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I'm used to cooking basmati, which can stand on its own with just a few spices and a little butter. With jasmine rice, I come away disappointed; the rice never seems to bring anything to the dish, and generally comes off a little bland, even with fairly potent flavorings.

Is there some technique or trick specific to jasmine rice that I should be using? Are there particularly good flavor/ingredient combos for jasmine rice I can use?

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7 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Not sure how much rice you are making, but if making about 2 cups of rice, first heat 3 tablespoons of peanut oil over Medium High heat. Add the rice and toast it in the oil until it releases a nutty fragrance - about 1-2 minutes. Then I like to use Chicken stock (3 cups) to finish it off. Personal preference but I like to add scallions (green onions) and cilantro to the rice when it is done. Cooking it this way I have not noticed a tremendous taste difference from different brands of Jasmine Rice.

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Toasting the rice helped considerably with flavor. –  BobMcGee Jul 25 '11 at 22:42
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A few things come to mind:

Before cooking:

Cook the rice in coconut milk, maybe with a piece of ginger

or

Put a teaspoon or two of cumin seeds in the cooking water

After cooking:

Mix with fried scallions, ginger and mustard or cumin seeds

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Jasmine is specific as it has high GI index. As for the flavor, it is a bit bland on top, but should have a floral fragrance, so it is perfect for Thai, Indonesian, Malay and other far east recipes where you have very strong sauces or tastes from the main dish (where basmati would be best for Indian and middle eastern dishes).

NOTE: I would not call myself a cook, but my Thai friend, whom I would, used to use a mix of three types of rice, some for texture and some for taste (SEA dishes). Also, I must say that I got aware of subtleties in taste of rice only after few months of heavy rice diet.

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Although I have not tried this with jasmine rice, I think you can try cooking it like the Indian pulao. In a tbsp or two of neutral vegetable oil fry 2-3 cloves, 1-2 inches of cinnamon, and 4-5 whole cardamom pods. When spices release their flavor, add jasmine rice soaked for roughly half hour and drained. Fry the rice for a couple of minutes and then cook it in water, as you would usually do. The aromatic spices will impart a nice flavor to the rice. Alternatively, you can also add star anise or fried onion.

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This is more or less what I started out doing (basically the same recipe I use for basmati, minus the frying, and it is truly delicious... with basmati. It doesn't seem to work as well for jasmine rice, which is what prompted the question. –  BobMcGee Jul 22 '11 at 4:26
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Replace your rice water with stock.

Vegetarian/vegan? Use vegetable stock instead. Other liquids to intensify the flavor--rice wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce. I'm sure you could use the Western style wines/vinegars too, though I haven't tried with those specifically.

allnet's answers cover the rest of what I would say: basically toasting the rice and using herbs/spices.

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In my experience, it at least partly depends on where you buy your jasmine rice. If you buy it at a large American grocery store chain, you'll get something bland. I don't know where they get it or what they do to it, but it has no smell or flavor. If you buy it at a small Asian grocery, it will taste and smell very good, and complement the dishes you serve it with.

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I always buy my rice at a local Asian grocery, so I know this is not the problem. Do people really buy bulk specialty rice from normal grocery stores? It's like 2x or 3x the price for poor quality. –  BobMcGee Jul 22 '11 at 4:24
    
I see it at the chain grocery store, so someone must be buying it. I agree, I don't know why. –  thursdaysgeek Jul 25 '11 at 21:27
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What I ended up doing, which worked well:

  • Toast rice before cooking until just a hint of golden brown appears, and a nutty smell is produced (as per allnet's and avinash's suggestions, which is why allnet's answer was accepted)
  • Add minced garlic and diced Roma tomato to rice just before toasting is done (for 2 cups dry rice, I used 3 cloves garlic, 1 medium Roma)
  • Add caramelized onions both before and after cooking rice. This is similar to the "fried onions" suggestion.
  • Add an additional diced tomato after rice is cooked
  • Finish flavor of cooked rice with rice wine vinegar, honey, and a touch of lime juice

My girlfriend called the final result the best of my cooking experiments, after chicken breaded with pakora batter. Thank you everyone that had suggestions!

I think toasting the rice made the biggest difference from previous versions. The rice released a very delicious flavor and smell. I could have used even more onion and garlic; although I thought the amount excessive based on the smell when cooking, the actual flavor was fairly mild afterward.

I will experiment with adding toasted cumin, mustard seeds, and ginger to my current result. Don't have good (read: homemade not crappy grocery store) stock or scallions to play with right now.

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