17th – 23rd September is National Rice Week!

Published: Thursday, 20 September 2018

Celebrate the UK’s National Rice Week by dining with us and sampling some of the finest Indian cuisine in the area.

Rice is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s population and is grown on every continent bar Antarctica. What is generally not known is that there are at least 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice. All these varieties are categorised as either long grain, medium, short grain or other fragrant rice. Rice is simply a seed from specific species of grass namely Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice).

Within the Indian sub-continent, not only is rice important as a food but it is also integral to the social framework of the region and features prominently in many religious ceremonies. The winter rice harvest in Assam has already arrived and will be celebrated around November, upon its completion, by the Na-Khuwa Bhooj festival. Rice farmers invite relatives and neighbours to a communal meal to share good fortune and after an initial prayer ceremony, where the Gods are thanked for the harvest, a special dish of Paah Proxad which consists of black chickpeas, mung beans and coconut is shared, followed by a lavish meal accompanied by the new rice.

India is the second largest consumer of rice in the world after China. Twenty one per cent of restaurants in the UK are “rice based” with Indian being the most popular. In cities with more than 1,000 restaurants each, Leicester and Birmingham, unsurprisingly, have the highest proportion of Indian restaurants.

Since the early 1970’s the UK’s consumption of rice has risen 450%, all obviously imported, with Basmati rice amounting to almost 50% of total rice imports. Known as the Prince of Rice, Basmati is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and is generally the rice used in the majority of Indian restaurants. Basmati comes within the definition of long grain rice but as opposed to simple long grain white rice it is delicately flavoured.

Whilst Basmati rice generally comes from India and Pakistan there are a number of countries who grow different rice types which would not normally feature in most people’s expectations. Take for example Italy, Spain and the USA! Paella is a much loved Spanish dish which uses a shorter grain rice whilst the Italians love risotto which again is best suited to a medium grained rice also used for some puddings.

Whilst often used as an accompaniment to meat, fish or vegetable dishes rice is also widely used in a mixed dish which has its origins within Muslim communities of the Indian sub-continent, commonly known as a Biryani.

Pilaf otherwise known as pilau rice, introduced from India, is made from long grain rice, usually Basmati, which is cooked in a seasoned broth and is the most popular rice to be served in this country’s large number of Indian restaurants.

Other types of rice originating from India are Ponni and Sona masoori, both medium grain sticky rice which come from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states respectively.

Here at Sarpech we serve plain boiled Basmati rice, Basmati Pilau rice, or if you fancy a change, a mushroom and spring onion Pilau. Our three Biryani dishes are very popular. The South Indian Seafood Biryani comprises Monkfish, cod and king prawns steamed with basmati rice, flavoured with curry leaves, mustard seeds, cayenne chilli and seafood spices. It is garnished with a roasted spicy poppadum and served with cucumber raita. Our Vegetable Biryani is a pot roasted vegetable dish simmered with basmati rice. Finally, the Dum Pukht Chicken Biryani consists of Basmati rice and layers of marinated chicken cooked in a copper pot sealed with a dough. It is slow cooked in its own juices and steam, allowing the spices and herbs to fully infuse the chicken and rice. We serve it with a cucumber raita.

This Sunday during our usual Thali menu we will also be serving Rice Puffs as a starter and Payasam, an Indian rice pudding, for dessert.

So join us in a celebration of National Rice Week, we look forward to welcoming you!

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