Route To Basmati: How Has Rice Still Kept The Pre-Partition Connections Alive?
Updated : August 19, 2021 09:08 IST
Basmati rice is a type of grain that is largely grown in India and Pakistan, being exporters of the rice world over.
The enticing biryani or the vibrant pulao have one thing in common, the grain. Rice has been one of the most staple carbs in the country and when we think of rice, it is all things tasty and nice. From kids to elders, there is no one who can say no to piping hot bowl of flavoured rice. The one that has been a household name is basmati. The aroma of basmati rice fills the house and the heart of every Indian.
Historic Imprints Of The Grain
The grains of basmati rice can be traced to the royal kitchens of the Mughal era. Emperors like Akbar were very fond of basmati which has found mentions in the Ain-i-Akbari, which is Abu Fazl’s documentation of governance under Akbar’s reign. An academic paper in the Journal of Cereal Research claims the cultivation of a type of basmati called Mushkeen, grown across Multan, Delhi, Lahore and other regions. These areas were then divided to form present-day India and Pakistan.
Literary Origins Of Basmati
As basmati became popular during the medieval period, poets and writers could stay away from this phenomenon. As they say, “The pen is mightier than the sword”, what you write gets etched in memory forever. Basmati has featured in several historic folklores and poetic verses. The most prominent one is that of Heer Ranjha, a love story that both Indians and Pakistanis know by heart. The iconic tale is set in Pakistan’s Punjab where a description of the wedding food highlights basmati and various other types of rice. The poetic verses by Waris Shah allot basmati a stature like no other. In fact, it was believed to be something that is served to the elites and royal guests, not the common man. In a report by Mid-day, a historian reveals that Tsuang was a Chinese scholar who stayed with the emperor Harshvardhana for a few days and was served a special Mashaali rice which could be linked to present-day basmati since it used to elongate to the size of beans, once cooked.
Specialty Of This Grain
The long and slender grains of basmati is what makes it so special. The name is derived from Sanskrit and refers to something that is aromatic. Apart from the fact that the rice grains are cooked separately and do not stick to each other, it is also sometimes called popcorn rice, given its fragrance and texture. India is the second-largest producer of basmati rice, growing at the foothills of Himalayas, with a high nutrient profile.
Although Dum biryani is the most common and famous use of basmati rice in both the countries, here are a few recipes that you can try with this long-grain rice.
1. Motiyan Pulao
The name itself reflects how shahi a dish this will turn out to be. The silver balls add the touch of royalty to this fragrant pulao.
2. Basmati Rice Pilaf
For the uninitiated, Pilaf is a type of rice dish where the rice is cooked in a broth or a stock.
3. Zafrani Pulao
This is a special festive treat during Eid, made with basmati rice, dry fruits and flavoured with saffron.