5 Types Of Indigenous Rice Grown In India And How To Use Them
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India is known for its diverse range of native rice varieties. While there has been a focus on promoting high-yielding varieties in recent years, there is now a resurgence in the cultivation and consumption of indigenous rice. These traditional varieties are grown using sustainable farming practices, requiring fewer chemicals and conserving water. Not only are these rice varieties more nutritious and packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but they also have a lower glycemic index. Interestingly, they also offer unique flavours and aromas that are highly valued in both traditional and gourmet cuisines. 

Their distinctiveness adds depth and character to culinary dishes, making them a favourite among chefs, food enthusiasts, and those seeking authentic flavours. The resurgence of indigenous rice varieties is bringing about a positive change for farmers, especially smallholders and marginalised communities. It provides them with opportunities to diversify their livelihoods and helps preserve their traditional knowledge and skills. 

The rising consumer demand for organic, locally sourced, and culturally significant foods, such as indigenous rice strains, is bringing back the consumption and growth of some indigenous varieties. Here are five unique varieties from across India:

Ambemohar Rice 

Ambemohar rice, a special type of rice native to Maharashtra, is primarily grown in the hilly areas of the Western Ghats. Its distinct and delightful fragrance, reminiscent of mango blossoms, is what sets it apart. In Marathi, the name 'Ambemohar' translates to 'mango blossom', perfectly capturing the essence of this rice. 

With its small, round grains, Ambemohar rice becomes soft and sticky when cooked. Its delicate flavour adds a subtle touch to any dish. This rice is particularly favoured for traditional recipes that call for a creamy consistency. Moreover, it is easily digestible, making it a great choice for those with sensitive stomachs or recovering from illness.

Ambemohar rice is often used in traditional Maharashtrian dishes such as varan bhaat (dal and rice), sweet dishes like kheer (rice pudding), and as an accompaniment to rich, flavourful curries and gravies. Its aromatic quality makes it a preferred choice for cooking on festive and religious occasions.

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Gobindobhog Rice

Hailing from West Bengal, this unique rice variety is grown in the districts of Bardhaman, Hooghly, and Bankura. It boasts a highly aromatic nature, exuding a sweet and delightful fragrance that enhances the taste of dishes made with it. Gobindobhog rice, as it is called, derives its name from Lord Govinda, a form of Krishna, and is frequently associated with religious rituals and festive occasions.

With its decadent, buttery taste, this rice is a short-grain, white variety known for its small, round grains. It is a premium option that usually comes with a higher price tag compared to other rice varieties. Typically grown during the monsoon season, it is harvested in November and December.

Gobindobhog rice is extensively used in Bengali cuisine. It is a key ingredient in dishes such as khichuri (a type of porridge), payesh (rice pudding), and various types of pulao and fried rice.

Chak Hao (Black Rice)

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Black rice, also called chak hao in Manipur, stands out as a special and healthy type of rice with many unique features. Its striking deep black or purplish-black hue is due to a rich amount of anthocyanins, potent antioxidants present in blueberries and blackberries. Cultivated through organic farming practices, free from chemical fertilisers or pesticides, this rice is gaining popularity among health-conscious individuals for its enhanced nutritional benefits.

Its nutritional content is driving its popularity beyond Manipur. The rice falls under the category of medium- to long-grain rice. After cooking, the rice maintains its rich colour and develops a slight purple hue, with a chewy texture that sets it apart from other rice varieties.

In Manipur, Chak Hao is used in a variety of traditional dishes, including desserts like Chak Hao Kheer (a type of rice pudding) and savoury dishes. Given its high nutritional value, black rice is often used in health-focused recipes, including salads, stir-fries, and even sushi.  It has a lower glycemic index than white rice, making it a healthier option for people with diabetes or those managing their blood sugar levels.

Bamboo rice

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Bamboo rice, known as mulayari in some parts of India, is a distinctive and scarce type of rice that is gathered from the seeds of flowering bamboo. Unlike traditional rice cultivation, bamboo rice is harvested from bamboo plants that only flower once every few decades, typically every 40 to 60 years. This unique and unpredictable flowering cycle contributes to the exclusivity of bamboo rice, making it a prized seasonal delicacy. It is mainly sourced from the forests of South India, particularly in states like Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, as well as in the northeastern regions of India.

Bamboo rice stands out with its unique appearance, starting off with a greenish tint when uncooked and transforming into a light brown shade after being dried and polished. Its chewy texture and nutty taste make it a special ingredient for a variety of recipes. Once cooked, bamboo rice can be a bit sticky, resembling short-grain rice. This rice is rich in vital nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fibre and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. It is also a good source of antioxidants.

In regions where bamboo rice is harvested, it is used in traditional dishes such as rice porridge, payasam (a type of rice pudding), and various rice-based savoury dishes. Bamboo rice can be used in place of regular rice in many recipes, such as pulao, fried rice, and risotto.

Rajamudi Rice

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Rajamudi rice, a heritage variety from Karnataka, has a significant historical background as it was favoured by the Wadiyars, the royal family of Mysore. The name Rajamudi symbolises a royal crown. This unique rice is primarily grown in the old Mysore region, covering districts such as Mandya, Mysore, and Hassan. The rising demand for Rajamudi rice not only supports sustainable agricultural practices but also ensures the conservation of traditional farming techniques.

Rajamudi rice grains are visually distinct with their unique mix of red and brown colours. This dual-coloured grain not only looks appealing but also showcases its rich nutrient profile. When cooked, the rice has a slightly chewy texture, like brown rice, and a mild nutty flavour. Its versatility makes it a great option for a variety of savoury dishes. Known for its nutritional benefits, this type of rice is high in dietary fibre and antioxidants and has a relatively higher protein content.

Rajamudi rice is often used as a staple food in everyday cooking in Karnataka. It can be used in place of regular white rice in meals. It is particularly popular in traditional South Indian dishes such as bisi bele bath (a spicy rice and lentil dish), vangibath (spiced rice with eggplant), and various rice-based salads and stir-fries.