How to Cook Basmati Rice

An Introduction to Basmati Rice

Basmati rice is native to the Indian Sub-Continent and its name is loosely translated from Hindi as, "Fragrant." It is a long grain rice, served chiefly - particularly in the West - as an accompaniment to a main dish. Basmati rice comes in both white or brown form, with the brown basmati being where less of the husk has actually been removed, leaving more of the nutritional value intact. Although basmati rice is an incredibly simple cooking ingredient, the purposes for which it can be used and the number of dishes to which it forms an ideal accompaniment are all but unlimited.

Washing Basmati Rice
Washing Basmati Rice

Wash the Basmati Rice Prior to Cooking

The principal reason for washing basmati rice prior to cooking it is to remove the excess starch. This helps the rice to survive the cooking process with a more firm texture and makes it less likely to stick together. Washing the rice also of course serves to remove any small, loose bits of husk which may inadvertently remain and spoil the final preparation. The best way to wash the basmati rice is to place it in a fine sieve as shown as swirl it gently under some running cold water for about thirty seconds.

It should be noted, however, that not all types of rice should be be washed prior to cooking them, as there are occasions where this will have a detrimental effect upon the finished dish. The best guide in each instance is to follow the individual recipe.

Boiling Basmati Rice
Boiling Basmati Rice

Boiling Basmati Rice

There are many formulas touted regarding the optimum ratio of water to rice when boiling basmati rice. The practical reality is that it is imperative only to make sure that there should be enough water in the pot to ensure that the rice does not boil dry. At least twice the volume of water in comparison to rice serves as a more than adequate rule of thumb. Allow about two ounces of rice per serving.

Equally, there is a difference of opinion as to whether the rice should be added to the boiling water or vice versa in order to ensure the least likelhood of the rice grains sticking together. Adding salt to the boiling water before stirring it to form a whirlpool to which the rice is added is one method suggested but allowing the rice to boil for around one minute before stirring it briefly (and only once) in this way generally serves the same purpose.

Basmati rice should be boiled for ten to twelve minutes to achieve the optimum consistency.

Plating Up Basmati Rice
Plating Up Basmati Rice
Boiled Basmati Rice
Boiled Basmati Rice

Serving Boiled Basmati Rice

When the basmati rice has cooked for the alloted time, it should be drained through the sieve over the sink. Although it of course may then simply be added to the serving plate, presenting it in an appealing fashion is generally desirable.

In order to serve the rice in the manner shown to the right, line a small serving dish with a piece of clingfilm large enough to protrude a couple of inches above the edges all the way round. Pack the rice in to the dish with a spoon before placing the serving plate upside down on top. Simply inverting the two dishes allows the clingfilm to be held firmly in place on the plate by its edges while the serving dish is carefully removed. The clingfilm then peels easily away.

The rice can of course be served in this way on a separate plate or on the same plate as the principal dish.

The Dangers of Cooking Basmati Rice

There are a great many people who cook regularly with rice of all types who sadly do not realise the inherent dangers of food poisoning associated with rice and grains. These dangers come to the fore especially when the recipe being prepared requires that the rice be cooled after it has been boiled, prior to engaging in the next stage of the procedure.

Making fried rice is one such occasion when the basmati rice must be cooled fully prior to being subsequently fried. If this requirement is not adhered to, the rice will not fry properly and will be served as an extremely unappetising, stodgy mess on a plate. In order to minimise the risks of food poisoning, it is vital that the rice be cooled as quickly as possible and not left at room temperature for any longer than about an hour.

There are two very simple ways in which rice can be cooled quickly in this respect. The easiest is to simply run it under cold water through the sieve after the boiling water has been drained away and then simply covering it and leaving it to drain. Alternatively, the rice can be spread thinly on plates, covered and allowed to cool in this fashion.

Fried Basmati Rice
Fried Basmati Rice

Stir Fried Basmati Rice

There can be few arguments that stir frying basmati rice after it has been boiled does add a little extra something to the final dish. It is imperative to note, however, that rice does have to be boiled first and cooled as described above prior to being stir fried.

When the rice has been cooled, a wok should be brought up to a smoking hot heat prior to about a tablespoonful of sunflower oil being added. Do not attempt to cook too much rice at the one time, as this will affect the overall heat in the wok and spoil the end result. Ideally, one portion of rice at a time should be quickly fried in this way.

When the oil is hot, the rice should then be stir fried for about a minute. Be careful of sputtering, resulting from any moisture remaining in the rice. After this time, a little dark soy sauce should be splashed over the rice and quickly stirred through. It is this which gives fried rice as prepared in many Asian recipes its colour and not the actual frying process. Note that the seasoning from the soy sauce may eliminate the need for any additional salt to be added to the rice.

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How Do You Like to Serve Basmati Rice? 6 comments

manthy profile image

manthy 6 years ago from Alabama,USA

That just looks so awesome the way the rice molds to the bowl and come out ready to eat, I wonder if you can do that with any variety of rice or is it strictly basmati rice?

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thanks for the comment, manthy. Although I have only ever served basmati rice in this fashion, any other long grain rice would be equally suitable to be served in this way.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

I love this rice. Thanks for adding the health warning which will be useful for inexperienced cooks

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thanks, Ethel. The potential health implications of rice came to my attention a number of years ago when a friend of mine who worked in the food industry had to attend a mandatory three day safety course run by the Food Standards Agency on cooking, cooling and selling rice!

formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 4 years ago from Los Angeles

I love basmati rice. I am hoping to eat it more in 2012 than our typical short grain or brown jasmine. Very informative.

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you formosangirl. I hope you get to eat more basmati rice and enjoy the different ways you choose to cook it.

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