Aromatic rice is rice with natural chemical compounds which give it a distinctive scent. Numerous varietals of rice are aromatic, ranging from the famous Basmati to much lesser known Randhunipagal. It can be used just like conventional rice for cooking, but adds a new dimension of flavor and aroma to meals. In the 1990s, aromatic rice began to explode on the popular market, leading to increased consumer demand and the development of numerous specific cultivars with unique flavors and scents all their own.
Rice is an umbrella term for aquatic grasses in the genus Oryza. Two species of the plant are cultivated as a primary cereal crop all over the world. Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States all have sizable rice plantations, and rice forms a crucial part of dietary nutrition for many people globally. Most consumers are familiar with the concept of long and short grain rice, as well as white and brown rice. In some areas, limited amounts of aromatic rice are available, but few consumers are aware of how many varieties of it there are, along with their myriad uses.
Basmati is one of the most well known varieties of aromatic rice. It is cultivated in India, along with Chinoor, Shakarchini, and Kalanamak, among numerous other varieties. Despite the fact that it is difficult to harvest and has a low comparative yield per acre, Basmati rice has become a popular Indian export. Texmati, an American crossbreed, was developed by crossing Basmati with American long grained rice.
Jasmine rice from China and Southeast Asia is another famous aromatic rice varietal. Jasmine rice is a long grained, fluffy rice which smells and tastes faintly of jasmine. In some parts of Asia, jasmine rice is harvested green as an unusual delicacy.
In the United States, several companies have bred specific cultivars of aromatic rice, including Wild Pecan and Wehani rice. Wild pecan has a rich, nutty flavor and aroma, while Wehani is a clay colored grain which splits as it cooks, smelling like popcorn and sometimes resembling it as well. These cultivars were developed in response to increasing consumer demand for this rice.
In most cases, aromatic rice tastes best when it is fresh. Some rices such as Basmati are aged for intensity, but otherwise the rice should be kept under refrigeration and used within six months.