Fragrant Basmati Rice
I know that making rice is one of those tasks that can be frightening for some, and if you don’t have a rice cooker (if you have an Instant Pot you do have a rice cooker!), here is a foolproof way of making stovetop basmati rice. But first, what is basmati rice?
“The Fragrant One”
The word basmati translates to “the fragrant one.” The most sought after basmati rice is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and is aged for a minimum of two years. Basmati has as an enticing nutty fragrance and can be short and medium-grained, as well as the more easily found long-grain rice. Because of the aging process, basmati’s slender, delicate grains cook up light and fluffy. Aging rice also increases the flavor and aroma.
Rice is one of those kitchen staples without which there would be few complete Indian meals. Each region has a favorite locally grown rice for everyday meals, and a more expensive rice for celebrations. Rice is often cooked and served simply, with some dal and pickle. And it is ground and used to make sweets, crepes, dumplings, and roasted into flakes. Also, rice is famously served fancy in biryanis and pulaos along side curries. Indian cooks primarily cook with long grain rice, of which basmati is the most expensive. It costs 3 to 5 times more than regular long-grain rice, so it is often reserved for special occasions.
My favorite weeknight way to cook simple basmati rice is to throw it into a “baby” rice cooker that we got as a wedding present over thirty years ago. It only accommodates 1 cup of uncooked rice, and works like a charm, serving up perfect rice for two people for several meals. If you cook rice frequently, you may want to consider a rice cooker. My top of the line pick would be the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5-1/2-Cup (Uncooked) Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker, and a great budget pick would be the Hamilton Beach (37548) Rice Cooker, 7 Cups (Uncooked). I will be posting a recipe for basmati rice using a rice cooker or in an Instant Pot in the near future.
You would not want to make biryani or pulao ahead, but simple rice dishes can be made ahead and reheated on the stovetop. To reheat rice, place a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Start with 1 tablespoon of water and stir gently and frequently until steam builds up. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat. Let the rice steam until heated through (about 10 to 15 minutes).
See the notes below before you cook.
Stovetop Basmati Rice
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 teaspoon sea or table salt, optional
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teapoon ghee, optional
- Gather all your ingredients.
- In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, add the rice and our enough water to cover the rice by about an inch. Rub the grains of rice gently between your fingers, removing the starch. Pour off the water and repeat 2 or 3 more times, or until the water runs relatively clear. Drain.
- Add 1 1/2 cups cold water to the pan and let the rice soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Add the salt and over medium-high heat, bring the rice to a hard boil. Turn the heat down to medium or whatever temperature you need to to keep the rice at a low boil. Cook until there are craters on the surface and the water has started to evaporate. About 5 to 9 minutes.
- Stir, redistributing the rice throughout the pan, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Let the rice sit on the same burner without stirring for 10 minutes. This helps the rice finish cooking evenly. Stir through with some ghee if you wish.
- Always make more stovetop basmati rice than you think need for your current meal; especially when cooking plain rice, you can make flavored rice the next meal, or it freezes beautifully. Lovely fried rice with whatever leftovers you have in the fridge is also a great option. Oh, and add an egg to it!
- Use a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. If you have a loose-fitting lid, cover the pot with aluminum foil before covering with the lid.
- Be sure to leave time to soak your rice for at least 15, ideally 30 minutes before cooking. Along with a thorough washing, soaking preserves the lovely aromas and ensures that your rice will be less likely to be mushy and stick together.
- Finally, be sure to leave time to rest the rice covered, and undisturbed after it is finished cooking for at least 5 minutes.This will ensure the rice is uniformly cooked through and fluff up. If you are having problems with sticky rice, after resting, leave the lid ajar and allow the steam to escape for another 15 to 20 minutes.