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How to Cook Basmati Rice

Updated on January 7, 2017
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon has been cooking since childhood. He loves above all to take fresh ingredients and combine them in tasty and hopefully original ways.

Basmati rice is native to the Indian subcontinent, and its name is loosely translated from Hindi meaning "fragrant." It is a long grain rice, served chiefly, particularly in the West, as an accompaniment to a main dish. The rice comes in both white or brown form. The brown basmati has less of the husk 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 it creates are unlimited.

Wash Prior to Cooking

The principal reason for washing prior to cooking is to remove the excess starch. This helps the rice survive the cooking process and gives it a firmer texture, making it less likely to stick together. Washing the rice also 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) and swirl it gently under some running cold water for about 30 seconds.

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

Washing
Washing

Boiling Process

Many formulas are touted as being the optimum ratio of water to rice. The practical reality is 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 likelihood of the rice grains sticking together. One method suggests adding salt to the boiling water, stirring to form a whirlpool, and then adding the rice. But, it serves the same purpose when you allow the rice to boil for around one minute before stirring it briefly (and only once).

Basmati rice should be boiled for 10 to 12 minutes to achieve the optimum consistency.

Boiling
Boiling

Serving

When the basmati rice has cooked for the allotted time, it should be drained through the sieve over the sink. Although it may 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, line a small serving dish with a piece of clingfilm large enough to protrude a couple of inches over the edges all the way around. Pack the rice onto 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 by its edges while the serving dish is carefully removed. The clingfilm then easily peels away.

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

Plating Up Basmati Rice
Plating Up Basmati Rice

The Dangers

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 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 is 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. Then, simply cover it and leave it to drain. Alternatively, the rice can be spread thinly on plates, covered, and allowed to cool in this fashion.

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.

Instructions:

  • When the rice has been cooled, a wok should be brought up to a smoking hot heat.
  • Then, add about a tablespoonful of sunflower oil.
  • Do not attempt to cook too much rice at once, as this will affect the overall heat in the wok and spoil the end result. Ideally, you should fry one portion of rice at a time.
  • When the oil is hot, the rice should then be stir fried for about a minute. Be careful of sputtering, which results from 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 (and not the actual frying process) which gives fried rice, as prepared in many Asian recipes, its colour .
  • Note that the seasoning from the soy sauce may eliminate the need for any additional salt.

Fried Basmati Rice
Fried Basmati Rice

How Do You Like to Serve Basmati Rice?

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    • Gordon Hamilton profile image
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      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

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

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 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
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      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!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 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
      Author

      Gordon Hamilton 7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      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.

    • manthy profile image

      Mark 7 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?