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White rice from Indian restaurant

I absolutely love the white rice that comes with just about every dish that I order in an Indian restaurant. I'm guessing it's Basmati, but what else is in it? I think I taste fenugreek, and maybe cardamom, but I'm not sure. I'm craving a big bowlful!!

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  1. The Indian restaurants I eat at usually serve plain, white Basmati rice. However whole cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and even saffron are sometimes added to steamed rice as well.

    And there are also biryanis, rice with other ingredients: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biryani

    1. And to get the right consistency, always use less than the recommended amount of water. More like 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, or a touch less of water.

      1. Basmati is an aromatic rice. Nothing is added in India.

        dwag, every rice differs in the amount of water needed. I find that your 1.5:1 water to rice is just right for Basmati.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Perhaps not in India, but I have been in plenty of Indian restaurants in the states in which there were a cardamom pods.

          1. re: upstate girl

            in india too-- whole green cardamom pods, as opposed to seeds etc. esp in south indian/hyderabadi muslim cuisine.

        2. you can stir the dry clean basmati in a little ghee or veg oil first. you can season that ghee or oil by maybe heating your cardamom pod and cinnamon stick, then removing to add in the rice to cook. try that! ( treat it like a pilau).

          most relevant: see this "plain savory rice" technique with ghee, for a start: http://www.indianfoodsco.com/Recipes/...

          1. very unlikely that there is fenugreek in your rice.

            8 Replies
            1. re: luckyfatima

              Far be it from me to argue Indian food with someone named fatima, but I just looked at my bottle of Rani brand Panch Puran ("Indian 5 Spice") and the first ingredient is fenugreek. The description says it is equal parts fenugreek, fennel, mustard, kalonji seed and cumin and is "indispensable in Bengali cuisine". I've also seen similar mixes called "popping spice". While perhaps not traditional, I have seen it used as flavoring for rice. Saute the spice mix in ghee until it starts popping and becomes aromatic, then proceed as for pilau as alkapal suggests.

              1. re: Jeri L

                alka & Jeri, seems a bit of a waste of a good aromatic Basmati if one doesn't let it speak for itself, IM not so HO.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I agree Sam, that good Basmati is tasty on its own, but the OP was wondering what she tasted at a restaurant, and that rice was apparently spiced.

                  1. re: Jeri L

                    Agreed, but my first thought was that perhaps the OP had had a really good aromatic Basmati that, compared to many people's home-cooked rice, might have tasted spiced when it was not.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      i've had good aromatic basmati, but none of it has an herbal/spicy aspect on its own. ghee goes a long way to tarting up a nice rice. on its own, however, without any fat, especially, basmati is a wee bit, well... nice, but nothing to crow about. it is rice!

                2. re: Jeri L

                  I've not personally seen seen punch phoron used as a rice ceasoning in indian restaurants here or in N india, or in cookbooks or seen fenugreek used to season rice in those areas -

                  Lets say the rice is just served as a side (not as a pilau or biryani. It will normally be plain or perhaps sauteed pilaf-style before cooking to bring out its natural nutty flavor. of the basmati Or it will have a few cumin seeds sauteed with it, or perhaps a cinnamon stick, a few cloves , cardamon seeds or a bay leaf added (or all of the above, for a more elaborate pilaf type treatment.. any of the above methods will give you a great flavored indian-style rice.

                  Just remember that basmati cooks best if it is washed, soaked for a while and drained before cooking - the grains get whitest and expand the best if you do this.

                  1. re: Jeri L

                    While I can't attest to extensive knowledge of Bengali cuisine, panch puran seems very wrong for flavoring basmati (as does the garam masala recommended below which is more of a "finishing spice," than a rice enhancer).

                    Good basmati has a very spicy aroma that can be mistaken for a masala among those not used to its flavor. My father's peas pulao is a good example in that he made it with nothing but rice and peas but always served a very fragrant and spicy rice to go along with dinner. At home we always kept a bag of jasmine and a bag of basmati and never the twain should meet lest we ended up with a cinnamony fried rice or a flat biryani.

                    If ever I was to flavor basmati, it was only for biryani or pilaf, not for a regular bowl of steamed rice.

                    1. re: Jeri L

                      Yes, panch phoron is the ubiquitous Bengali spice mix. Fenugreek seeds (what I believe is actually a legume), not the leaves, which are also widely used in South Asian cuisines, are one of the spices in it. You can also season rice with it in the way you described. However, it is highly unlikely that this would be a seasoning in the rice in a generic American North Indian Mughlai/Punjabi restaurant. A more likely seasoning would be adding whole garam masala (as opposed to the ground spice mixture)---including cardamom, cloves, black pepper corns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, star anise, mace, and nutmeg to the water in which the rice is boiled.

                  2. Are you sure it's Basmati? Most places that pay the significant extra cost for premium rice serve it plain. It's easy enough to tell - Basmati grains are much longer (4-6 times or more) than they are wide, and the ends tend to be fairly blunt. Standard long-grain white rice is maybe 2 or 3 times as long as it is wide, with tapered ends.

                    That said, some people put a little garam masala in rice. Although there are as many recipes for garam masala as there are cooks, mine includes cardamom, cinnamon, and black cumin, cloves, black pepper, and just a touch of nutmeg.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      i would not put garam masala in rice.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        If I'm out of basmati, I'll do a simple pullao with long-grain white rice - saute the rice with a little onion and garlic, add some finely chopped green chile, then cook with chicken stock and a little garam masala. I think I originally got the recipe from a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, so it's a fair bet that it's traditional. And it isn't half bad.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          garam masasla is something that has a little more than i'm looking for in a pulao. maybe it is the cloves.... i just think there is a little too much spice in a gm for a pulao, but to each his own!

                          btw, i met madhur jaffrey years ago here in dc at a party in the indian embasssy - for her book launch at the time. so very nice!...

                        2. re: alkapal

                          There are certain recipes for pullaos and biryanis that require sprinkling garam masala powder on rice. But more common is adding whole garam masala which the same spices in the powder, but they are unground---it is called khara garam masala or sabut garam masala to the water in which the rice boils, or sometimes frying the whole garam masala in oil then adding the water and rice.

                          1. re: luckyfatima

                            Thank you for that information. It seems even for a (partial)Desi, I have much to learn! When making biryani, I usually season the water with cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaf and cloves, but I never made the correlation with garam masala spices as I always thought of the latter as sort of a last-minute (ground) addition to flavor food, somewhat like salt and pepper on a Western table.

                            1. re: JungMann

                              I had something added to my reply to Jeri L, but it dissappeared, but I wanted to add that more likely than fenugreek would also be cumin seeds tempered in to make "zeera rice."

                            2. re: luckyfatima

                              thanks lucky fatima. yes, adding the whole spices though gives quite a different flavor than a ground garam masala. and sprinkling on top would be quite different than using the ground garam masala in the boiling water for the rice (thus integrated throughout the rice).

                              fenugreek, yes, another legume! http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mg...

                              and i would agree, it is more likely a few cumin seeds -- more so than fenugreek -- would be bhuna'd in the oil before adding in the rice to fry a bit before adding the water.

                              thanks for your insights, lucky fatima. they are always so helpful and enlightening. cheers!

                        3. Though I agree that plain white basmati rice can be plenty aromatic and flavorful on its own, I didn't think it was so unusual to have rice cooked with a little bit of whole spice thrown into the pot, too: a crushed cardamom pod or two, a few cloves, even a little bit of a cinnamon stick. I often do this at home as well, though I usually go quite light with the spices, since you'll no doubt be eating the rice with other things, with their own spice combinations.

                          1. the most i would put in is a bay leaf. anything else seems blasphemous to me.

                            1. Pilau rices that I've encountered in restaurants contained various combinations of cinnamon stick, whole cloves, green cardamom, bay leaves, and occasionally fennel seeds or a petal of star anise. (BTW, Indian bay leaves are different from European bay leaves, and taste different.) Sometimes the rice is coloured with turmeric, or that awful red and green colouring that makes it look like a Christmas special.

                              It depends on the taste you want. I prefer plain basmati, because it's a nice foil to spicy dishes, and doesn't compete with their flavours.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: Channa

                                I also love whole cardamom pods in rice. They're big enough so that nobody takes a big bite and gets a couple of whole pods...especially if I warn them in advance. Of course, I love cardamom in almost anything and have been recently experimenting with different rice puddings. Mmmmmmmmm.

                                I really have gotten addicted to BROWN basmati rice lately. It is really good and nutty and crunchy. It also takes less time than "regular" brown rice.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  Sorry to be posting here but this seemed to be the only forum discussing about rice.

                                  I need to know what is dried rice, dried beans and dried peas. What are they called in Indian languages and where in India can I get them? I googled but in vain.

                                  Thnks to anyone who can help.
                                  Unknown Warrior

                                  1. re: unknownwarrior

                                    unknownwarrior, if you're looking for info about souces *in* india, you need to post on that board.
                                    as to ingredients, i'm not familiar with something specifically called "dried" rice. all the rice i buy is "dried." indians use "basmati" rice -- a fragrant (very) long grained, and delicate-textured rice.

                                    beans and/or peas are legumes, which is a very broad category. also called "pulses" http://www.beanslentils.com/about_b&a...

                                    the typical ones used in indian food are "dal" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dal and chick peas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_peas .

                                    here's a lesson on lentils: http://www.hookedonheat.com/2007/05/2...

                                    here is just one of many sources i found when i googled "indian food terms." http://www.cuisinecuisine.com/Glossar...

                                    or "indian ingredient terms"

                                    here's another glossary (or two) from my "bookmarks": http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/I...

                                    other sites to guide you: http://www.indianfoodrecipes.net/

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Thankyou for the links. I'll be looking into them right now.

                                      What I mentioned was after reading this:

                                      [QUOTE] First, you should really think about rigging an emergency closet in your home (if you haven’t already done so). One of the best things you can have is a stash of canned soups or stews along with some big bags or buckets of dried rice, dried beans, dried peas, pasta and the like. These dried staple foods are VERY cheap and last a LONG time when properly stored. My local grocery store sells a 20 pound sack of dry rice for about $8. Peas and beans are a bit more, but also very cheap.

                                      One cup of dry rice and 3 cups of water make 4 cups of reconstituted rice. That’s almost 2 pounds rice. It’s about the same ratio with the beans and peas. You don’t even need to cook any of it. Just let it sit overnight with the right amount of water, and the dried goods will take on the water and reconstitute themselves. The rice provides carbs for energy, the peas provide a lot of vitamins and minerals and the beans are a good source of protein. As such, one cup of rice, a half cup of peas, a half cup of beans and about 5 or 6 cups of water will make a huge meal... enough for a family of 5 or 6 people. [/QUOTE]
                                      I also called up shoprite hyper nd they had no idea what dried rice is. They seemed puZZled.

                                      Emails to the author got me no replies so posted here.
                                      It is at this place I read it:


                                      Thanks again and Regards,

                                      1. re: unknownwarrior

                                        Any rice that you will buy in the market is 'Dry Rice'. I suppose you could go to a farmer at harvest and buy rice that he hasn't yet dried, but that isn't really an option.


                                        1. re: unknownwarrior

                                          That website is providing terrible information.

                                          "Dried rice" is redundant, and you can't "reconstitute" it (or beans) by soaking in cold water. You're going to need a heat source.

                                          India is a pretty polyglot place, but English can get you by in a lot of situations. You're looking for rice and pulses. If you want to know what to ask for in another language, it would help to identify the language, or at least the part of India you're in. Don't expect anybody to be conversant in Hindi, Telugu, Bengali, **and** Tamil.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            Don't forget Gujerati (they have a really cool number system), and Punjabi!


                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              Well, really terrible then.
                                              I'm myself a Punjabi but know about 5 other Indian languages. Hindi is prefarble tho. I know what rice, beans and peas are called in Hindi. That site confused me. I thot of "pohey" or beaten rice at first but they can't be kept in water overnight.

                                              lego: Gujrati is a lovely lang too.

                                              Thanks for clarifying,
                                              Unknown Warrior

                                              1. re: unknownwarrior

                                                Maybe the article is referring to a precooked, dried rice product? We've got something like it here in the US (Minute Rice)-- it would probably reconstitute with a overnight soak in water and be edible. I wouldn't think that soaked raw rice would be very good to eat.

                                                1. re: chococat

                                                  I think you are right since raw rice can't be reconstituted. Would someone know what minute rice is called in Hindi/Marathi/Punjabi ?

                                                  Wouldn't soaked raw rice without cooking cause indigestion?

                                                  1. re: chococat

                                                    What would minute rice be called in Hindi/Punjabi/Gujrati/Marathi or Sindhi?
                                                    I'd apprecite if someone can tell that.
                                                    Also, is it avilble in India? I'll check it out.

                                                    1. re: unknownwarrior

                                                      unknownwarrior pa' ji tenu ik suggestion deon, there is this website wordreference forums and they have an indo-iranian language section


                                                      utte jaake tuada savaal puch to saheeh, they will tell you all the words in whatever language you want.

                                                  2. re: unknownwarrior

                                                    rice and dried beans for an emergency larder, that's what you're after?

                                                    you're in india?

                                                    what you seek is everywhere. the site just wants you to have some stocked in your own pantry for an " emergency." right? is this some joke site? http://www.m4040.com/

                                                    don't keep rice in water overnight. as stated, it won't reconstitute, but has to be cooked.

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      Yes, I'm after an emergency home survival and survival kits. I'm in a place in India freuented by riots and nowadays water is scarce too.

                                                      I hadn't looked at the main page. Seems like a joke now. I got it thru google. Thanks for pointing out. I had only read the survival page.

                                                      I'll taste a little overnight soaked rice tomorrow morning.

                                                      1. re: unknownwarrior

                                                        you've got to cook rice.

                                                        minute rice is a commercial trade name for a par-boiled rice. it too must be cooked -- for 10 minutes, according to this. http://www.minuterice.com/
                                                        basmati cooks in 20 minutes. there's no reason to buy minute rice.

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          Minute rice doesn't require active cooking, just boiling water. You add the water, cover the pan, and let stand for 5 minutes.

                                                          In situations where fuel is scarce, you can do essentially the same thing with white rice, boiling water, and a thermos. Takes about an hour or so.

                                                          PS - Basmati accounts for less than one-half of one percent of the rice eaten in India. It is a luxury food, not a staple for the masses there or anywhere else.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            I'll try this out. It will help since I'm also building a homemade, cheap solar water heater system.

                                                          2. re: alkapal

                                                            ACK! Soaked rice didn't taste good and isn't digestable.

                                        2. Maybe I need to read the whole thread again, but... There is no 'one' Indian cuisine. I spent 6 months there a couple of years ago, riding the train and stopping in towns and cities all over the sub continent for 3-5 days at a time.
                                          Every region treats food completely differently from the regions that it borders. Spicing, ingredients, prep methods vary widely - there are common themes, but major differences.

                                          So without knowing where the chef in the OP's restaurant is from, we'll never know what he puts in it.

                                          Best way to figure this out, is for the OP to actually walk in the kitchen and ask. Most / all chefs are flattered when this happens, I do it even in Restaurants with Michelin stars and chefs that are regarded as cranky. In every case I walked out with the recipe.


                                          1. We eat at several area Indian restaurants [Boston area.] One restaurant add cloves to the rice, and another adds some cardamon. We prefer the cloves, and often cook our basmati at home this way as well. Just three cloves for a cup of dried rice is sufficient.