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How do you cook basmati rice?

We just got a bag of basmati from India, and it has you boil the rice and then drain it. It also suggests that you rinse/soak it first. Does anyone make basmati that way?

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  1. Rinse, then soak for awhile first. Discard the soaking water. It definitely makes a difference.

    1. Agree on the soaking and rinsing. Most brands that I've bought recently are cleaner than they used to be.
      Go easy on the proportion of cooking water; for one cup of rice use 1 3/4 cup water, possibly less in a microwave cooker. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to very low flame and cook for about 12 minutes. I've found it very hard to screw up cooking basmati.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DiveFan

        Ditto on the rinsing and soaking, although I usually add some spices to the soaking water and therefore do not discard it. You can vary the spices, depending on what you're serving with the rice. With chicken curry, I add cardamom pods, whole cloves, cinnamon stick and grated ginger. Remove all but the ginger before serving.

        I also let the cooked rice stand for around 15 minutes before serving. If it has been well-rinsed, the grains will remain separate and won't clump together.

      2. 1. Ways to cook basmati depend on what the end product will be: here one assumes you want plain, boiled/steamed white rice. Note, too, that most of the commercial basmatis are cross-bred, i.e. not the pure strains or landraces, and their cooking characteristics have changed a bit. Also, the age and the acidity or pH of the cooking water does make a difference to the firmness or the gelling properties of the rice.

        These are just things to keep tucked away at the back of your mind. The rice from India does need to be washed in lukewarm water with gentle agitation to remove dust and starch, soak a few minutes and drain in a wire colander. If you are preparing pilafs, or taking extra care, it makes a difference to spread the rice out on to a cotton cloth, like a clean flour sack, and gently let it drain and air dry for about half an hour to an hour. It will hydrate itself sufficiently for your purpose during this time.

        For 2 cups of rice, set 4 quarts of water in a 4 quart saucepan to boil vigorously, salted or not. Gently add rice in a stream, and bring to a boil, and stir once carefully, and let boil vigorously. Watch with attention, and let cook until almost 85-90% done. It should not be cracked and serrated along the edges of the rice grain, nor bent like a bow. Drain in a colander, and you can save the starchy water to drink or to iron clothes with.

        Replace the rice in the saucepan, which should have a heavy bottom or be non-stick. Cover tightly and place on a medium-high flame, until team develops. Do not scorch. When steam permeates the rice, reduce heat to very low, and wait for a few minutes, between 5-10. You will find out how much your particular type of rice requires, and it will depend in how far you had brought you rice to completion! You can open now, fluff with fork and eat VERY HOT, with a few drops of pure desi ghee or cultured butter, e.g. Cabot cultured.

        This drainage method is time-honored, and the absorption method is not common except among rural folk. Even parboiled/converted rice cooked according to the drainage method will give you exceptionally tender and tasty grains. Compare the methods and see what you prefer. With this method, there is no problem in guessing the amount of water. Like pasta, you always cook in a large excess, except you reuse the cooking water by drinking it or using it for household purposes [at least in the Bengal of my childhood!]. When there was a large excess, farm animals partook of it, Nothing was ever wasted!!

        18 Replies
        1. re: GTM

          Great post GTM, thank-you for sharing your wisdom and experiences. I've saved your comments in a word doc.

          1. re: GTM

            Interesting, I have some Bihari friends (though long time residents of Karachi and now the US) and they also cook their rice using the pasta method. I have seen in an Afghan cook book that this is also an Afghan method (called 'sof' in Dari). I never thought of absorption method as village style, but I thought of the pasta style as more Bihar-Bengal style. I usually use closed lid absorption method (dam pukht) and only opt for pasta style for biryanis, but in this case I strain the rice when it is a bit less cooked than 85-90% since it will be on dum for longer and will go soft and break if done too much at the boiling stage. I have also seen some people cook their basmati rice in an open pan, no lid. I often use a rice cooker for my rice and have found it to yield very successful rice for daily meals.

            Just curious, what US-available brand of basmati rice do you like? In your traditional Rarh cuisine do people eat basmati daily or what is the preferred rice?

            By the way nice to see you around, your posts are always rich and enjoyable.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              Namaste, Fatimaji. Always a delight to read your posts as well. Hope you will have an opportunity to travel to India before all the traditional foodways become extinct. Restaurant/dhaba "Punjabi" food is now becoming the national cuisine, along with some strange interpretation of "chinese" along with nonsense stuff with fake persian names created by illiterate hotel chefs from Bihar & UP who have conveniently discovered their "mughlai roots " just in time to cash in, just like Curry House Bangladeshi cooks have created "kormas" etc. out of packaged coconut cream and whatnot!! Take a look at Bajia's Youtube at the "Indian Royal Korma" and you will understand what I mean!

              The vegetarian cooking of the Rarh country is especially time-consuming and requires great dexterity with the "bonti" the curved knife fixed to a wooden handle, while sitting on the floor. The vegetables themselves depend much on rural roots, and are gradually becoming scare; e.g. cauliflower of our childhood was crisp and firm and would fry up firm and green, and not turn to mush, like the modern varieties. Perhaps you may also remember this? Radishes were also slightly pungent, yet very tender at the same time, and things were different because they were grown without the benefit of irrigation and without fertilizers, which promote expansion of cell walls but not the proportionate increase of Dry Mass. Plants find it easier to grow larger cells and increase the cellular content of water and minerals, rather than photosynthates, i.e. sugar and nutrients like proteins, because it is much more difficult to increase photosynthetic capacity in response to either breeding or to fertilizer application. Hence, Indian eggplant landraces which once had among the highest Dry Mass content in the world, c. 8-10 %, and highest Sucrose %, 27-36% [vide AVRDC, Taiwan annual reports 1997 & 1998, p.37-38], now are flaccid, monstrous creatures that require spraying nearly 150 [yes] times during their 160-180 day lifecycle! I have grown eggplant and cauliflower all vegetables with impeccable health and taste in Bengal for more than 2 decades and so have all my farming neighbours with nary a spray, EVER. Such was never even known before 1968! And I am a plant cell biologist and plant pathologist, not an obscurantist!

              To answer your question: in Rarh Bengal, in orthodox homes, we never ever even tasted basmati rice of the long-grained variety! Instead, Bengal, Bihar and UP is the native home to the mini-grain aromatic rices, and the length of the grain gradually begins to increase and the starch composition change, as we move west from Bengal along the sub-Himalayan foothills, to Bihar, then UP, then finally the Dehra Dun valley and Jammu, the home of the longest grain basmati. Bengal and Assam are home to the tiny grains of aromatic rices, also basmati, but much stickier, like Gobindabhog and Sitabhog, and true Kalojeerey. You can smell the rice fields from at least 2-3 hundred yards away when the plants are in full growth, and we each had our own strains. Even converted rice was made from these minigrains, and the Muslim rulers used this for pilafs in lieu of the long grain, and called it DaudKhani.

              Everyday rice was converted rice, prepared from the aus crop, the early harvest, and the shali rice, e.g. SitaShali, a slightly coarse rice harvested in late autumn. The threshed paddy is soaked, then piled in huge cast iron woks that take in 40-80 kgs, and gently steamed, and the paddy sun dried, before the process is repeated again. Then the rice is hulled. This converted rice is used even for khicharies, in puja ceremonies, and is characteristic of Rarh cooking.

              For formal feasts, celebrations, and ritual affairs, the non-converted rice is used, the aromatic by preference. There are certain times when rice is cooked soft, called gila bhaat, almost like congee, but more discreet grains are visible. Then aromatic mini-basmatis are used, sometimes with grated fresh coconut. Various vegetables are boiled along with it, e.g. red pumpkin, whole eggplant, cauliflower, vadis, ground split pea dal in a muslin bag, hycacinth bean pods, amla fruit, young plantain, etc. They are fished out while serving, and mashed up either with COW ghee [e.g. when one is undergoing mourning period or some religious rites] or with fresh mustard oil and a green chili + fresh green lime + sea salt under ordinary circumstances. Very delicious and healthy, and that is a complete meal, much anticipated!!

              One authentic dish is whole mung beans soaked and gently cooked in a haandi. At intervals, drop in whole bunches of thoroughly washed radish bunches with leaves, spinach bunches with roots, baby whole potatoes like those net bags of Yukon Golds, little taros, if you like them [although in this dish, traditionally nothing is "cut", for a reason, but we are not under those constraints!], whole baby eggplants, baby turnips with tops, some knobs of ginger, some cassia leaves, some chunks of pumpkin or acorn squash if liked, sea salt, cane jaggery to taste. Cook enough but never to excess, Leave to meld flavours, serve with steaming converted rice and a few drops of ghee. Very healthy food.

              You ask about my favorite Basmati here. Frankly speaking, I only use it for biryani, and I find price to be my main guide. $2/lb is too much for my miserly South Asian instincts, if not cooking for company, so ideally, for my own consumption, $1/lb would be the basmati I would go for, even it is marked "Goya Dehra Dun", which combined branding makes my eyebrows disappear into my sharply receding hairline!!!!! Since I make Kacchi-Kacchi, raw rice, raw meat, I do need to be careful. I find that having unglazed earthenware gives a better result than metal.

              For kacchi-pakki biryanis, for my taste, I find soaked basmatis sold in the USA, hardly take 3-4 min of boiling, just 1 kanni, or hardly that. They are very fragile, or rather brittle, and even a bit stickier than true quality basmati. I don't know how you feel about this? There is a Pakistani gentleman in Texas who owns a nice restaurant and imports his basmati directly from India. I saw his biryani, and it had the jasmine flower-like quality of high-quality basmati rice from Dehra Dun. I have lived in Mussoorie for long, and experienced good Dehra Duni rice at a period when the country was not as crazy as it now is. I wondered where he sourced his supplies from?

              1. re: GTM

                My father in law grew up in Dehra Doon, and they prefer basmati rice daily in my husband's family. It seems with expat desis many people (barring South Indians) do consume basmati daily when back home that would be considered extremely extravagant, not the regional daily rice, and not to mention that many believe that basmati is harsher on the stomach than shorter grains. Sadly, in Pakistan (and I believe in India, too) the best basmati is exported to the Arabian Peninsula to make the highest profit, and very good basmati is extremely expensive in local markets. When my inlaws visited us in Dubai, they couldn't get over how delicious our Doon Valley rice was. I tend to buy India Gate here in the US (very long and nicely fragrant). Tilda is over priced and it seems to me that the quality has gone downhill for the past few years (shorter length, less perfume). I am always on the look out for a better brand, though. Someone was recommending 'sella' basmati (I believe it is parboiled, available from several brands) rice to me a few days ago, and I mean to try it.

                Funny you mention Bajia. I do enjoy watching her videos. Her Urdu diction is excellent, though she has some Punjabi characteristics in the quality of her vowels (she says ghente and not ghante for hours, for example) so I am not sure exactly where she is from, as she claims to be cooking traditional recipes based on the older generations and the village styles (but of which village?). I like that she mentions India-Pakistan as a compound word in one breath as is often done in a diasporic context (e.g. yahan ke palak men voh taste nahin hai jo hamare India-Pakistan men hota hai). Obviously that royal qormah is a bizarre concoction with the raisins and such in it (toss sultanahs and nuts in anything and call it Mughlai, Shahi, or Kashmiri, it seems). Her other two qormahs are more traditional, though. Her recipes do not seem at all like those of elders or villagers, though...they seem more like the typical recipes of the modern urban housewife armed with a pressure cooker. She pressure cooks onions before bhunofying them, for example. She does give some very tried and true traditional recipes, though. She has a video for maash ki bariyan (the dried kind) and a few other such things.

                I know precisely what you mean by the take over of Western restaurant Punjabi/Mughlai foods as the face of India's national cuisine. Urban people of all regions now cook restaurant style Punjabi-inspired dishes with ambitious names like Shahi Paneer, which contain lord-knows-how-old tetra pack long life cream full of milk powder, and add in orange food coloring to make the dish look good (or look like how it looks in the restaurants). They do this when their particular regional or ethnic community's home food is light, healthy, and made with the freshest ingredients. I hate to call this fake Indian food because obviously real Indian people make and eat this food. But it is a modern change in the cuisine, and I agree that it does take over indigenous cuisines. And now neon orange shahi paneer and canary yellow navratan korma are 'Indian food.' This faux-Mughlai/Punjabi restaurant wash back effect is not nearly visible in Pakistan, for whatever reason, but one can find it there, too. I do think in India that people are still cooking their own traditional foods, but for whatever reason, when recipes are shared or when they appear on TV, it is always this new restaurant wash back food, perhaps because the dishes seem fancier.

                1. re: luckyfatima

                  We have the Tilda rice, which, not being as experienced in the different brands of basmati as you are, should be fine for our purposes.

                  1. re: luckyfatima

                    Dear Fatimaji,

                    You are absolutely right about your observations re: basmati rice.

                    The DaudKhani I wrote about is the bengali equivalent of the "sela" that you are proposing to buy. Interestingly, I have noted that Begum Zubaida Tariq, Shireen Anwar, and one or two other seem to recomend this sela rice for the zarda rice you prepare in Pakistan for festive occasion with chopped petha and candied fruit rinds (?). They always say that with this parboiled variety the rice will stay entire with no concern of its breaking up when the significant stirring with sugar syrup etc. in indulged in but I always have wondered how the typical converted rice "smell" will interact with all the aromatics, and how the coarser, chewier mouthfeel will go down in that context? Of course, I have never tried zarda rice, so my thoughts remain purely speculative, and I shall always very respectfully defer to the wonderful ladies above.

                    Speaking of which, I would beg you to start a thread on modern Pakistani cooking and cooking shows. People here probably have had NO EXPOSURE to either and deserve to understand what those are, and will benefit by receiving a positive image of Pakistan. Perhaps you could start with chicken karahi, something like Hala-nakah karahi [ Saadat' show; poor guy he stopped being the lad and has become so God-fearing all of a sudden; maybe living in Karachi does that to us all!!], pure Peshawari lamb karahi, etc. Maybe cover the regions, one by one?

                    The Pakistani cooking shows, with very few exceptions, deserve enormous recognition for production quality, production values, and the personalities themselves, putting up with a buzillion callers at the most inopportune moments requesting the most absurd things, but sometimes also very sad and pathetic things. It is wonderful to see the sensitivity with which these last are handled. So, they consist of a very valuable window into Pakistan, showing a society of very nice people, struggling with daily problems, and going about their lives beset by a host of issues.

                    Speaking of accents, have you ever met someone like our Farah Dearest, speaking Urdu, Punbabi and Pashto in her inimitable public school accent? She is one amazing lady, and I could name a couple who trail a distant 2nd and 3rd, but this is not a naughty gossip column on Pakistani food shows, however enjoyable such an activity might be. However, some amazing teachers and chefs there, Afzal Nizami, and some others, and some total timewasters, who have gotten themselves shows who knows how!

                    Indian cooking shows [with some exceptions that are not on TV anymore, e.g. Dawat-e-Khas by Seema Chandra], by comparison, are superficial, vulgar, short, and more concerned with entertainment than the food. Marut Sikka makes an effort, but his cooking techniques are most inexpert I have ever come across. The man cannot cook, no matter his fame!

                    Bangladeshi shows are top-class, and if you understand Bengali or have some neighbors, Siddika Kabir's shows on Youtube, and R-Ranna, are absolutely first rate, and the people making up the show, well beyond first-rate.

                    Getting back to Bajia, I must defend her onions! You will note that it is only in the case of her chicken curry or liver? She has browned the onions and needs to get them to soften into the gravy, so she takes the quick route. She could have gone the danedar route, and left the onions to form thin, semi-melted masses in the gravy, or like other Pakistani cooks, given the bereshta a whirl in the blender, maybe with yoghurt, to create the dense gravy base. In the meantime she could have done the G+G thing, bhunaoed her chicken, tomatoes, and reintroduced her onion base in time to add water etc. Anyway, I remain her staunch defender although she does use an electric wok for chicken karahi and an electric cooker for biryani (!!); I keep imagining if she were my spouse, I should probably love her a great deal but go completely NUTS over her neatness issues! And why does she not grow some fresh cilantro in all that space I can see out back, where she dries her vadiyan, in warm Australia? More mysteries!!! But at least she behaves nicely with MIL, more reasons to love, and she uses a Thai mortar and pestle!

                    1. re: GTM

                      I forgot to add that for most Rarh Bengali lunch dishes, in the US good quality Thai jasmine rice provides the ideal mix of tenderness, stickiness, as well as fluffiness necessary to mix with the hands, combine well with both the dry and gravy preparations, and convey both to the mouth in the preferred proportions and with a pleasant mouthfeel. Long grain basmati, for me, fails in the absorption and mouthfeel criteria, and many others, for these purposes. I know many of my relatives in North America switched to basmati rice, because to them being able to eat basmati seemed to be a step up in the Joneses ladder, but that is socioeconomic complex not everyone is tormented by!

                      1. re: GTM

                        GTM I purchased a bag of high grade golden Sella Basmati to try it out. I made a Sindhi biryani with it. The rice was very firm and chewy, though fully cooked. All of the grains were completely separate. It looked beautiful, but in taste, one could tell this was not regular basmati. It didn't have the same perfume. Also, the grains didn't yield to being mashed by the fingers into a clump with the meat and seasonings as normal basmati would. Somehow the firm quality of the rice made the biryani seem slightly dry. It is a 10 lb bag so I will continue to experiment with it. Perhaps I'll try making mutanjan next.

                         
                        1. re: luckyfatima

                          Dear Fatimaji,

                          Glad you tried that experiment. My take on the parboiled type is that it resists absorbing flavors and stock nearly as well as the regular basmati which makes it inferior for biryani but excellent for Chinese-style fried rice. You may wish to liven up flavors with a hint of fish sauce [if that is halal] & soy sauce, both dribbled around the sides of the pan to "toast" them before incorporation. Finishing with chopped scallions a very good idea, and need to lighten the rice with some fresh/frozen English peas or frozen mixed vegetables.

                          Mutanjan: strangely, Shireen Anwar and so many other cooking show hosts [Zubeida Tariq, and others] who have good taste, swear by 'sela' rice owing to its "indestructibility" when it comes to handling the syrup and many operations of mutanjan. However, I am from West Bengal, and the whole concept of pouring sugar syrup, oodles of toxic yellow color that is de rigeur in every festive Pakistani dish [ and a little bit will never ever suffice!!] plus the even more ghastly array of toxic neon "candied fruit" that bedevil the northern tier of the subcontinent [ask me one day what those "maraschino cherries" are and how they are made!!] and I can't imagine using rice as a vehicle for such amazing acts of human creativity run amok! I have only praise that you have been able to adopt "ownership" of this "snark". Oh, frabjous day!

                      2. re: luckyfatima

                        In the 80's when I started cooking "India," I took note in the back of mind, Dehra Doon basmati is a basmati area of interest for me.

                        I've never bought a brand that showed that it was from that area yet.

                        I've bought many rice brands, but started using Tilda (brown and white) recently (even though I still have a few other basmati brands that I sitll have on hand, and use).

                        1. re: Rella

                          The Doon Valley was a magical place, nestled between the first range of the Himalaya mountains and the Shivalik range where very ancient hominid fossils have been discovered. It has a very equable climate, with cool, clear nights in autumn, necessary for good rice yields, and also rich alluvial soils. All of this has made the Valley a magnet for the crazy "development" characteristic of modern India, with the resultant sky-high real estate values. I doubt if farming and the fabled fruit orchard can long survive factories churning out chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and who knows what. That is called modernity and modernisation! As late as 1977-82, I have seen with my own eyes, the River Yamuna run a startling deep blue at Paonta Sahib, an important pilgrimage connected with the childhood of Shri Guru Nanak Devji, the founder of Sikhism. That is how Yamuna is described in the classical Sanskrit classical literature, flowing through the madhuvana, forests blooming with trees redolent with humming bees, also exactly true of the Doon Valley, rich with Terminalia and Shorea forests that had to be seen in the spring. These are called subtropical Dipterocarps and have among their members numerous species from which aromatic incense is produced, e.g. Vateria indica, and many others. The intoxicating, nay, maddening, atmosphere created, had to be experienced to be believed. Only then the stories of Krishna and Radha become plausible!

                          This was the setting in which the River Tons, rushing down from the Himalayas, along with so many other mineral-rich torrents, such as the Yamuna, made the Valley appropriate for the Doon strains of basmati, and also kept it isolated, from other rices. The same story was repeated further west in Jammu, another exceptional terroir for basmati, perhaps even more renowned than Doon valley.

                          Today, basmati has become cheapened, like bulk zinfandel and bulk shiraz produced at lib wherever grapes can grow, it would seem. Punjab, east and west, and even Andhra Pradesh, grow types of rice that share the basmati genes, and can loosely be called "basmati" for the sake of commerce. That is what is available and drives the marketing craze behind basmati! Indians and their taste buds thrived without basmati, and 90% manage perfectly well without it today, because their native cuisine does not mesh well with that type of rice. This is something to bear in mind!

                          East, south, west, and even the ordinary Hindu cuisine of North India, has not evolved for the basmati rice, and tastes VERY ODD to the native Indian when eaten with it. ( I am not talking about the ultra-modern urban, westernized Indian who is completely alienated from his/her roots, and is a pond weed drifting without direction and goal.)

                          Good quality basmati comes into its own in pilafs and the court cuisine rich with ghee and seasoned with meats. It is a dry, and spare rice, requiring these accompaniments to shine, so please keep that in mind when you consider "cooking Indian". Indian cooking comprises the foods of 3000 endogamous communities, each of which have evolved very distinct traditions. Take, for example, two very cultured Muslim communities that live in close proximity in Mumbai, and even share certain common sectarian ideas: the Bohras and the Khojas. Yet they have interesting ways of cooking, and certain ways of eating, that distinguish one from the other. There is a group of Christians who have chosen to call themselves East Indians, also living in Mumbai; they are renowned for their "bottle masala". These have little in common with the cooking of the Goan Christians, although both may cook "vindaloo", but 2 distinctly different types. All 4 communities cook dishes that do NOT call for basmati rice, for the daily meal. I urge you to explore Bohri cooking for its delicacy and ease of preparation in the American kitchen, at least as far as "curries" and "curry powders" are concerned!!

                          1. re: GTM

                            Thanks, I will explore Bohri
                            Bohri cooking at Google
                            http://www.google.com/search?q=Bohri+...

                            Jammu article I found interesting
                            http://oryza.com/Rice-News/14974.html

                            Thanks for your info.

                            1. re: Rella

                              Two Bohri sites:

                              http://www.journeykitchen.com/p/bohra...

                              http://onelifetoeat.com/

                              A Bohri kari powder: use your instincts for proportions!

                              Grind together in a dedicated coffee grinder:

                              Star anise, fennel, cassia bark, aromatic red pepper or paprika, whole coriander seed, black peppercorns, whole cloves, turmeric, raw or roasted chickpea dal, white poppy seeds, raw cashew, white sesame. This can be stored in a glass jar in the freezer for the future. Quantities used are 1-1.5 cups per kilogram of meat or more to taste, so the amounts of chickpea, sesame etc, are proportionately more than the strongly aromatic spices. Play around, and have fun experimenting!!

                              Boil good quality Chevon or lamb shanks with chopped garlic and ginger, no salt, until semi-tender but some chew left. You are going to simmer this for more than 30-40 minutes yet, so use judgment. No salt now. The stock made here will be your gravy, so keep that in mind. Pressure cooker makes things simple or a crock pot.

                              Heat neutral vegetable oil until it is able to receive curry leaves and release their aroma without burning them. Get some fresh curry leaves, or frozen ones, and add a modest sprig, according to your taste. Then, "one bowl" of the curry powder, which means perhaps 1-1.5 cups per kg of raw meat that you have pre-cooked. Gently fry the curry powder, toast it in the oil, which you realize has to be enough but not too much. Now add a modest quantity of chopped tomatoes, fresh plum tomatoes, and/or canned whole ones, enough to consolidate the mass of toasted/fried powder and turn it into a pasty mass by gently stirring and cooking ofr 15-20 minutes, until oil seeps out the edges. Obviously a non-stick deep wok will make life easier, or a non-stick dutch oven.

                              Now, slowly add the meat stock and bring to a simmer, and then add a 14 oz can of Chao Koh or Arroyo-D coconut milk. Let it come to a simmer and become incorporated with the spice paste emulsion. Then add some well-beaten yoghurt of excellent quality, or some Greek yoghurt. This will be your souring agent, Or, if you do not want dairy, add some tamarind extract, or some lime juice, even rhubarb to experiment. Now add the reserved meat and simmer for 30 minutes, adding salt, and balancing with some fresh garlic paste, and fresh ginger paste, according to your taste. You may add a very tiny pinch of sugar, merely to balance tastes. Cook until everything is tender and balanced.

                              Serve with jasmine rice, or oven-toasted baguette slices, if that is your choice. Nan or oven-warmed pita, until they are hot and limp, are good too. A nice salad of cucumbers and onion may go well with this, or even cole slaw and potato salad. Even egg noodles. This curry was served to Kunal Vijayekar in Mumbai, and I am making my own slight modifications. Enjoy.

                            2. re: GTM

                              Yes, your last paragraph here sums up what is lost when pan-Indian faux Mughlai Punjabi cuisine take over, it masks this kaleidoscope of diversity. The Bohras and Ismailis are indeed interesting. Both Shi'as, their sectarian split is centuries old, but both communities are rooted in Gujarat (for Ismailis there are a few non-desi groups like in Iran, but most are Gujarati, and both Ismailis and Bohras are everywhere including major communities in Mumbai, Karachi, Dhaka, Myanmar, East Africa, the UK, N. America, and so on), they speak different ethno-lectic dialects of Gujarati, and their cuisines are different. I don't know much about Bohras and it is my impression that they are very communally insular. I can only recognize them based on their distinct sartorial requirements. But I have a handful of Ismaili friends and have gotten to know some of their cooking---they even distinguish themselves based on which city they have settled in outside of Gujarat but also from where in Gujarat they have come (typically either Kutch or Kathiavar) and their foods are distinct based on these roots. Since I have known these friends outside of India and Pakistan, I have only ever noted basmati rice served in their homes, perhaps due to the same phenomenon you have described. The Memons are another interesting Gujarat origin Muslim community, yet again distinct. They also have regional splits, but I have enjoyed their spicy Memni biryani. Their food is very hot and sour. They have a dish called dhokra (like the word dhokla) but instead of a steamed savory cake it is similar to a Gujarati undhiyu with palm formed 'muthiyas', legumes/lentils, and a medley of vegetables cooked together. Such an endless variety of delicacies that would never show up in an Indian restaurant.

                              1. re: GTM

                                I am simply trying to absorb the poetry of your posts, and admiring your knowledge and discernment.

                                1. re: ANTIVICTORIA

                                  You are too kind in your generosity, illustrating only your own nobility of heart. In India, we speak of the "mahashaya", one whose character embodies greatness by virtue of taking the faults and shortcomings in others and transforming them into goodness, or seeing only merit, in them. That is what you have done in the case of this prolix and ignorant fool.

                                  When I post, I do so out of unimaginable grief of a lost tradition, and the truly great, humble and extraordinary cooks whose skills I would have liked to portray accurately before you, but lack the intelligence and every other ability to do. It is the portrayal of the guru-parampara, the teaching lineage, that lies foremost in every traditional Indian mind, the obsessive need to transfer the "tradition" unsullied from one generation, to you all, as an example.

                                  As per tradition, the transmitting agent strives to make himself as inconsequential and as "void" as an open portal, that he becomes, in order to faithfully be the unobstructed conduit between the past and the present. If you were to read my posts in that light, and gain some insight into the traditional cooking of India, or become interested in investigating in depth a regional tradition from someone with a sound knowledge of their native roots, my purpose would be served.

                                  More than 90% of the dishes of my childhood have become extinct in West Bengal owing to urbanisation and changing social and other factors. The remaining 10% are being bowdlerized beyond recognition. All this within 6 decades! So you can imagine why I write with a heavy heart.

                                  1. re: GTM

                                    GTM, I'm sure others have said this, but I wish you would write a cookbook, or maybe an MFK Fisher-style book of food recollections. Best, Ninrn

                      3. re: GTM

                        That is the method the package recommended and the one I was curious about. Very informative. I love that the water could be used for ironing clothes!

                      4. I have been making basmati rice from my Indian grocer for over a year now. And I never rinse my rice.

                        I found tidbits of information here on these boards and my rice comes out really, really good. It's super easy too.

                        1 cup of basmati rice
                        1&1/2 cup water
                        1 tsp. butter
                        1 tsp. better than boullion (I use chicken)
                        1 tsp. salt

                        Bring all ingrients to a boil except rice. Turn heat to low (I move it slightly off burner as well). Take two paper towels and place over top of pan and place a tight lid on pan. Set timer for 16 minutes.

                        After it's done, shut heat and remove rice from hot burner, remove paper towels and cover. Fluff with fork. Place cover on again, but not sealed. Let sit for 5 minutes and fluff again. Optional: Add chopped cilantro and julienned basil.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mcel215

                          It was my understanding that the white that comes off the rice when rinsing is not only the particles from the rice, but is talc. I have seen "talc" as an ingredient in sacks/packages of rice.

                        2. I'm also from India originally, and we cooked rice the way GTM describes for many years. Then I saw a Persian lady demonstrating a fool-proof way of making basmati rice in any quantity and have only made it this way since.

                          Rinse the rice until the water is clear (at least three times). Soak the rice in water to cover by a half inch or an inch for at least 2 hours, but not more than 6. Drain out the soaking water. For every one part of rice, bring one and a half times as much water to a boil in a sauce pot with a well-fitting lid (so, for 1 cup of rice, 1.5 cups water). When the water comes up to a vigorous boil, add the soaked rice. When the water comes up to a boil again, cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and allow to simmer for exactly 5 minutes. When that time is over, remove the rice from the heat, but keep the lid on the pot. Allow it to sit on a cold burner and cook in the residual heat for 15 minutes. Fluff and transfer to a serving dish immediately so the cooking stops.

                          If you want to make a pilaf or biryani, do exactly the same process, but, before you boil the water, saute your vegetables and toast your spices as needed in the saucepot. Add the water, bring to a boil, add the soaked rice and continue as above.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: ninrn

                            I have a magic number for rinsing any white rice - 7 - doesn't matter what it looks like; however, others say that I'm washing off 'something, some vitamins."

                            1. re: Rella

                              In the US, some long grain rices used to be sold as FORTIFIED rices, fortified with minerals and vitamins. In that case, you might indeed be washing off nutrients added to conform to federal regulations. BUT, you MUST wash Indian rices that are packed under no such regulations. They are milled from unwashed paddy, and contain many contaminants, including rodent urine, insect parts, and so on. You are washing off dirt, starch and much else, and it is mandatory to wash everything clean.

                              In our traditional systems, we used to buy paddy, wash it thoroughly, and also wheat, legumes, and everything to be consumed that could be washed, These used to be dried well on large reed mats, and only then admitted into the house. Then, they would be sent to the local chakki or stone mill to be ground or hulled, as appropriate, as needed. Whether rich or poor, everyone did the same, and everyone consumed freshly milled flour each week. Indeed, millet flour like pearl millet is extremely nourishing but also turns rancid very fast in a warm climate.

                              Perhaps in the US we need to return to the Indian system where these ideas of hygiene arose after thousands of years of trial and error in a warm climate. Today, we are finding out in Arizona and elsewhere, that incurable viral and other diseases are spread by mice and rats contaminating and urinating in grain. What happens in large warehouses is beyond our control, and grain certainly is not cleaned from the field to the grinding rollers, It may be winnowed and sifted but no other cleaning procedures are employed. I am not scaremongering, but what we do not see is what we do not remark with any degree of intensity!

                              1. re: GTM

                                For many reasons, including your admonitions, I have reduced my grain intake to just a few of the commonly eaten grains, the main one now that I continue to enjoy without too much trepidation is rice, but I still have some qualms.

                                1. re: Rella

                                  You should not become cowed down by life or any circumstances! You & I are the survivors of millions of years of evolution, of ancestors who survived rather horrific diets as late as a couple of hundred years ago! So please enjoy your grains and just employ a modicum of caution. For example, rather than scaring yourself, some day, a group of friends might be able to afford a good grain mill and mill their own wheat flour from washed wheat they buy in 50 lb sacks from Wyoming mills. They could join bread baking forums, and bake breads together once a week and enjoy a Sunday lunch together, We are losing a sense of community and togetherness in America today, placing too great a value on the appearance of being busy and who knows wat else. There is more to be scared on this misallocation of time and values that ultimately leads to an emptiness of the soul and the palpable anomie we see all around us, reflected in the interest in the lives of film stars, sports personalities and people who have no direct relationship or meaning to our existence!

                                  Fear of contaminated grain is very insignificant compared to all that. I am a biochemist specializing in the membranes of plant cells, and also a molecular plant pathologist by default; so please let me assure you about eating grains. Brown rice, brown basmati, and the rices produced by LUNDBERG are excellent, and are easily washed. They are grown in the USA and subject to many layers of control that are verified. The quality is beyond reproach, and made into pilafs with olive oil, combined with bulgur, a steamed wheat product, they make a fantastic and healthy meal. You can add whole lentils produced in Idaho, as are pink and pinto beans. Tasty little navy beans are produced in Michigan, and make excellent Indian, Latin, and Western dishes. We have teparies and our own black beans, and heirlooms without number. We live in a land of great riches, and need to be aware of our strengths, and our weaknesses. How to conserve our bounty is something people like you are becoming very active about, because our national and personal health depends on this, and so does our future economic well-being.

                                  We have excellent barley, and the PEARLING process removes part of the exterior, so that should remove some of your worries, because the exterior hull is where any rodent contamination lodges. The pearling process removes that and the pearled grain goes straight into packages without any further chance of animal contact or insect damage. So, pearl barley and mushroom soup for the winter evenings, simmering away in a crockpot!

                                  Hope some of your misgivings have been allayed, and please eat with joy and ease!

                                  1. re: Rella

                                    Converted rice is another grain you should have no qualms eating. Paddy rice is protected by a tough husk which is what takes any abuse in storage. In the parboiling or "conversion process, the paddy rice is washed and soaked and then steamed, and finally dried. The soaking, steaming and drying, in the husk, is repeated, and only then is the rice milled, i.e. the husk removed. You can imagine that by now the rice is pretty clean.

                                    Some brands, in the 20lb sack, e.g. Canilla, are sold for $14 or less, making it 70cents/lb. You definitely do NOT need to wash this rice before cooking, and it is what I eat every single day. You can make excellent Chinese fried rice, Cajun dishes, dirty rice, Puerto Rican arroz con pollo, and a dozen different yummy things. It is the rice of choice for many Indian regional cuisines, and you can prepare very good dosas and iddlis using just converted rice and urad gram dal as the base. Converted rice also has a relatively benign glycemic index compared to glutinous and plain white rice.