Jasmine rice (Thai: ข้าวหอมมะลิ; rtgs: Khao hom mali; Thai pronunciation: [kʰâːw hɔ̌ːm malíʔ]; Chinese: 泰国香米; Tàiguó xiāngmǐ) is a long-grain variety of fragrant rice (also known as aromatic rice). Its fragrance, reminiscent of pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius) and popcorn, results from the rice plant’s natural production of aromatic compounds, of which 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline is the most salient. In typical packaging and storage, these aromatic compounds dissipate within a few months. This rapid loss of aromatic intensity leads many Southeast Asians and connoisseurs to prefer each year’s freshly harvested “new crop” of jasmine rice.
Jasmine rice is a variety of Oryza indica. The name “jasmine” refers to the colour of the rice, which is as white as the jasmine flower.
Jasmine rice is grown primarily in Thailand (Thai hom mali or Thai fragrant rice), Cambodia (angkor kra’oup or Cambodian jasmine rice), Laos, and southern Vietnam. It is moist and soft in texture when cooked, with a slightly sweet flavour. The grains cling and are somewhat sticky when cooked, though less sticky than glutinous rice (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa), as it has less amylopectin. It is about three times stickier than long-grain rice.
To harvest jasmine rice, the long stalks are cut and threshed. The rice can then be left in a hulled form called paddy rice, de-hulled to produce brown rice, or milled to remove the germ and some or all of the bran, producing white rice.
Types of Jasmine Rice
Thai jasmine rice and Cambodian rice share many of the same characteristics and grow mainly in neighbouring geographic areas on opposite sides of the northeastern Thai-Cambodian border. Cambodian jasmine rice is cultivated in Cambodia and processed as white (milled and polished) and brown rice. Distinct Cambodian jasmine rice varieties include these three, phka rumduol, phka romeat, and phka rumdeng. Recent DNA fingerprint analysis, carried out with 18 markers, shows that all three varieties possess 18 known fragrance alleles. Two varietals (phka rumduol and phka rumdeng) are distinctly Cambodian with 17 markers in identical positions, with Thai jasmine rice and one fragrance marker each in a different position. The analysis of Cambodian phka romeat shows all 18 markers in identical positions with the trademarked Thai jasmine rice Thai hom mali.
Jasmine rice, though grown in Laos and southern Vietnam, is not the predominant rice variety. Glutinous rice is grown in Laos, and regular Oryza sativa predominates in Vietnam.
Thai jasmine rice from Thailand has a slender shape and a jasmine scent. The two types of Thai jasmine rice are white and brown. The vast majority of jasmine rice exported overseas to North America and Europe is Thai jasmine rice, with a small minority from Vietnam. In Thailand it is thought that only Surin, Buriram, and Sisaket Provinces can produce high quality hom mali.
White Jasmine Rice
White jasmine rice is white, has a jasmine aroma and, when cooked, a slightly sticky texture. The aroma is caused by the evaporation of 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline.
Brown Jasmine Rice
Brown jasmine rice retains the light tan outer layer on the rice grain. It has greater health benefits than white jasmine rice because it still has the bran. Brown jasmine rice has a flavour like oats and contains gamma oryzanol which can decrease cholesterol in blood vessels. Brown jasmine rice has vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B, and beta-carotene and it contains antioxidants which support the working of nervous system.
Jasmine rice has a glycemic index of 68-80. Foods with a glycemic index of 70 or lower are preferred in the diet due to their slower absorption which prevents large spikes in blood sugar after consumption. Not all rice has a high glycemic index. Basmati rice, for example, has a relatively low glycemic index of 59. However, it is uncommon for rice to be eaten alone. It is usually eaten with other foods that can reduce its glycemic index by 20-40 percent.
Culinary uses of Jasmine Rice
Steamed jasmine rice is ideal for eating with stir fries, with grilled, fried, or braised food items, and in soups (when cooked slightly drier by adding a little less water during cooking). It often doesn’t fare well when used for fried rice, as it is too soft and soggy when still warm. More experienced cooks will use rice that has been cooled down first for making fried rice.
Cooking Jasmine Rice
The trick to cooking jasmine rice well is using minimal water, so that the rice is steamed, rather than boiled. Thai cooks actually wrap bundles of rinsed rice grains in muslin and suspend them in a steamer so that the rice cooking by steaming, and never touches the water at all. Whether you are steaming the rice or boiling it, it still needs to be rinsed before cooking. If boiling, the rice and water are added to the pot together: most cooks recommend one and one half cups water to one cup jasmine rice. The lid is placed on the pot while the rice is raised to a boil, and then the temperature is turned down to a simmer until it is cooked all the way through. If the rice was pre-soaked, this will take approximately 10 minutes: if not, the rice will take around 20 minutes to finish cooking, after which it should be gently fluffed with a fork and covered to rest for another five minutes before serving.