What is basmati rice and why is it considered the Champagne of long-grain rice?

“The neighbour is a kind soul. When we moved in she left a mason jar of brown rice on our doorstep along with a handwritten note. ‘Royal Basmati from the foothills of the Himalayas.’ She remembered my true love loves to cook curries. Ever since the rice, I have been devoted to her”

Jenny Lee, writing in The Financial Times

Basmati rice (Tilda or Badshah) is the best rice to use if you want separate, fluffy grains, and a wonderful slightly nutty flavour – and white, refined rice is fluffier than brown. Basmati rice is much taller than other rices, and this contributes to the better flavour, but it does make the plant liable to wind damage. It also smells wonderful (a lot of the pleasure of the taste comes from the anticipation conjured up by the lovely woody fragrance). ‘Basmati’ in Hindi, means ‘queen of fragrance’.

The source of its flavour is a chemical called 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline (AP2) – and Basmati has about twelve times more of this chemical than ordinary rice. Additional flavour comes from the length of time it is matured, as rice with a lower moisture content cooks better. The best types of basmati rice are aged for several years before they are milled and sold.

Basmati rice has long, thin pointed grains and can vary in colour from ivory to a rich, dark brown. Some of the best (Dehraduni) comes from the area where it was first cultivated, at the base of the Indian Himalayas.

It’s also very healthy – it’s gluten free, low in fat, low in salt, contains no cholesterol, and also has all eight essential amino acids. Not only that. Arsenic is found in higher levels in rice than in most other plants. Ingested regularly, it seems it can over time, raise the risk of cancer and heart disease. The EU’s current proposal is that the maximum saleable food should contain no more than 200 parts per billion (ppb) for adults and 100 ppb for children and babies. Kellogg’s Rise Krispies for example contains 188 ppb, and (sadly, as it has an interesting nutty taste and texture) Camargue red rice from France has 310 ppb. However, Basmati from India has just 44 ppb.

To find out how to cook Basmati rice go here.

You might also like…

Our posts about other culinary skills and styles

More about specialist ingredients

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

Zhoggiu sauce – best of all worlds between the Italian north and the Middle East

I have a wonderful daughter who plies me with the most inspired foodie treats. Last year I was given a day-long course with Diana Henry,…
Read More

Is Chinese Leaf a cabbage or a lettuce, and what should you do with it?

“‘I want plant Chinese cabbages, some water lily, some plum tree, and maybe some bamboos, and maybe some Chinese chives as well…’I…
Read More

Sign up to our Saucy Newsletter

subscribe today for monthly highlights of foodie events, new restaurant at home menus, recipe ideas and our latest blog posts