Jasmine rice is a rice varietal which is grown primarily in Thailand, although other nations cultivate the long grained, aromatic rice as well. It is frequently served with Thai and Chinese dishes, as the subtle, nutty flavor and rich aroma are very pleasing to the palate. This type of rice is readily available in most stores, and like many other kinds of rice should be used within six months of purchase for optimal flavor and freshness. Old rice tends to get dusty and woody in flavor, and the aromatic scent of jasmine rice will disappear entirely if it is allowed to age too long.
Like other varieties of rice, jasmine rice is a grass which is cultivated in water logged paddies. During the harvest season, the long stalks of the rice are cut and threshed to remove the rice, which can be left in a hulled form and sold as brown rice, or shucked and sold as white rice. This rice has been bred for easy harvest, and unlike wild rice species, it will not shatter when it ripens, which would scatter the grains into the water that the rice grows in, making them impossible to harvest. Depending on when the rice is harvested, the flavor varies: many consumers prefer spring rice, which has a more delicate, refined flavor, especially when cooked very fresh.
Jasmine rice is often compared to Indian Basmati rice, another long grained rice variety. However, Basmati is aged before being sold, and has a different although equally delicious flavor. Both rice varieties tend to be less sticky than other forms of rice, though, and when cooked properly will form fluffy, light piles of slightly chewy, nutty, well-formed grains. Many cooks use the two kinds of rice interchangeably, although most agree that Thai food should be eaten with jasmine rice, if possible.
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.