Arsenic awareness in food had a surge in notoriety recently with discoveries of arsenic in rice and chicken. Some sources of rice are from soils contaminated with arsenic, especially in former cotton growing regions. According to Consumer’s Report, it appears that organic basmati white rice from India, sold at Target and Trader Joe’s, has the lowest levels of arsenic, and white rice generally has less arsenic than brown rice. You can access their complete report here.
But there’s an even better, safer type of basmati (long-grain) white rice that’s imported from India – parboiled basmati rice. It is recommended by Ayurvedic doctors as more digestible than brown rice and more nutritious than normal white rice.
It’s not boiled or precooked the way we normally think. Parboiling rice is a method of removing the bran from rice while retaining most of the nutrients lost with other bran removal processes. Parboiled rice contains more fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B6 than regular white rice. So it’s closer to brown rice nutritionally, but is easier to digest.
The rice is harder to find than other organic basmati white rice because it’s usually sold in international, Asian, or Indian specialty food stores. But parboiled basmati white rice can also be purchased online.
Here’s an excerpt from the SFGate online magazine explaining the parboiled system.
“Unlike brown and white rice, the process [of bran removal] for parboiled rice begins before the hull is removed. The complete grain of rice is soaked, steamed and dried, then the hull is removed to make parboiled rice.
The steaming enables the rice to absorb nutrients and changes the starch so that it cooks into a firmer, less sticky dish of rice than regular white rice. The steaming does not precook the rice, so it still takes about 20 minutes to prepare.”
- The first step is to thoroughly rinse the rice’s protective mineral oil coating by running strong-pressured water through the rice in a strainer, which you shake rapidly from side to side. When the water turns clear, the rice is clean. Unless you have or can afford an expensive rice steamer that’s free of aluminum, Teflon, or plastic, stove-top cooking will be fine.
- Tap water is usually fluoridated and contains a fair share of arsenic as well, so cook rice with only either real spring water or water purified with a combination of both carbon filter and reverse osmosis processing. Most health food stores and regular supermarkets have machines that process tap water with that purifying combination for 25 to 50 cents per gallon.
- All you’d need for steaming your rice is a heavy, medium-sized stainless steel, ceramic or Pyrex glass pot with a heavy lid that seals well.
- Stove-top cooking parboiled basmati white rice is the same as cooking other rices. Use slightly under a two to one ratio of water (with a pinch of sea salt) to rice.
- When it comes to a boil, place the tight sealing heavy lid onto the pot and bring the heat down to low. Here’s an example.
- Cook for 20 to 30 minutes without peeking into the pot and releasing the steam. It should be done by then. If there’s still any water showing, continue for a few minutes more.
Enjoy a tasty, more nutritious, relatively arsenic-free rice the way you like!