Perfect Basmati Rice

28 Nov

Perfect Basmati Rice

Basmati rice is a fragrant, fragile grain that needs to be handled with a gentle hand. Rice is a staple food in Asia, and getting it right is so important, that if I ever write a book about what it’s like to immerse oneself in Pakistani culture, I have a thought to call it “How to Cook Basmati Rice”. It reminds me of all the cultural allowances, adjustments and delicacy that are necessary in such a case.

In my opinion the most important step when cooking it is to soak the rice, and to use the right amount of water. Soaking saturates each grain with water, which then evaporates, fluffing and separating each grain. The amount of water should always be double the amount of rice.

I’m very proud of my rice. It’s light and fluffy, and the long, graceful grains are intact and separated, not lumpy or mushy, but with a soft, tender bite. I like to add cumin seeds to the rice but this can be omitted, in which case the oil should be omitted too.


1 cup basmati rice

2 cups of water

½ teaspoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon olive oil

½ teaspoon salt


Pick the rice clean and fill the bowl with water a couple of times to rinse the rice. Soak for at least 20 minutes.

Rinse again and gently move your fingers in the bowl a few times to release the starch. Rinse until the water is clear. Set aside.

Heat the oil on medium heat. Use a pot that has a tight-fitting lid and has no steam holes.

Fry the cumin seed for 10 seconds, until fragrant but not toasted. Add the rice and immediately add the water. Stir gently and add the salt.

Cook, partly covered, until the water is almost dry. Small circles may appear as the water dries. Check the salt and add more if necessary.

Lower the heat to the minimum and cover tightly. Move the pot to the smallest burner if you have to, as you need slow, gentle heat for steaming.

Pakistani cooks wrap the lid with a tea towel, but if my lid fits tightly I simply lay a towel on top for extra warmth. After 8-10 minutes, turn the heat off. Do not open the lid.

Let the rice rest undisturbed on the warm stove for ten minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, using a fork to fluff out the rice.


5 Responses to “Perfect Basmati Rice”

  1. zylla3 March 25, 2008 at 9:30 pm #

    Wow…such long grains! I’ve tried only the long grains rice but B rice is much longer. You take a lot of care preparing it.

    I’m Asian and I eat it 3 meals a day. I guess I wouldn’t know the difference whatever kind of rice you put in front of me. If I’m the one preparing it, I opt for Jasmine rice (smells good too when it’s simmering) and I just use the rice cooker so I don’t burn it when I forget to check.

  2. zylla3 March 25, 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    I’m not sure if it’s ok (you can delete this if you want). Visit me at

    I’m from the pre-computer generation and I just started painfully blogging my place in the Philippines. Thanks!

  3. Irvin Irwin March 8, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    I was studying something else about this on another blog. Interesting, your linear perspective on it is diametrically contradicted to what I read earlier. I am still contemplating over the opposite points of view, but I’m tipped heavily toward yours. And no matter, that’s what is so great about advanced democracy and the marketplace of ideas on-line.


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