Perfect Basmati Rice with Jeera (Cumin)
Growing up in an indian household rice was such a staple food. I think any Asian can attest to how important rice is in their traditional ethnic meals. We used to eat rice almost every night, and ALWAYS had some in the fridge. I don’t think, when I was younger, I even understood how people didn’t eat rice so regularly, that concept was completely beyond me. While I was growing up, my paternal grandmother, my Dadima, who lived with us used to do most of the cooking along with my mom, and every night we used to have a full indian meal of chawal (rice), roti (indian flat bread), subzi (indian vegetables), and dal (lentils) or Kadhi (gravy thickened with chickpea flour), raita(yogurt with raw vegetables), and salad. It was so normal for me, as a child, I never really thought about all the work that was involved in making that much food for one meal. Often there were even 2 separate subzi’s (indian vegetable dishes) because somebody in my family (usually me or my little sister) didn’t like one or the other. In hindsight I think we were a little spoiled! Oh well…
I never made rice myself before I got married. Sure, when my mom was making it, sometimes she would ask me to keep an eye on it and turn the stove off at a certain point if she had to walk away or take a phone call or something, but that was the extent to which I used to involve myself in the rice-making process. It wasn’t until I got married that I attempted to make rice based of my basic memories of my mom making it. To say I failed epically would be an understatement. To be fair… the first time I made rice in my new home with my husband, I was using pots that my husband had, had since college, and I was using the “basmati rice” that you can find at the regular grocery store that is actually not anything like basmati rice at all (I know better now). I was actually making it with my husbands mother who was visiting us, and obviously she knew what she was doing, and STILL the rice came out like total mush. Something, was definitely wrong. We immediately blamed the old, poor quality pots, and the next day my husbands mom took us out and bought me a brand new pot to cook rice in. For the remainder of my in-laws visit the rice came out moderately better thanks to the upgraded pot. We were living in Indiana at the time, in a little town almost an hour away from real civilization so we were working with the resources we had. I attempted to make rice probably 6 or 7 times in the year following my wedding, but it was never turning out quite right, so I started using the mushy rice for burritos and things like that where you would not notice the texture as obviously. Turns out it was the fault of both the pot AND the rice I was buying as to why it was not coming out so good.
A little less than a year after my wedding, my husband’s job brought us to South Florida. No more -40 deg winters, instead we were looking forward to 110+ degree summers. (to be honest I would take the cold over the heat any day). Moving to South Florida also brought us closer to my maternal grandparents who also live in Florida less than 2 hours away from us. My maternal Grandmother’s, my Nanima’s, rice has always been the best restaurant quality rice. Nobody I ever knew made rice as perfectly as her, every grain so perfectly separated, no mush anywhere, such wonderful texture, and the rice had such beautiful length, like true basmati. Obviously the first thing I wanted to learn from her when we moved here to Florida was how to achieve that PERFECT rice. Luckily for me, she was more than happy to show me!!! When I first told her I wanted to learn how to make rice from her, she totally shocked me when she said, “Anisha, you wouldn’t believe me, but this rice only takes 5 minutes to make!” I definitely did not believe her, but lo and behold she was right. There is a little bit of preparation you must do before the “5 minutes” but actual cooking time, is only 5 minutes.
The true test of whether basmati rice is cooked correctly is to see that the individual grains are turning up like these grains are.
First things first, you have to buy the right rice to start with. I have not tried her recipe with regular grocery store basmati rice, maybe I will buy that again and try it to see how it comes out, but the best way to guarantee success is just to start off with the right rice. If you have an South Asian grocery store near you, it is definitely worth taking a visit and checking out their rice selection. Depending on where you live, the selection will vary, but what you are looking for is “long grain Basmati Rice” you do not want it to be par-boiled. I prefer to buy the “XL grain Basmati Rice” but any long grain will work just as well. If you do not live near any South Asian grocery store, that’s okay. In this day and age, you could probably get anything you ever wanted online. Amazon has a nice selection of basmati rice, here is a link for the only one they have available that is “XL grain” Kohinoor Gold Basmati Rice – 1 kg.
This is the brand of Basmati Rice that I purchase from the South Asian grocery store. I also store it in a large mason jar in my cabinet.
The next most important step is a 2 parter. You MUST wash the rice correctly. To obtain the correct texture of perfectly separated grains, there must be little to no starch present on the rice when you are cooking it. This is what prevents it from getting sticky. When you are washing the rice, you will probably think a few good rinses, maybe even through a sieve would be enough, but that is far from the case. You have to put your rice in a bowl, fill the bowl with water, and gently rub the rice between your fingers, and move it around the water, then drain that water, and repeat the whole process, 15-20 times. It sounds like a lot, but once you do it the first couple of times, you don’t have to think much, and it goes pretty quick. Each brand of rice is different, but I have never had a problem with over-washing the rice, only under-washing it, so just make sure you are confident in the clarity of the water before you move on to the next step. After you have cleaned the rice properly, the second half of this important step, is to soak the rice, for 30 minutes minimum but no more than 45 minutes. This gives you a good amount of time to prepare whatever it is you are eating with the rice. Just incase that may have been confusing, I made a step-by-step graphic to help you figure out when the rice is clean enough.
After the rice has soaked for 30-45 minutes, you will notice that each individual grain has swelled and increased in size. At this point when you are handling the rice you must be very gentle with it. The grains have become very brittle. I once made the mistake of taking my husbands suggestion one day while I was teaching him how I made rice (I was leaving home for a month, and did not want him to survive on frozen pizza) to wash the rice AFTER soaking it, and ended up breaking my beautiful XL grain basmati rice, into tiny little pieces. =( I learned the hard way that day, that after its soaked, not to mess with it too much. Ironically it still came out much better than any rice that I had made before we moved to Florida.
When I was growing up, my mom never really added anything to the rice unless we were having guests, it was mostly just plain basmati rice. But when I got married, my husband insisted I add jeera (cumin) to the rice. When my grandmother showed me how to make rice, she also added jeera so I didn’t think much off it when he asked. But if you do not like the flavor you can easily leave it out. Just make sure to still heat the oil and mix the rice in with the hot oil. Jeera provides many health benefits including helping with digestion. It also lends a very pleasant flavor and aroma to the rice, but it’s not for everybody, so you can see how you feel about it yourself. You can easily find Jeera (Cumin Seeds) at any south asian grocery store, but if you do not have access to one where you live, which I can completely sympathize with because I experienced that first the first time when I was living in “middle of nowhere” Indiana, luckily Amazon has your back. This is a good Jeera to buy: Cumin Seeds (Jeera Whole) 7oz by Spicy World.
This is what the water should look like when it begins to boil, and then you reduce the heat and cover it.
The last most important step/trick to perfectly cooked rice is getting the ratio of water to rice correctly. I know many people whose rice comes out a little mushy just because they added too much water to their rice. The key to this rice, is to match the water to the rice 1:1 plus 1/2 cup. So for example, if you have measured out 1 cup of rice to wash and soak, when you are ready to cook it, you add 1 1/2 cups of water. If you have measured out 3 1/2 cups of rice to wash and soak, you will add 4 cups of water when you are ready to cook it. The rice will absorb the water 1:1 and the remaining 1/2 cup is accounting for evaporation. Because you have already soaked the rice and have not added that much additional water the cooking time remains short. You will only be cooking this rice on the stove (once it reaches boiling) for 5 minutes total. After 5 minutes, keep it covered and leave it off of the heat for 5-10 minutes. After that you are ready to serve! My next post is for Moong Dal (Lentils) which pairs perfectly with this Basmati Rice with Jeera (Cumin) =)
Basmati Rice served with Moong Dal (Lentils)
- * 1 1/2 cups - Long Grain Basmati Rice
- * 1 Tablespoon - Cooking Olive Oil, Vegetable Oil or any other Neutral Cooking Oil
- * 1/2 teaspoon - Jeera (cumin)
- * 1/4-3/8 teaspoon - salt (3/8 teaspoon if you are not adding salted butter)
- * 1/2 Tablespoon - Salted Butter
- Measure out 1 1/2 cups of rice.
- Wash and rinse the rice until the water is transparent. (See tutorial in blog post)
- Once all the starch has been sufficiently washed off of the rice, soak the rice is room temperature water for at least 30 minutes and max 45 minutes.
- Once the rice is done soaking, drain it and leave it on the side.
- Turn the stove on, and add the neutral oil to a 2 qt pot on medium heat.
- After a minute or 2, when the oil becomes shiny, add Jeera (Cumin)
- Fry Jeera in oil until they becoming fragrant. This will take around a minute if the oil is hot enough.
- As soon as the Jeera becomes fragrant, add in the drained soaked rice. and gently mix around the rice so that each grain is coated in oil, and the jeera is mixed in. Fry the rice in the oil for 2 minutes while mixing gently every 30 seconds.
- After 2 minutes of frying the rice add water, salt and butter and bring to a boil (see .gif included on blog)
- Once the water comes to a boil, quickly turn the heat onto the lowest setting and cover. Set timer for 5 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, turn the stove off and remove the pot from the heat source, let pot sit covered for 5 additional minutes, or no more than 10 minutes.
- After 5-10 minutes, remove lid, stir rice to release steam from the bottom (so the bottom does not get mushy).
- Serve Immediately =)
- *This rice recipe works perfectly when you are making something to pair it with! If you wash and soak the rice before you start cooking whatever else you are making, then while the rice is soaking you prepare the second dish to pair with the rice, most likely it will not take more than 45 minutes to prepare something to accompany the rice. With this strategy they will both finish around the same time. And you will have a perfect meal!
- *Refer to the blog post for tutorials for each step with photos or gifs
- *I wrote that this recipe serves 2, but when I make 1 1/2 cups for my husband and I, we usually have at least a half serving leftover. I just don't like to have less rice, especially when it is the main carb in the meal, so I always make a little bit extra. For 3 people 2 cups is more than enough. After that you will need to be the judge.