How To Choose The Best Rice For Indian Cooking Apart From BASMATI
Types Of Rice
Breakfast items made from rice-urad dhal batterClick thumbnail to view full-size
Rice In Indian Cooking
Rice is a staple food and the source of carbohydrates for most Indians, particularly in South India. It is grown in vast paddy fields, and available throughout the year in supermarkets and grocery stores. Indian households buy large quantities of rice during the first week of every month to last the whole month according to the number of people in their home and store in large aluminum containers (up to 25 kg) or sacks if they need to store much more. A few twigs of dried curry leaves or dried red chillies are put in before closing tightly so as to keep out pests and prevent them from going stale, especially during rainy season. Paddy that is harvested is dried well, dehusked and sold either as unpolished /brown rice or as white /polished rice. Brown rice with the bran removed is white rice. Unpolished rice or brown rice is more nutritious and prevents beri beri. Earlier, only the poor would eat this brown rice, but now, because of nutritive awareness, people are trying to substitute their everyday white rice with this. But people in cities tend to consume only white rice, since it absorbs the flavours more easily when preparing a chicken biriyani or bisi bele bath,or any flavourful rice dishes.
Types of Rice
Different varieties of rice are available depending on where they are grown and eaten. For example, the coastal states of Karnataka and Kerala in South India consume a rice (called Kusublakki) that is sticky and soupy (kanjee) with fat grains. Whereas other interior parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh use rice where the grains are slender and long or short.
How To Cook The Rice
Rice is cooked by boiling, and absorbs water during cooking. It can be cooked in just as much water as it absorbs (the absorption method), or in a large quantity of water which is drained before serving. Nowadays, most people use the electric rice cooker.
The best method to cook a good quality rice such as sona masori would be as follows.
1. Measure I cup of rice and wash it 3 to 4 times ,draining water completely.
2. Use the same cup and add 2 cups of water to the rice.
3. Let boil.
4. When ¾ th water is absorbed, lower the flame and cover with a tight lid.
5. After about 3-4 minutes, your rice is ready, with separate grains visible.
If you are using Basmati or Jeerage Samba rice, it would be advisable to reduce the quantity of water by at least a quarter cup.
Choosing The Right Variety Of Rice Is Absolutely Important
Rice is also chosen depending on the type of dish one is to prepare. If you wish to make plain rice to go with sambar, rasam or curd, you can choose any variety of Sona Masoori rice. Any vegetable curry / chicken curry / mutton gravy / fish curry would also be served with this plain white rice. If you wish to make some palau or biriyani, a long grained variety such as Basmati would be perfect, as it gives out a delicate aroma while giving a hint of the spices absorbed. Vangibath, bisibelebath, tamarind rice (puliyogare), lime rice, kitchdi are all spicy rice dishes for which a regular or premium quality Sona Masori rice would be ideal. Broken rice would be perfect for curd rice and sweet dishes such as Kajaaya/adarasam. Jeerage samba rice has a delicate jeera aroma which wafts through the air as it is being prepared and also absorbs flavours and is sometimes used instead of Basmati variety in the making of biriyani or pulao and is much cheaper. This rice is also used in the making of desserts such as payasam, rice kheer and phirni (powdered rice is used for this preparation.)
Rice is also used in combination with pulses such as urad dhal to make breakfast specials such as idlis and dosas. Rice and urad dhal is soaked in the morning and ground finely to a paste after 6 hours, then left overnight to ferment. This batter is ready to be steamed as idlis or used to make lacy crepes called dosas for breakfast. The carbohydrate and protein combo is usually served with a spicy coconut chutney and sambar prepared from Tur dhal, another lentil. Depending on the amounts of urad dhal and rice used, one can make different types of idlis and dosas. Rice puttu is another breakfast item made with coconut shavings and sugar, steamed along with coarse rice powder.
Rice powder is used in making akki roti ( a type of flat bread such as roti made from wheat) and eaten with ghee smeared and sugar sprinkled along with fresh coconut flakes or a spicy chutney or pork vindaloo.
Since rice is easily digestible, invalids are served a kanjee (rice that is boiled with lots of water until very soft and mashed). Poor people buy broken rice and make the above kanjee on a regular basis. Adults and children, when suffering from diarrhea, are served curd rice made from rice that is double boiled until very soft and mixed with buttermilk (curds watered down with a pinch of salt). Babies and elderly are fed with double boiled rice to facilitate easy digestion.
Rice In Indian Traditions
No Hindu festival or puja is complete without rice (raw/cooked). Pongal festival is a celebration of harvest where rice and dhal are cooked together in milk in earthen pots and both as a sweet and savoury, and allowed to boil over. In short, rice is a staple in every south Indian home, and is also used in rituals and traditions. For example, a few grains of turmeric rice (raw rice mixed with yellow turmeric powder) are placed on a wedding card when being distributed to guests while inviting them. As soon as the marriage is solemnized with the tying of the mangalasutra by the groom, all the guests throw a few grains of turmeric rice (distributed earlier) on the newly weds showering them with prosperity and happiness.
Another by product is the rice bran oil made from the bran removed from brown rice. This is used for seasoning and frying besides making several dishes including rice preparations.
Lamb Biriyani Made With Basmati Rice
How To Cook Plain Basmati Rice
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