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Rice for all occasions

How many times have we thought rice is a blessing? We use it for holy purposes but we also can pressure up a quick pulao or khichdi when hunger pangs are drumming away! Rice comes to the rescue at many occasions! 

Did you know that there are about seven-thousand varieties of rice grown all around the world! In India we would probably be familiar with Basmati, Patna or brown rice but it is also available as Italian Rice and Glutinous Rice which is popular in Chinese and Japanese cuisine for it makes for easier eating with chopsticks.

Probably native to India and Indo-China, rice is a very popular oriental food and the staple diet in most parts of India. It has always been considered a magical healer in the East. It has long been believed that rice has medicinal qualities and has the power to restore tranquility to disturbed minds. It has been mentioned in ancient texts that natural whole grain brown rice is a perfect healing food. It is also revered as a food of the divine and used in religious offerings. 

Have you ever had a meal solely of rice and felt hungry within an hour’s time? Rice is one grain that is about ninety-eight percent digestible and also easily and quickly digested! You have a hearty meal comprising of a rice preparation (maybe my favourite rajma chawal or kadhi chawal!) and it will be fully digested faster than you think.

Rice has healthy proteins that are metabolised into the much-needed amino acids. This in fact helps in complete rejuvenation because these amino acids build resilient muscles which come back to shape after stretching and bending. Amino acids also contribute to healthy skin and hair and clearer eyesight. Since rice has a low fat, low cholesterol and low salt content it makes perfect diet for those suffering from high blood pressure which is the most common modern day malady. And of course in every household the moment someone has an upset stomach the only comfort food fed is warm and soft khichdi!


------> Rice, Biryani and Pulao

Brown vs. white

How is white rice so white! 

The seeds of the rice plant are first milled using a rice huller to remove the chaff or the the outer husks of the grain. At this point in the process the product is called brown rice. This process may be continued, removing the germ and the rest of the husk, called the bran at this point, creating white rice. The white rice may then be buffed with glucose or talc powder (often called polished rice, though this term may also refer to white rice in general), parboiled or processed into flour. The white rice may also be enriched by adding nutrients, especially those lost during the milling process. While the cheapest method of enriching involves adding a powdered blend of nutrients that will easily wash off, more sophisticated methods apply nutrients directly to the grain, coating the grain with a water insoluble substance which is resistant to washing. 

Brown vs. white

Many have asked me the difference between brown rice and white rice. Milling, as explained above, is the primary difference between brown and white rice. It removes the outer bran layer of the rice grain. This affects the nutritional quality of the rice leaving a core comprised of mostly carbohydrates. In this bran layer resides nutrients of vital importance in the diet, making white rice a poor competitor in the nutrition game. Fibre is dramatically lower in white rice, as are the oils, most of the B vitamins and important minerals. Bran contains several things of major importance - two major ones are fibre and essential oils. Fibre is not only filling, but is implicated in prevention of major diseases such as certain gastrointestinal diseases and heart disease. Nutritional experts recommend twenty-five grams of fibre a day to keep cancer at bay. A cup of brown rice adds nearly 3.5 grams, while an equal amount of white rice not even 1 gram. Also, components of the oils present in rice bran have been shown in numerous studies to decrease serum cholesterol, a major risk factor in heart disease. 

Brown rice takes longer to cook than regular white rice (about forty five minutes versus fifteen to twenty minutes) because of the structure of the brown rice grain. Brown rice has far more nutrients as vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folacin, potassium, magnesium, iron and over dozen other nutrients. Added to that, the dietary fibre contained in white rice is around a quarter of brown rice. Brown rice may help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, and may even contribute towards maintaining a healthy weight. 

The Vitamin B is important. Rice gruel is considered easy food for the stomach especially for the ailing. Compared to wheat, rice has lower gluten content so more easily digestible. 

I changed a few things some years back. I switched to brown. Now that is something most of you are doing so easily now, thanks to the new awareness about whole food, thanks to the easy availability and thanks to all those wonderful recipes. But when I started cooking it at home, there was big resistance especially from my little kids. I could not blame them because I too found the rice looking different, tasting different. That’s when another twist happened. My in laws came to stay. So here we are at the table and here they are expecting lovely white rice to round off the meal and Alyona brings in a bowl of not so white rice! They did eat it up because I spoke up and defined the healthier possibilities in brown rice but could see the lack of conviction on the faces of my dining companions. So the chef had to get to work again and for the evening meal Alyona and I made them a nice soft khichdi with brown rice and dal. Added a bit of haldi and salt and they loved it! So when the brown rice non-lovers come over, make khichdi! But things are certainly on track now. The kids expect nothing but brown rice on the table and there is no fuss. And brown rice makes some lovely oil free pulaos and biryanis too…try some boiled grains in a chicken soup to make it heartier, or even try a kheer with brown rice, you cannot go wrong. I have also made pohe using the flattened rice made from brown rice.

World famous basmati

Basmati rice has been cultivated in the Indian subcontinent for hundreds of years. The Himalayan foothills are said to produce the best basmati. The Super Basmati, a premium variety from Pakistan and Dehradun from India, are the most prized of the basmati varieties. Patna rice is a close cousin of basmati rice grown around Patna in Bihar. The best types of basmati rice are aged for several years before they are milled and sold, as rice cooks better with a lower moisture content.

The grains of basmati rice are much longer than they are wide and they grow even longer as they cook. They stay firm and separate, not sticky, after cooking. Basmati rice is available both as a white rice and a brown rice. 

Other rice products

Rice bran is a valuable commodity in Asia and is used for many daily needs. It is a moist, oily inner layer which is heated to produce rice bran oil. This oil is notable for its very high smoke point of 490° F/254° C and its mild flavour, making it suitable for high-temperature cooking methods such as stir frying and deep frying.

The raw rice may be ground into flour for many uses, including making many kinds of beverages such as amazake. It is a traditional sweet, low-alcoholic Japanese drink made from fermented rice. Amazake can be used as a dessert, snack, natural sweetening agent, baby food, salad dressing or smoothie. Rice flour is generally safe for people on a gluten free diet. Rice may also be made into various types of noodles.

Puffed rice is usually made by heating rice kernels under high pressure in the presence of steam. Puffed rice is used in snack foods, various breakfast cereals and is also a popular street food in various parts of the world. It is an ingredient of bhelpuri. Puffed rice is referred to as mur mure in some parts of India. It is also called churmuri/kurlu. Muri is a near-staple diet of many parts of Bengal and Bangladesh. Jhalmuri or Masalamuri/bhelpuri is a very popular preparation made from muri.

Beaten rice (poha) is a rice which is dehusked and beaten to make small flat flakes. This type of rice absorbs even cold water and gets swollen. This type of rice is used in variety of dishes in Udipi cuisine There are two varieties of beaten rice: thin and thick. They are so called because of their thickness.

In some culinary traditions, especially those of Latin America and Italy, dry rice grains are fried in oil before cooking in water.

Cookery king

Flour, crispies, noodles, paper, flakes….rice comes in many forms. Around the world the snack industry is doing wonders. Look at our bhel puri…puffed rice is the basic ingredient. And crispies make breakfast cereal. Glazed with gur, puffed rice becomes a chikki or enters bars of chocolates. 

The best thing about this grain is that it is quite versatile. You can cook various dishes with it - with addition of various vegetables, spices, dals, meats you can get numerous rice based dishes that rarely go wrong. Rice can also be used to make rice flour, flaked rice and ground rice, for use in puddings, cakes and as a thickening agent for sauces, soups and stews. As the chief ingredient in fermented drinks, rice makes some very potent Chinese spirits and the famous Japanese sake.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.