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Jasmine & Basmati Rice

Fine Cooking Issue 58
Photos: Scott Phillips
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The next time you need some rice to accompany a stir-fry or curry, consider giving basmati or jasmine rice a try. These aromatic rices become subtly fragrant and flavorful when cooked, making them a great alternative to plain long-grain white rice.

Jasmine rice, from Thailand, has long, translucent grains. When cooked, it has a seductive, slightly floral aroma and a soft, clingy texture.

Basmati comes from the Himalayan foothills of India and Pakistan. It has a very long grain that lengthens further when cooked. It stays separate and springy, and it has a delicate nutty flavor.

Jasmine rice

What to buy: Jasmine rice is becoming fairly easy to find in the supermarket. Domestically grown jasmine (Jasmati) is decent, but buy an imported variety if you can. It’s sold in small boxes and larger cloth bags.

How to cook: Before cooking, jasmine rice should be washed to remove dust and excess starch. It’s usually cooked either by steaming or by the absorption method, meaning that it’s cooked in a measured amount of water, which the rice absorbs completely. Salt isn’t usually added, but we’ve given it as an option. The method I use involves a combination of steam and absorption cooking, and it results in beautifully textured jasmine rice.

Basmati rice

What to buy: Look in the rice section of your supermarket for imported basmati in small boxes or large cloth sacks. Domestic basmati, grown in California and Texas (called Texmati) is good, but it usually isn’t as aromatic as imported varieties.

How to cook: Basmati needs to soak for half an hour or more before it’s cooked. The soaking allows the grains to start absorbing water slowly so they cook more evenly and don’t break up. In India, it’s traditional to cook basmati by boiling it-in plenty of plain water, although you can add salt to the water if you like.

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