Left to right: long grain brown rice, Bhutanese red rice, white Basmati, Rose Matta rice, short grain brown rice.
We eat a lot of home-baked bread and wheat-based products. Rice? Not so much. Hence, imagine our surprise when we did a pantry audit and found:
Number of rice products? 10.
Five types of rice, puffed rice, flattened rice flakes, brown rice flour, brown rice cakes and a wild rice blend.
We’re south Indians after all, and the first solid meal we were fed was rice mixed with ghee and honey. In Kerala, at around the six-month mark, babies have a choroonu (rice feeding ceremony), and it is celebrated as a major milestone. No ritual in south Asia, irrespective of religion, is complete without rice.
Four of the five rices we use are either of the brown, or red variety. Brown rice is unmilled, has only the husk removed, and retains 100% of the bran. Red rice is semi-milled, with the husk and some of the bran removed. White rice is milled and polished to remove the husk and all the bran. Unlike white rices, brown/red rices are high in fibre, have a wonderful array of nutrients, and possess properties that help control blood lipids, and blood sugar levels.
In terms of taste, we actually prefer the nuttiness and wholesome flavour of brown/red rice varieties to that of white rice. The only white rice we use is basmati.
White basmati rice: From the Himlayan foothills – a result of cross-breeding rice and saffron. Aromatic, delicate, perfect for pulaos and biryanis. We serve it when we have guests who may not be accustomed to the taste/texture of brown or red rice.
Our two favourite varieties:
ROSE MATTA RICE
Red parboiled rice from Kerala. We use it as a staple with veggies and curries, for idlis , and a host of other dishes that call for parboiled rice, as well as for traditional Kerala dishes like kallappam, and pal payasam.
Modus operandi: Pressure cook 1 cup of rice with three cups of water for three whistles, or cook on the stove top with 3 cups of water in a covered pan for around 40-45 minutes.
BHUTANESE RED RICE
Fed by runoff from a 1000-year old glacier high in the Himalayas, this rice is grown with almost no pesticides or fertilisers. Nutty, and beautiful, it holds its shape and cooks faster than other brown/red rices. We use it in rice salads, or as a main course. This is a japonica variety, and excellent for sushi. It is an expensive indulgence, but worth every grain.
Modus operandi: Pressure cook 1 cup of rice with 2.5 cups of water for two whistles, then simmer for a few more minutes. Or cook on the stovetop with 2.5 cups water for 30-35 minutes.
BLACK RICE (FORBIDDEN RICE)
Black rice is one of several black-colored heirloom plants producing rice variants such as Indonesian Black Rice, forbidden rice, or wild rice. High in nutritional and medicinal value, forbidden rice is rich in iron and considered a blood tonifier. Unlike other black rice from Asia, it is not glutinous or rough. This grain is high in fiber and has a deep, nutty taste. The deep color of black forbidden rice, and the deep purple color when cooked, suggests the presence of phytonutrients. It has a relatively high mineral content (including iron) and, like most rice, supplies several important amino acids.
It was enjoyed at the court of the ancient Chinese emperors for its nutritional properties. Most references say that it was reserved for the emperor’s table, and since it was probably shared with the emperor’s consorts, as well as other members of his family and the court at his discretion it was thus called “forbidden rice.”
Modus operandi: Rinse 1 cup of rice quickly. Soak it for 1 hour in 2 cups of water. In the same water (it is mineral-rich), cook on the stovetop or pressure cook for 2 whistles and simmer for a few more minutes.
Brown rice flour: We usually make it by powdering long grain brown rice in the food processor. Used for thickening curries, and also in a variety of traditional south Indian dishes and snacks.
Puffed rice: (Kurmura/Murmura) Used in bhel, laddoos , chikkis and assorted goodies. We get the brown variety with no salt, no additives from the cereal aisle of the chain that everyone loves to hate (and sue).
Tip: If your puffed rice smells old and is no longer crisp, wake it up with a five-minute stint in a 350F oven.
Rice cakes: We love the salt-free version. Just two ingredients – brown rice and water. Slather with your favourite topping and enjoy a guilt-free snack.