The predominant rice in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, basmati is marked by its extra-long grains and subtly nutty fragrance and flavor. It cooks up to a fairly fluffy texture, and is good for using in pilafs.
1 cup uncooked rice = about 3 cups cooked
Jasmine rice or long-grain rice are decent, though not perfect, substitutes.
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.
Basmati needs to soak for half an hour or more before cooking. The soaking allows the grains to start absorbing water slowly so they cook more evenly and don't break up.
Check out a post from The Food Geek's blog for a few excellent tips on how to soak and prepare basmati rice.
White basmati rice will keep almost indefinitely in the pantry. Like all brown rices, brown basmati rice will go rancid after a few months; you can prolong its life by storing it in the refrigerator.