I’ve been making Basmati rice for a long time and feel like I’ve perfected it from the lesson of first making some serious mistakes.
Basmati was something new that I was exposed to from I found a plethora of it in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean grocery stores in the ethnic neighborhoods around Columbus, Ohio. It was the closest place to travel: 45 minutes outside of my college town of Athens, Ohio where I could find international foods and something I wanted to make because of my exposure to new friends at university who were making some of the most delicious dishes I’d ever tasted: Pakistani Biryani with chicken or goat meat; Gulf Style Kebsa were my two absolute favorites. So I wanted to learn to make them myself and fill my own kitchen with the lovely aroma that only Basmati does.
Just opening up a bag to the noticeably different aroma made me interested in making it.
The mistake I made was that the first time I cooked it, I never rinsed it. Apparently, bags like the one above were a little different than the plastic packets or bags of rice that I was used to that were already rinsed. The ones in the burlap bags made no such claims so after I learned what I should have done, it was back to soak, swoosh, rinse. Repeat. Soak, swoosh, rinse. Repeat. And so on…not a big deal but something I had to learn.
I also learned a tried and true method from friends that makes it come out perfect every time and it seems to be way more forgiving than any other rice I have ever cooked, so it’s another reason I almost always buy Basmati.
First, cover the suggested amount of rice in a bowl with cool water. It doesn’t matter the amount, just enough to cover and allow you to swoosh it around. This also helps to remove some of the starch once you rinse it.
Once you’re done swooshing it around (with clean hands, of course) you’ll be able to see any impurities come to the surface. This bowl seems to look pretty clean, although there’s a lot of starch in there as you can tell from the cloudy surface.
You can drain the water out, but repeat the process several times. You can rinse it by putting the rice in a colander with small holes so that the grains don’t fall through. I like the bowl method the best.
Now here’s where I don’t have photos to show so you’ll just take my word for it in terms of cooking.
I like to add onions to my ‘plain’ Basmati rice, but you can certainly skip this method. I use a medium-large deep bottom sauce pan, depending upon how large the amount you want to make. I sauté the onions in butter or ghee then add the rice that has been fully drained of any water. I sauté the rice for just a minute or so, just to blend it in with the butter or oil and the onions. It almost smells like popcorn when it’s cooking, it’s so aromatic.
I then add water just to cover the rice (exact measurements in the recipe below), although when I first learned how to make it I learned how to eyeball it by systematically putting one inch of water only above the rice.
Once the water covers the rice, heat and bring it to a boil, then immediately turn the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. If your lid isn’t tight, put foil between the lid and the pot or even a cotton cloth, but make sure any cloth does not come near any flames or heat. Cook for exactly 20 minutes.
The other important thing to remember is to never, ever, never peek into the pot to see if it’s done before the time is up. When you do that, you waste valuable steam which really does affect how the rice cooks and how fluffy it turns out.
The effect you want is a fluffy, well-cooked rice that separates nicely with a fork.
Although I always eat mine with a spoon.
- 1.5 cups Basmati rice
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
- 1/3 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1.5 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Rinse the rice several times or put it in a bowl first, then swish it around to bring any impurities to the top. Drain the water out and rinse the rice a couple of times.
- In a deep bottom sauté pan, heat the butter and oil. Add the onion and sauté until translucent.
- Add the rice and sauté slightly, then add the water and salt.
- Bring to a boil then immediately lower the heat. Place a clean cotton towel over the top, but be careful that no edges are anywhere near the flame or heat. Place the lid onto the pan, too.
- Keep heat on low and cook this way for 20 minutes without opening until the very end.
- Once opened, remove the lid and let the remaining steam out.
- Serve immediately, as desired.