In my pantry I have a large plastic bin with three bags of rice. I remember, Jim’s surprise, a reluctant rice eater at the time, the first time I brought a 20 pound bag of rice home. Regardless of whether I eat rice everyday, I NEED rice in the pantry. Sure, I also have small bags of brown rice and black rice, along with couscous, quinoa, polenta and other grains. But, white rice is my comfortable default.
There are three specific types of rice in my bin: Thai Jasmine, Indian Basmati and Bangladeshi Chinigura or Kalee Jeera. Each kind meets a different emotional register. The first, top left of the image, Jasmine rice is bright and has an almost floral scent. Soft and sticky it is easy to eat with my hand. It reminds me of forming tiny curry flavored rice bites and hand feeding my girls when they were little. The gentle rice is a gracious host for robust Asian currries and stirfrys .
The second and middle pile, is Basmati. With long elegant grains, it has a nutty, warm taste. Best sauteed in ghee and spices, Basmati makes the best pilafs. Fork friendly and fluffy it is the ideal introductory rice served across Indian restaurants in the world. Cooked with strong cumin seeds, cardamom and cinnamon, Basmati doesn’t loose it’s texture or nutty flavor. Perfect with South Asian and Middle Eastern flavors.
The third (lower right in the image) rice, Kali Jeera or Chini-gura, is a small grain Bangladeshi rice. The tiny kernels are strong like Basmati and flavor-wise gentle like Jasmine. Good to eat with my hand or my fork. Just as fantastic in a fragrant Biriyani, as it is as a plain boiled rice with a light curry. I have used it for dessert, baby food and festive food. The only reason I don’t use it everyday is because it is expensive, sometimes not so easy to find and so very special.
For me, these three rices map my taste buds that range across Asia and the Middle East.
What is your preferred rice?