Rice is not only a staple food around the world but is a cultural symbol for fertility, health and wealth in many countries. In our own country it is customary to throw rice at a newlywed couple, symbolizing wishes for fertility and prosperity. In India it is believed that Lord Vishnu caused the Earth to give birth to rice, and that the god Indra taught the people how to raise it. Rice is used for worship, and colored powdered rice is used to create beautiful works of art in the form of mandalas in the Far East. In these countries, rice is treated with reverence and associated with elaborate planting rituals.
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. White rice is considered easier to digest in ayurveda. According to ayurveda, basmati rice is the king of all rices. 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 is has less nutrition and less prana, or life energy, in it.
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.
Cooking Basmati 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. This destroys the agni of the rice, and you will not be able to digest it properly. 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 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.
Ways to Use Rice
An endless variety of rice recipes is available. Rice can be cooked with spices, nuts, fresh cheese, vegetables and beans. Short grain rice can be cooked with milk for desserts. 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 through the week with other grains such as quinoa, millet, barley, couscous, and amaranth.
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