts, sesame seeds and healthy sautéed mushrooms.
• Place Basmati rice and chopped vegetables in pita bread, top with your favourite dressing, and enjoy a quick and easy lunch meal.
How to Store
• Since rice features an oil-rich germ, it is susceptible to becoming rancid.
• Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place rather than the refrigerator.
• Rice is a great source of carbohydrates, which are broken down to glucose and used as energy for exercise and as essential fuel for the brain.
• Rice has no fat, no cholesterol and is sodium free. It is an excellent food to include in a balanced diet.
• A good source of vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, niacin, iron, riboflavin, vitamin D and calcium.
• All rice is gluten free, making it a great for gluten-sensitive folks.
• Rice contains resistant starch, which is the starch that reaches the bowel undigested. This encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria, keeping the bowel healthy.
• Rice is a low-sodium food for those with hypertension.
• It is a fair source of protein containing all eight amino acids.
• Rice is completely non-allergenic. It is the grain for people with digestive problems.
• It is a good way of treating diarrhoea in children, because it is low in fibre and soothing to the digestive system.