Last weekend I had the world's best rice kheer. I know, I know, you would say, Kheer main kya best? It can always be made well by any half decent cook. And I agree with that. But the defining factor for this Kheer was Indrayani rice which is an unpolished rice variety
Remember how a hero's mother would always make her son’s favourite Kheer in old Hindi movies? (I wonder why it was never made for the heroine or the daughter?) Anyway, something similar happened at my mother's home when I went for a casual lunch to spend some time with her. As I entered maa's house, the warm aromatic blast of an unknown fragrant hit me. I asked her, "Maa, something smells delicious; what are you making?"
She smiled and said, "I felt like having Kheer Puri today and have made kheer using Aazol's Indrayani rice." We usually use rice like Basmati or tukda (broken) Basmati to make this simple and flavourful Indian sweet dish. She was quite pleased that she was trying something different as she was not using her regular Basmati. The aroma already justified her decision in my mind. And Boy, did the simple homemade rice kheer turn out to be even more amazing than our expectations! Because she not only used Indrayani rice, she replaced sugar with Kaakvi or liquid jaggery. I never thought rice kheer with jaggery would turn out better than the rice kheer recipe with milkmaid i make.
This made me realise how versatile each and every native variety of rice that India consumes is. And how we can use it for everyday meals as well as for speciality items like Kheer or international cuisines. Indrayani rice, particularly, has a rich history and geographic significance.
The origins of Indrayani Rice
The healthiest rice of Maharashtra is named after a river. The river starts near Lonavala, a hill station in the Sahayadri mountain range and flows through Pune. The river is considered to be holy and has many religious sites on its banks.
Indrayani is a medium grain native variety of rice, that came into existence due to an old favourite rice of Maharashtra known as Ambemohar. But Ambemohar was low yielding and prone to diseases. Hence it was crossed with a high-yielding variety to get us the flavourful sticky rice Indrayani.
Aazol's Indrayani rice comes from the Kasare district in Dhule, cultivated by tribals near the Maharashtra – Gujarat border. The indrayani rice is unpolished, aromatic and sticky just as your grandmothers and mothers would like their rice to be for dishes like khichdi and kheer.
What is unpolished rice?
Many times we are told to avoid rice at all costs if we want to lose weight, if we suffer from diabetes or if we do not want to feel drowsy during the afternoon or bloated at night. Polished rice is something new that made rice looks whiter and hence prettier but this process strips the rice of all husk, bran and almost all nutrients. Polishing the grain is an unhealthy contemporary practice, which Aazol is reversing by sourcing unpolished rice which is better as it has all the benefits and is not just a starch-filled grain.
Polished vs Unpolished rice
The difference between polished and unpolished rice is well documented, but we do not know the disadvantage of polished rice:
- Polished rice can lead to gastritis or other digestion-related issues.
- The glycemic index for polished rice is about 70, which can lead to sugar spikes. Hence people who have diabetes are advised to avoid it.
- Since it has only starch and no fibre or other nutrients, it will not keep you feeling fuller for a longer time. Therefore, dieticians and nutritionists don't recommend it to people who are on a weight loss program.
- Zinc deficiency is an issue that a predominate rice-eating individual may suffer from.
- Polished rice also loses the iron content found in the rice bran.
- Vitamin E is another nutrient loss due to polishing, which helps improve skin and hair quality and improves physiological functioning.
Benefits of unpolished rice
With the above arguments against polished rice, let's shift our focus to why we should choose Aazol's Unpolished Indrayani rice. These are the unpolished rice benefits you gain when you consume it daily.
- Indrayani rice is rich in Vitamin B or Thiamine. This vitamin helps us boost our energies and stabilises our moods. Hence we don’t suffer from low energy moments like a typical afternoon slump.
- Vitamin B also helps regulate blood sugar levels. Hence a person who has diabetes can enjoy this native rice variety.
- This rice helps you fight constipation by regulating your bowel movements and is gentle on your digestive systems.
- It also regulates and lowers blood pressure and is a rich source of natural oils.
- It helps in reducing cholesterol and is rich in antioxidants.
Why a native variety of rice?
When you think of ordering Aazol's Indrayani rice or unpolished rice online, you would wonder why a native variety of rice is available online and whether it is authentic. So let me tell you, when we source this rice from our SHG in Dhule, we make sure that from the cultivation to processing and packing, everything is done in a manner that is rooted and using indigenous cultivation methods only.
We want to encourage more and more demand for the local variety of grains so that farmers return to cultivating them. These varieties are pest resistant, nutritionally rich, medicinally effective and have better tolerance against salinity. Biodiversity in agriculture and a return to indigenous varieties of cultivation is a must to protect the environment, and our farmers must be encouraged to take more and more steps to achieve the same.
How to use the fragrant Indrayani rice?
We say use it daily with a ghee-infused tadka dal or simple varan (simple lentil or dal) or with dahi (yoghurt). The rice when cooked is soft and mushy for babies, so they can have it as their first solid meal too. And its fragrant and sticky enough to replace jasmine rice for your Thai curryand considered as one of the best rice for daily use in maharashtra. As a staple in most Maharashtrian homes, Indrayani rice is enjoyed as a replacement for basmati in Kheer, as I mentioned earlier. This goes to prove, ‘jaisa desh waisa bhes, jaisa khaan paan waisa rehan sehan.’’
Rice is a staple and has a lot of religious significance too. We use it in our poojas and havans as it is considered a whole grain. It is called Akshata or unbroken; hence why not have an unpolished fragrant native variety of rice cultivated with love and care?
Using Aazol’s products for a special kheer and thinking about how ordering homemade food online is becoming accessible makes me happier and hopeful of a future where we are closer to our roots despite the technological advancements.
Author: Jinal Aidasani