Can you make a perfect round chappati? Can you make shorba salan that is nicely blended? And what about fluffy rice aka khilay huay chawal? These are the fundamental building blocks of cooking in a typical Pakistani kitchen.

Rice is one of the most desired food in Pakistani cuisine and the perfectly cooked rice is tricky but not difficult if you learn the right balance. Which is what you will learn by the end of this blog.

The rice problem

Overcooked (Bhapaa) rice is such a letdown. Unless of course if you admire authentic Chinese food, where a similar type of rice, called sticky rice. Sticky rice is a matter of necessity for continental food because it is eaten with chop-sticks. Here, in Pakistan, we eat with eyes first and then use spoons or hands.

The solution

Picking the right quality of rice is as important as knowing how to cook rice. The proportion of rice and water, however, is the most important factor contributing to the texture of the finished dish.  Fluffy rice tends to enhance the taste of any curry that you serve it with.

The basic rice knowledge

Grocery stores are full of varieties of rice ranging from small to large grain. Basmati, Kernel Basmati, and Super Kernel are the most famous among others. Saila, Brown and tota rice is also widely available. The basic trick with rice is that it should sit for a while after harvesting before ending up on your dinner table. Purana chawal (old rice) is, therefore, better for cooking typical Pakistani dishes as it is fluffy and inherently aromatic. The quality of rice is measured by its grain size, shape, color, aroma and the amount of processing, post-harvest, performed on it.

Super kernel and kernel basmati rice are unique for its fluffiness and overwhelming aroma. It becomes longer after cooking, very light and dry in texture and if cooked with right technique will never be sticky. Saila rice is often used for bulk cooking (dhaig ka khana) and especially when cooking sweet flavored rice i.e., gurh walay chawal, muthanjan, zarda etc. After a number of failed attempts and research, I have finally mastered the art of making perfectly fluffy and aromatic rice. I am sharing the insights with you.

Old rice is yellow in color new rice is mostly white. Before cooking, old rice needs to be soaked in water for 45 minutes and new rice for about 30 minutes. For any type of rice that you are cooking, it is essential to soak it in water for at least 30 minutes. This is a strict rule and must never be ignored. When the rice grains are soaked in water, they blossom and rise on their own. Also, before soaking, rinse the rice thoroughly, especially if you are using polished rice. Wash the rice, until the pale starchy water turns clear.

Two initial methods

Rice cooking varies according to family traditions and regionals customs. I am sharing two techniques that I use to cook rice in my kitchen every other day. The first method is “draining and dam” method. Rice is cooked in excessive water and once the grains are tender enough (almost cooked or adhi kani is left), excess water is drained and discarded, and rice is left to cook on very low flame called dam or steam.

The second method is the “absorption method”, where rice is cooked in a set amount of water (proportionate to the amount of rice). A golden rule of 1:2 ratio of rice to water is used. Rice is added to boiling water and cooked on high flame until the water is completely absorbed/evaporated. Later the rice is cooked on dam on a very low flame. This is my personal favorite, I make Tarkay walay Chawal with this method and they are always a treat for everyone at home.


Simple Boiled Rice (Draining & Dam method)

  • Take your rice and wash them with cold water until the water is no longer starchy.
  • Soak one cup rice (old, yellow colored) Long kernel basmati rice for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • In a big pot, add 3 – 4 cups of water. Let it come to boil. Add Zeera 1 tsp and tez pata 1.
  • When water boils, add the soaked and drained rice and let it boil in the water.
  • Give a stir once or twice, this will help in water to spill over.
  • Cook the rice until one kani is left I.e. ¾ portion of the rice grain is cooked and ¼ portion is left.
  • Drain the rice in a colander
  • Add the rice back into the pot and cover it with a lid wrapped in a cloth.
  • Cook the rice on medium heat for 2 minutes and then reduce the heat and let them cook on dam for 12 – 15 minutes or until smog (dhouyan) comes out of the lid corners.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. Do not open and play peek a boo’s in between.
  • Use a small saucer or curved spatulas to toss the rice and serve with your curry.

Tip: Add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice or oil to avoid rice from becoming sticky.

Tarkay walay Chawal  (Absorption method)

  • Take your rice and wash them with cold water until the water is no longer starchy.
  • Soak one cup rice (old, yellow colored) Long kernel basmati rice for 45 minutes – 1 hour, in case you take (new, white colored) kernel or long kernel basmati rice, let them soak for minimum 30 minutes.
  • In a big pot, add a tablespoon of cooking oil and one finely chopped or sliced onion. Fry the onion unless its golden brown.
  • Once the onion, start turning golden brown, add one teaspoon salt, cumin. 2 – 3 bari elichi and tez pata.
  • As the spices also start tracking in oil; add two cups of water and let it come to boil.
  • When water boils, add the soaked and drained rice and let them cook in the water until the water is completely absorbed by the rice.
  • Cover the pot with the lid, reduce the heat and let it cook in its steam for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Once smog starts to appear from the lid corners, turn off the heat and let it cook for 5 -10 mins. Do not uncover the lid.
  • Just before serving fluff up the rice and serve hot.

Tip: If you have to serve them late, toss the rice to avoid sticking together.

Fatima Ali

I am trained to be an IT professional. I served National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) for six years after graduating from the same university. As long as I can remember, cooking good food has been my passion and it makes me happy. My cooking lessons were a bit unusual though. Back in the day when digital did not mean much, my father would record cooking shows (knorr ka kitchen, kaukab khuwaja and Zee Khana Khazana – Chef Sanjeev Kapoor) for me to watch endless times later on, before trying the recipes out. I would make brownies and cold cake almost every day while my mother was asleep. This was my way of surprising her every evening. My mother cooks amazing food too and I have tried many of the recipes written in her recipe book. I draw inspiration from a number of chefs from televised cooking shows such as Late Chef Farah, Chef Rahat, Chef Mehboob, BBC Food, Masala TV, Chef Shai, Chef Sharmeen, Master Chef Australia and my ultimate favorite Chef Shireen Anwer. I would not be as good a cook I am now without passive guidance from each one of these.