The Big Boys Curry Book

Perfect boiled rice

Places such as this are sprouting up everywhere in Kerala; usually overpriced and under staffed

I know, why do we need this recipe? But it is amazing how many times I get asked how to cook rice. It's a bit like boiling an egg. Everyone knows the principle but still manages to get it wrong anyway. So here is the foolproof way to get fluffy plain boiled rice.


  • Rice. Basmati, Patna or American Long Grain in order of preference.
  • Water.
  • Salt to taste.


The ratio of water to rice is 600ml per 350g, 1 pint per 12oz. Scale up or down as required. My hand can hold 65-70g of dry rice and I have found that is a good average sized portion for most people. When I cater for large numbers I measure out a handful for each person, weigh it and determine the amount of water required (i.e total weight in grammes/350 x 600 = millilitres of water required).

I have purposely specified the type of rice above. This will not work with the quick-cook and pre-cooked types of rice (Uncle Ben's Easy cook comes to mind.) These have already been partially cooked and then dried again and you basically treat them like pasta, i.e. boil in plenty of water until done and drain. Nothing wrong with them, they have a distinct texture and flavour of their own, just do not try to cook them using this method 'cus it won't work :-)

You also need a large pan, preferably a wide based one with a fitted lid.

  1. Wash rice in several changes of water until water runs clear.
  2. Soak rice in plain water for 1/2 hour and drain.
  3. Put measured water and salt to taste in pan and bring to boil.
  4. When water is boiling add the rice and cover. Bring it back to boil.
  5. When boiling, stir rice gently to lift it off of the bottom of the pan. Do this once only and then leave it alone.
  6. Reduce heat to very low, and simmer rice covered for no more than 3 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat and leave the rice covered to absorb water.
  8. When all water absorbed you can test rice by tasting. It should be just 'al dente' or with a slight bite.
  9. Using a fork, gently lift the rice to separate and leave covered until ready to serve. If at this point you think the rice is too wet, (which can happen if your brand of rice is a new batch) leave the lid off so that partial evaporation occurs. Rice will sit happily for 1/2 an hour like this. Gently fluff up the rice when you put it into a serving bowl for the table.

Other Notes

A perfect cooked rice will be gently fluffy yet firm, give off a distinctive aroma depending on variety and when left to go cold can be picked up in the fingers and moulded into a rice ball in the hand (perfect finisher dipped in yoghurt after a particularly hot curry.) If your rice is too wet following the above recipe, use 50ml less water next time with the same brand of rice. If too dry,add a little more water next time. Within 2 or 3 goes you will have perfect rice.

The older the rice is the better it is to be regarded. In India, rice is graded not only by the variety but by its age and an old variety of something like a top basmati can be quite expensive. Different rice varieties do have a different flavour and aroma. They are like wines in a country like India where gourmets can tell you just by the flavour and smell which variety it is. Try it yourself. Cook a small batch of American long grain and some of a Basmati and taste both without any other accompaniment.


Being a staple there are countless ways of cooking rice including frying, biriani, pilaf (pilau). Here are a few suggestions for boiled rice:

Yellow Rice - Add 1/2 tsp. turmeric at stage 3 above.

Green Rice - Add 4 tbsp. finely chopped spinach at stage 7above.

Mushroom Rice - Add 1/4lb (100g) finely chopped mushroom at beginning of stage 9 above.

Vegetable Rice - Add 1/4lb (100g) mixed finely chopped vegetables at stage 4 above.

Butter Rice - Add a large knob of unsalted butter at stage 3 above.

Aniseed Rice - Add a piece of aniseed (size dependent on amount being cooked) at stage 3 above. remove the piece from the cooked rice.

The use of mushrooms, spinach and other vegetables does not upset the balance of the water to rice ratio as they bring their own moisture with them.

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