Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Indian Basmati Rice

About a year ago, if you would have asked me what I knew about rice, I would probably just look at you, confused, and say, there are different kinds of rice...? Isn't all rice the same? No. I've come to realize it is not at all the same. I just learned a couple weeks ago that it takes 40 minutes to cook brown rice. Seriously? That takes for-e-ver. I still have not cooked with arborio rice (to make risotto), but I do know a little more now. In my pantry I have brown, basmati, cous cous (does that count?), jasmine (long grain), and medium grain (japanese) rice.

I have been trying to perfect the fried rice that they make at the Hibachi Japanese restaurants. I bought the rice they use, Kokuho (medium grain), and use all of the same ingredients... but it's not the same. I talked to the manager of HB in Houston, and he said even they can't cook it the same at home because they don't have those 500 degree cooking surfaces. Bummer. I then asked my Asian friends, and they went crazy on me when I told them I used medium and not long grain, jasmine rice. That is when I learned that Chinese people cook with long grain (jasmine) rice, and Japanese people cook with medium grain rice. The only difference to me really is that medium grain is stickier, but apparently there is much more of a difference than that. When you search on the web, every recipe I've seen uses jasmine rice, so don't waste your time and go buy medium grain rice. Jasmine is just fine.

Anyway... My friend, Bhavini, got me excited about cooking Indian food. Her recipes are delicious, but she lives in Dallas and goes to med school, so recently I've had to find recipes on my own. Some were good, but many were flops. I found this recipe of Basmati Rice, and it is pretty close to the kind they serve at Indian restaurants. Yes, you do need to buy basmati rice. It is completely different than any other grain. It is longer, but nothing like the long grain rice we buy at the grocery store. Basmati rice is really expensive at Kroger/HEB. I got mine at an Indian store in Houston. I think I got like 10 lbs for $15, but I got the good stuff. Also, if you ever do intend on making Asian or Indian food, you will save a lot of money going to an Asian or Indian store. I bought all of my Indian spices in a store in Dallas, spent about $10, and I don't think I will ever run out.

The only thing that might be missing is minced cilantro. I haven't tried it with cilantro yet, though. I'll let you know!

Indian Style Basmati Rice
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Serves 6

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 pods green cardamom
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 1/2 cups water
1 small onion, thinly sliced

1. Place rice into a bowl with enough water to cover. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes. (Do not over soak or the rice will turn into mush when boiled.)

2. Heat the oil in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and cumin seed. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add the onion to the pot. Saute the onion until a rich golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the water from the rice, and stir into the pot. Cook and stir the rice for a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Add salt and water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.

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