Ah, rice. A hardworking yet humble grain, it’s often overlooked as a beautiful thing in its own right and valued most as a supporting player — and it is great at propping up other dishes.
There are more than 120,000 types of rice cultivated in the world (from arborio to carnaroli, sticky to sushi, black to brown, and white to wild), but today, let’s look at two of the most common and beguiling examples: jasmine and basmati rice.
Jasmine rice hails from Thailand, while basmati comes from India and Pakistan. They’re both long grain varieties, which means they cook up fluffy and not very sticky. Their grains also remain distinct, although jasmine is plumper, softer, and a bit more moist than basmati, which has a firmer chew and drier character.
Basmati grains are extra long and thin, and some people say they benefit from soaking, whereas the shorter, wider grains of jasmine rice just need a few quick rinses to remove excess starch. (You can even skip this step if you
are really lazy don’t mind a bit more stickiness.)
Both basmati and jasmine rice are especially aromatic, sharing the 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline compound that gives them both a pandan-like or popcorn-esque aroma, but basmati has a nuttier quality, while jasmine rice is more faintly floral.
They’re most commonly sold after the germ and bran have been removed (i.e. in their white form), but you can find brown basmati and brown jasmine rice, which will require slightly different cooking methods and give you more nutrients and fiber. (If your low-carb diet won’t allow any rice, condolences, but there’s always cauliflower rice.)
Nutrition-wise, both jasmine and basmati contain just trace amounts of fat and will give you a little protein boost, but basmati has a lower glycemic index (around 57-67 to jasmine’s 68-80 range), meaning it raises blood sugar more slowly and creates a better effect of fullness.
And, although not significant sources of iron, white basmati rice and brown jasmine rice contain 2% of the daily value per serving.
|Jasmine rice (45-gram serving)||Basmati rice (45-gram serving)|
|Fat||0 g||0 grams|
|Protein||3 grams||4 grams|
|Carbohydrates||36 grams||38 grams|
|Fiber||0 grams||1 gram|
|Sodium||0 milligrams||0 milligrams|
To highlight the specific character of each grain, you might showcase basmati in a pilaf or salad and jasmine in a pudding. But both are well suited to underpinning rich, saucy dishes like curries, and you can often use either variety you prefer.
It really just depends on whether you want something firmer and drier (that’d be basmati) or a softer and slightly more luscious base (hey, jasmine).
While basmati rice is usually boiled and jasmine is best steamed, if you have a rice cooker, it can handle either kind.
If you use a rice cooker for basmati, soak the grains ahead of time for 30 minutes (or, if you really can’t wait that long, at least rinse off the starch).
Afterwards, you’ll need to add slightly less water than your cooker’s instructions indicate, and it can help to add a little bit of butter, ghee, or oil to keep the grains well separated.
You can also add aromatics like saffron, cinnamon, or bay leaves to further perfume and color your rice. When it’s done, let it sit for about 15 minutes before taking the lid off and fluffing your basmati with a fork. For jasmine rice, after rinsing it until the water is no longer cloudy, your rice cooker’s standard instructions should suffice.
If you can’t bear yet another kitchen gadget, or if you just prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, there’s no problem with cooking either rice type on the stove top.
Enjoy the nuances in these two varieties’ aromas, tastes, and textures all on their own — and then try some of these delicious dishes, featuring jasmine and basmati rice.
Nasi lemak is a great way to showcase fragrant rice, made even more aromatic (and creamy) with coconut milk.
It’s a star on its own, but really wows in concert with all the accompaniments: spicy chile sauce, tender hard boiled eggs, crunchy peanuts, fried anchovies, and crisp fresh cucumber. (The recipe calls for basmati, but this would definitely be just as delicious with jasmine rice.)
It’s kind of amazing how much flavor and texture you can pack into a single bowl. This bibimbap is delicious, filling, and pleasantly cheap. Steaming hot rice is topped with garlicky steak and veggies, then amped up with bean sprouts, sesame seeds, and Korean chili paste.
You can easily make this your own by adding, subtracting, and substituting various ingredients and components.
Basically a Vietnamese version of jook, this creamy ginger-scented jasmine rice porridge is warm and filling, and seems fundamentally homey, no matter where you’re from.
Poached chicken amplifies the velvety texture, while fresh herbs and crunchy roasted peanuts and fried shallots provide compelling contrast. Try it once and you’ll be a Cháo-hound for good.
One of the most common (and best) things to do with jasmine rice is pour a spicy, luscious curry over top. This veggie version is perfumed with lemongrass, garlic, and ginger, beautifully creamy with coconut milk, and chock full of tender eggplant. Wanna make it vegan? Just omit the fish sauce or use a substitution.
These vegetarian stuffed poblano peppers are hearty enough to serve as a main meal. Full of bright and earthy Mexican flavors, they’re almost like super-fancy burritos, plus they’re easy to cook, even for a crowd.
Not only is this fried rice packed with veggies, it’s barely any harder than ordering out. You dump everything — including the uncooked jasmine rice — in the slow cooker, and simply stir every now and then to ensure even cooking.
Feel free to add some diced, cooked pork or even bacon at the end if you like yours with a little meat.
To cap things off, of course there’s dessert! This spin on classic rice pudding is just as creamy and comforting, but a little more special with the addition of coconut milk, ginger, cardamom, and orange zest. This is another case where jasmine or basmati would be equally appropriate. Top with toasted coconut or add color with some diced mango.