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.
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.