Aroma is an important quality attribute of rice and is a key determinant of its market value. Among the different groups of aromatic rice varieties ‘Basmati’ from the Indian subcontinent and ‘Jasmine’ from Thailand occupy prime position in the international market. In addition, there are a large number of premium short-grain aromatic rice varieties cultivated by farmers in India and South-East Asia that have not been fully commercially utilised as yet. The origin and evolution of aromatic rice varieties is being unravelled by application of genomic tools. The first class of rice which is classed as speciality is aromatic rice. These contain a natural ingredient, 2-acetyl 1-pyroline, which is responsible for their fragrant taste and aroma. The fragrance quality of aromatic rice can differ from one year’s harvest to the next, like wine. The finest aromatic rices are aged to bring out a stronger aroma.
However, considering India is a treasure trove of scented rice from every region, eating these two is just scratching the surface of the country’s indigenous rice bowl. The common alleles of aroma gene seem to have their origin in the aromatic group of rice varieties native to the Sub-Himalayan region.
Here are nine traditional varieties of aromatic rice that will add some complexity to your cooking. And yes, even though they might take a bit of work to find, your taste buds are sure to thank you for bringing something new to the table!
Black Rice/ Chak Hao
Black rice is no longer forbidden, but it is cultivated in relatively small amounts, compared to other types rice varieties.The whole grain rice also packs umpteen health benefits. Black rice or the forbidden rice (Chinese) is a rare and a very old variety of rice that has been growing in India for centuries. It is mainly grown in the North East region (called as Chak Hao) and the southern parts (called as Kavuni in Tamil) of India. Here are a few benefits of Black rice. Its have many helth benefit as its Rich in Antioxidants, Natural Detoxifier, Good Source of Fiber, Preventing Risk of Diabetes, Preventing Risk of Obesity, Richer Protein Content, also keep Better Heart Health.
Tradtional red rice is grown widely in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka (Sigappu kauni, Kattuyanam, Mappilai samba, Kuruva, Thondi and Thavalakannan are a few of them). Red rice, minimally processed, has more micro nutrients and B complex vitamins than the polished rice. Ayurvedic physicians in ancient times used these varieties as medicine and for therapies. Red rice is a kind of rice that comes with a rich crimson hue. This bright rich color of red rice is due to the presence of a specific antioxidant compound known by the name of Anthocyanin. This compound is said to help a lot in healthy weight management. Rice rice is firmer, less sticky and more digestible but takes longer to cook. Medicinal red rice varieties are consumed unpolished to get maximum benefit.
A short grain rice grown in Maharashtra, Ambemohar rice is popular for its quick-cooking characteristic and its beautiful aroma that is reminiscent of mango blossoms. Awarded a GI tag, Mulshi Ambemohar rice is especially famous in the state as an age-old traditional rice that was highly favoured by the Peshwa rulers.
A rice with a rather unconventional taste and aroma, Mullan Kazhama is a fragrant rice from Wayanad that is delicious in pal payasam and Malabar biriyani. A variety whose faint but distinct fragrance permeates even the field, it’s now cultivated by only a handful of organic paddy farmers in the lush terrain of Kerala’s Wayanad district.
A small-grained fragrant rice from West Bengal only last year, Gobindo Bhog is categorised as a khaas dhan (special grain) and is the chosen offering for Lord Krishna on Janmashthami, thus its unique name. It tastes absolutely delectable when prepared as payesh (the Bengali version of rice kheer), and is widely used for auspicious offerings, pujas and festivals.
A fragrant rice whose name literally translates to ‘making the cook go mad’, Radhuni Pagol is a culinary favourite in West Bengal but is little-known outside the state. Light on the stomach, this rice is the perfect companion for decadent gravies such as chingri malai curry and kosha mangsho. Interestingly, radhuni is also the Bengali name of wild celery, a spice unique to the state’s signature cuisine.
A short-grain rice with a resplendent aroma, Mushk Budji is grown in the Kashmir valley and was once a must-have on the marriage menus in the state. However, years of obscurity and diminishing returns have pushed it to near extinction. The good news is that the state’s agriculture department has started dedicated efforts to encourage local cultivation of the unique rice and its re-entry into commercial space.
A slender rice with a sublime scent, Seeraga Samba is a much-loved rice in Tamil Nadu and is extensively used to make elaborate pulav during special occasions. In fact, this prized ingredient is also the common thread between the state’s two most iconic biryanis — Dindigul biryani and Ambur biryani. Interestingly, this rice fetches a higher price than all other varieties of paddy grown in Tamil Nadu!
Kichili Champa also called Chitti Muthyalu (meaning small pearls) is an extremely nice and long grain which is often used to prepare pulav and biryani. With a relatively low glycemic index of 50, it is table rice that can be served every day. Kichili Champa is a farmer's best friend since it's an early maturing rice variety with an ability to escape droughts, avoid foods and sometimes open up the opportunity for double cropping. It contains Magnesium, Fibre, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron
Rice is polished to increase its shelf life, but its nutrition is largely lost in the process. Parboiled red rice keeps longer, gives better recovery rate during paddy milling, retains more nutrition, is firmer, less sticky and more digestible but takes longer to cook. Medicinal rice varieties are consumed unpolished to get maximum benefit. The more bran there is in the rice, the lower is its glycemic index (compared to its polished counterpart)