Rice—an important staple food around the world—has many uses. Beyond its use in cooking, it's a cultural symbol for fertility, health, and wealth in many countries. In America it’s customary to throw rice at a newlywed couple, symbolizing wishes for fertility and prosperity.
Rice is used for worship in India, and colored powdered rice is used to create beautiful works of art in the form of mandalas in the Far East. In the Ayurvedic tradition, rice—especially white basmati rice—is a core food as it’s easy to prepare, digest, and incredibly versatile in both savory and sweet recipes.
There are several dozen varieties of rice. Some of the common varieties of rice include jasmine, Texmati, Calmati, Japanese, arboria, brown rice, wild rice and basmati rice.
According to Ayurveda, white rice is considered easiest to digest, and basmati rice is the preferred variety. Basmati rice is sattvic, or pure; it balances all three doshas; it is nourishing for the body tissues; and it is easy to digest. Aged basmati rice has an aroma and flavor arguably the best in the world. Ayurveda recommends avoiding rice that is parboiled, instant or pre-cooked because it has less nutrition and less prana, or life energy, in it.
Rice and the Doshas
Rice contributes the sweet taste, according to Ayurveda. It is a light, soft, smooth and nourishing food. It is cooling in nature. Rice is generally good for balancing Vata and Pitta. It may create excess mucus, so rice in excess is not considered ideal for Kapha.
To balance Vata, eat rice that is cooked well, in plenty of water, and add a dash of ghee to the cooked rice. Desserts made with rice and milk are particularly cooling and balancing for Pitta. Individuals trying to balance Kapha should eat less rice, and dry roast the rice before cooking it in water.
Ayurvedic Ways of Cooking Rice — Two Methods
The best way to prepare basmati rice is to first rinse it in water. Place the desired amount in a large bowl, cover with water and strain out the water at least three times, checking for small stones.
After the rice is thoroughly rinsed, place it in the cooking pot and allow it to soak in water for about 15-30 minutes. This allows each grain to absorb water and therefore stick less to other grains while cooking. Sautéing also helps to prevent sticking. If you do not soak the rice first, cook one part rice to two parts water.
Soaked rice can use less water, such as one cup of rice and one and three-quarter cups water. Bring the rice and water to a boil, cover with a secure lid and reduce to a simmer.
Don't lift the lid or stir the rice as it is cooking. The reason is that as the rice is expanding, it forms various steam tunnels. If these are interrupted, then the rice will not cook evenly, resulting in the bottom soggy or burned and the top not done. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes. The rice should not be mushy and stuck together. Each grain should come out firm, separate and tasty.
To tell if the rice is cooked enough, remove a grain of rice and squeeze it between the thumb and forefinger. It should completely mash. There should be no hard parts. Do not add cold water to rice that is already cooking, as this destroys the agni (digestive potential) of the rice.
Also, salt should not be added until the rice is finished cooking. Most recipes with rice suggest that you add salt at the beginning, but Ayurveda says that the salt actually affects the temperature of the cooking process and the agni of the rice. Salt can be mixed in after the rice is finished being cooked.
Another way to cook the rice instead of steaming it is to boil it. Place rinsed rice in more water than can be absorbed (you don't need to use a measuring cup). Add one handful of rice per person into a large pot of boiling water.
Boil for 10 minutes or until the rice is finished cooking. It is not necessary to cover the pot. Drain the rice with a colander and then put into a serving bowl. Dot with ghee and salt.
Delicious Rice Recipes
Ayurveda recommends eating rice several times per week, but it is best to not eat it every day because it can be a little heavy. It is best to alternate rice throughout the week with other grains such as quinoa, millet, barley, couscous, and amaranth.
Rice is a multi-purpose staple grain. With just a little forward planning, you can create many delicious rice recipes. For more inspiration, visit our recipe blog!