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Nov 28, 2008 03:22 PM

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:

    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:

          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.