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Seeking Out Authentic Basmati

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2016

Supermarket shelves teem with a multitude of boxes, bags, and burlap sacks labeled “basmati.” Does it matter which you choose?

Supermarket shelves teem with a multitude of boxes, bags, and burlap sacks labeled “basmati.” Does it matter which you choose? In a word, yes. True basmati can only come from India or Pakistan. The real deal must meet standards for grain dimension, amylose content, and grain elongation during cooking, as well as for aroma. In addition, unlike American basmati, authentic basmati is aged for a minimum of a year (and often much longer) before packaging. Aging dehydrates the rice, which translates into cooked grains that expand greatly in length—more so than any other long-grain rice. While our recipe for Persian-Style Rice with Golden Crust (Chelow) (see related content) will work with standard long-grain or Texmati rice, these options will lack the aromatic quality and more delicate, lengthy grains of Indian- or Pakistani-grown basmati. Our favorite is Tilda Pure Basmati Rice. When buying other brands, look for rice grown in India or Pakistan; some packages will also note that the rice has been aged, another good indicator that it is authentic basmati.