Basmati Rice: The Ayurvedic Perspective
What is Basmati Rice?
Basmati Rice is a variety of long grain rice grown in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is known for its distinctive fragrance, delicate flavour and long, light grains. In fact basmati means ‘the fragrant one’ in Sanskrit. Basmati rice is held in very high esteem in Ayurveda because it is the lightest and most easy to digest of all the rices and has a peaceful effect on the mind/body. Basmati rice comes in lots of different varieties - it can be white, aged white, par-boiled white, red or brown. Grain lengths can also differ quite substantially between brands. When choosing your white basmati, it is best to buy long-grain aged basmati. Par-boiled rice is when they par-boil the rice before removing its husk which helps to drive the nutrients deeper into the grain. This rice is an off-white colour and is slightly translucent. It is a little heavier than white basmati but is a more nutritious choice. Red and Brown Basmati are also a little heavier as they contain more fibre....
What are its medicinal qualities?
Like moong daal, Basmati rice is sweet/cooling/sweet and light. This is a rare combination. Usually foods that are sweet/cooling/sweet are also heavy. So, like moong daal, basmati rice has the special quality of being nourishing for the tissues and immune system (due to its sweetness) but also light and easy to digest. Basmati’s purely Sweet taste and post-digestive effect has a calming, grounding effect on the mind/body. It is also considered a Sattvic grain which means it helps to directly cultivate peace, clarity and contentment in the mind. In Ayurveda, basmati is considered the queen of grains!
How do you eat it?
We have basmati with everything! We have it in our kicharees, pilaus and as a side grain to all of our veggie or daals and curries. And when we have some left over, we cook it with milk, sugar and spices to make a delicious porridge in the morning or pudding in the evening. If we’re cooking a risotto or sushi we use risotto or sushi rice… but for pretty much everything else, we use basmati. Although we mostly choose aged white basmati, we often have red instead… and sometimes a combination of the two because they cook at the same rate so can easily be combined.... and look so pretty together!
Here's a hot tip - If cooking a lot of rice for a large number of people, red-rice or par-boiled rice can be an easier choice because it holds its shape better under the pressure of a large quantity of rice. White basmati can get a little squished and not turn out to be as light and fluffy as it is when cooking smaller amounts.