“Soak? For how long? Does that make any difference?”
“Should I cover the pot or not?”
Questions like these and a lot more is what Ive learnt to expect during my cooking workshops over the years.
So, here is my definite Basmati advice for all:
Buy from the right place !
The very exquisite rice is typically grown in the Himalayan foothills of Pakistan and India. The weather plays an important role in its cultivation, therefore, when buying Basmati, the origin does matter! The South Asian supermarkets in your area can be the best choice to get hold of the finest grains!
Invest in good quality !
There are dozens of brands available in the market. My advice is to pick the second most if not the most expensive one. Or ask the shopkeeper for the grains that are at least an year old (2 years even better!).
Store in a dry place !
Basmati, when kept in a dry place has a long shelf life. Always make sure to use a dry cup or glass to measure before cooking!
Wash gently !
This slender grain is the only type that elongates while cooking and should never be sticky and gooey. In order to attain that, rinsing is required! It helps removing the starchy coating and also any possible impurities.
Best way to do that is: take rice in a big bowl and fill it with water. Gently swirl around with your hand. Discard the water carefully and repeat the process 3-5 times until the water runs almost clear. Be gentle!
Not washing the rice might lead to faster spoiling after cooking!
Soak and drain !
You can leave the basmati in warm water for 30 min or in cold water for up to 4 hours! Not necessary but it does help to lighten the grain and make it expand during cooking. The cooking time will vary depending on how rehydrated the rice gets!
The soaked rice needs to be completely drained before going into the pot.
Exception: In case of recipes that call for a quick stir fry, leave out this step!
Select the right sized pan !
The wider the cooking pan, the more space rice will get to swim. Avoid cooking in small pans! The soaked, very fragile rice grains tend to break due to own weight in a small high pan.
Cooking the right way:
Depending on the recipe and your preferences, here are two commonly used methods:
Open pan / Excess water method (For light, fluffier texture):
This is pretty similar to boiling pasta. For a cup of rice, boil generous amount of water with 1 teaspoon of salt. Transfer the soaked, drained rice to it. Allow to cook on medium heat until al-dente. Discard the boiling water using a colander and transfer the rice back into the pan. Cover and allow to rest for 10-15 min on lowest heat. DO NOT open the lid during this time. Eventually fluff the rice with a fork .
Covered pan / Absorption method (For dense, filling texture):
This is where you measure the water and let rice absorb it all.
The ratio is usually 1 dry cup rice: 2 cups water and 1 leveled teaspoon salt. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Transfer the soaked drained rice to it along with the salt. Allow to cook on low medium heat with the lid on. As soon the water is absorbed and there are tiny holes on the surface, remove from heat and allow to rest for 10-15 min. Fluff gently with a fork.
Dish out properly!
Be gentle dishing out Basmati! The beautiful long grains are very fragile after cooking and you don’t want to break them. Always use a big broad spatula or a small saucer! Insert on the side of the pan and push towards the centre lifting as much rice as possible in one go.