Joha Rice: The 100-Year-Old Assamese Rice With A Rich History

If you make a bowl of flavourful Assam-style smokey pork or pepper chicken for your weekend lunch, the best accompaniment would be a side of steaming joha rice. The fragrant variety of rice is indigenous to Assam in Northeast India and is known for its distinctive aroma, delicate texture, and unique flavour. 

The reason joha rice is mostly grown in and around Assam is that the region's unique climatic conditions, characterized by abundant rainfall, high humidity, and rich alluvial soil, offer an ideal environment for the growth of this rice variety. 

The texture of joha rice makes it a favoured choice for a variety of traditional and modern dishes. joha rice grains are small to medium in size and have a slightly elongated shape. The grains are less polished than many commercial rice varieties, which helps retain more natural nutrients and flavour. When raw, the grains appear slightly translucent with a delicate white hue.

Joha rice is known for its soft and fluffy texture when cooked. The grains tend to cook evenly and remain distinct without becoming mushy. This characteristic makes it ideal for dishes that require a light and airy texture.

The grains of Joha rice become tender upon cooking, providing a pleasant mouthfeel. This tenderness is especially appreciated in dishes like pitha and payas (sweet rice pudding), where a delicate texture is essential. 

While Joha rice retains moisture well, it is not overly sticky. This balance of moisture and separation makes it versatile for various culinary uses. Unlike sticky rice varieties, Joha rice grains remain separate, allowing them to absorb flavours effectively without clumping together.

The reason joha rice pairs so well with chewy meat or crunchy veggies is because its grains are soft enough to melt in the mouth yet retain a subtle bite, offering a satisfying textural contrast. In recent years, efforts have been made to promote Joha rice through geographical indication (GI) tagging, which helps protect its unique identity and ensures fair prices for farmers. This recognition has provided a boost to the local economy, encouraging sustainable farming practices and preserving the traditional methods of cultivation.

Do you know joha rice also has a rich and illustrious history? “According to Kaviraja Madhava Kandali who wrote the 14th-century Assamese version of the Ramayana (Saptakanda Ramayana) when Ravana was at his wits end to awaken his younger brother Kumbhakarna from his deep slumber, he used heaps of delicious food prepared from Khorika Joha; the fragrance of the rice had woken Kumbhakarna up for his long slumber.