Jasmati rice is a hybrid rice varietal which is designed to harness the best parts of jasmine and basmati rice. It has a very distinctive rich, aromatic odor and a mild rice flavor paired with a soft texture which makes it suitable for a wide range of foods. Many rice growers in the Southern United States produce jasmati rice, and it is often available in markets or through special order in regions where unique rice varieties are difficult to obtain.
Since the rice varietals used to produce jasmati rice are both long grained, jasmati rice also has a long grain. The rice can be purchased in white or brown form. White jasmati rice has been hulled so that it has a shorter cooking time and a more mild, less nutty flavor. Brown jasmati rice has a longer cooking time, but a more complex flavor; since the flavor is more aggressive than the hulled varietal, it is not suitable for all foods, as it will overwhelm more mild dishes.
Jasmine rice has been cultivated in Thailand for centuries, and it is considered the rice of choice by many Thais. The rice is very aromatic, with a characteristic slightly floral scent which enhances many dishes; most people eat hulled jasmine rice. Basmati rice is an ancient Indian aromatic rice variety which has also been in active use and cultivation for centuries. In some parts of the world, these rice varietals are protected, which means that only rice from a certain region may be labeled “jasmine” or “basmati.”
The decision to blend the two varietals appears to have emerged in the United States, in an effort to capitalize on the popularity of jasmine and basmati rice. After several experiments, the successful blend was created in the early 1990s, and it went into mass-cultivation for consumers shortly afterwards. The release of jasmati raised concerns among Thai rice producers, who were concerned that the rice might reduce demand for jasmine rice. Several producers joined together to protect the interests of jasmine rice as a result.
In any recipe calling for long grain rice, jasmati rice can be used. Be aware that the texture of the rice is more soft than chewy, a trait taken from the Indian basmati in the blend. Like other types of rice, jasmati benefits from a thorough rinsing and soaking before cooking. Rinsing will remove any detritus leftover from the harvesting and shipping process, while soaking will reduce the cooking time.