Last night, I sat down with a plate of hot rice topped with a little Burmese pepper oil and a crispy fried egg. Although this may sound simple, I was in absolute heaven. For me, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of rice—physically or emotionally—and especially at this time of year when the autumnal chill sets in, my craving for comfort means rice is always a winner.
My roots lie in Myanmar, where rice is life. Instead of saying hello, we ask each other: “Have you had your rice yet?” We Burmese often feel as though something is wrong if we don’t eat rice that day, and we can sometimes be satisfied with a bowl of the stuff mixed with a little oil and sprinkled with some salt (known as See Nate Sarr), so that we can estimate the purity. But the daily meal in Myanmar is often similar to Indonesian rice table or thai Khantokwhere an array of fried, steamed, and curried dishes act as a chorus for the starchy star of the show.
But how do we know which rice to pair with which meal? This guide is here to help.
My forever favourite: basmati
Choose the perfect partner for savory dishes like curries, and for a bite in a cool salad.
My favorite rice for these daily meals is basmati rice. During the lockdowns, I was so grateful to be able to order 10kg bags of Tilda Pure Basmati Rice online to be delivered straight to my door, as trips to the shops became impractical.
Basmati Tilda is grown in the most fertile parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain in the foothills of the Himalayas and is harvested only once a year. Like fine wines, Basmati acquires a richer taste and aroma as it ages, and so Tilda stores Basmati for up to 18 months, before carefully milling the beans.
So why do I love basmati rice? Basmati has a pleasant aroma, delicate flavor, lightness, delicate texture and well-defined grains, which preserve its bite, so it acts as an ideal flavoring for sauces and gravies in particular. This might make you think of curry – and basmati rice can actually go great with curries, but remember that it comes in all shapes and sizes. Curry may have its roots in South Asian cuisine, but it has spread widely across the planet, with countries and regions having their own diverse and distinct set of curry traditions. As a catch-all term, the term “curry” now covers everything from Thai green curry and Indian Madras to Jamaican curry goat and much more—I recommend reading The Philosophy of Curry by author Sejal Sukhadwala if you’d like to learn more about the different types of curry. So while you can’t go wrong choosing basmati for a South Asian dish—the big, bold flavors benefit from the robust grains it can absorb—you may find that other curries work better with jasmine rice, or something else.
For Burmese curries, basmati is a trusted friend. Our curries range from savory to savory.Khian Thi Oh Gat – eggplant pan sticker), rich and fiery (Gnan Hen – spiced crab curry), sweet and mild (Kit Thar Hin Humui – Cinnamon Chicken), but Basmati Tilda handles everything with style.
Basmati rice is also my favorite weapon when making it Hatmin blow (Burmese rice salad) and the next level Let’s hear a sound (Burmese Rainbow Salad) – The cooked rice absorbs all the vibrant flavours, staying separate without turning mush, even when filled with many other ingredients.
Nutritional knockout: brown basmati rice
Choose salads or upgrade your favorite meals with whole grains.
Basmati rice tends to be a favorite in rice salads from other cuisines as well. Or you can use brown basmati if you want a more nutritious option—whole grain basmati has the bran layer still intact, which means it provides more fiber. The original Basmati is my first love but I switched to the brown Basmati when I got gestational diabetes.
Pairing basmati with firmer, firmer wild rice to create a visually appealing palette of color on black and white grains is growing in popularity. And while Burmese rice-based salads tend to be eaten while the rice is still warm, Basmati Tilda is delicious even when chilled, so it’s great for taking a picnic, barbeque, or even to eat at the office.
Hall: Basmati is too long
Choose from dishes where the rice is the meal itself, such as biryani or pilaf.
Recently, I discovered Tilda’s Extra Long Basmati Rice. Basmati rice triples in size because it lengthens when cooked, and the extra long rice reaches even further, providing a truly elegant dish. Despite its length, it is a firm rice and retains its shape and texture even in a one-pot meal where the rice is stirred in often.
I use it to make Burmese-style lentil butter rice (Htamin’s seizures) as a weekly treat, and is also a definite must when I’m making Burmese-style biryani or pilaf, otherwise known as Danbooka gently spiced, more delicate dish that is featured in Myanmar at festivals and other special occasions – we even serve it. Danbook at my wedding.
Opt for Thai cooking, egg fried rice and rice balls.
Most people will be familiar with jasmine rice from Thai cooking, where it is the rice of choice for most dishes. Served as a base for stir-fries or as a side dish with skewers of grilled meat like mo ping – and always a perfect partner to the popular red and green curry – jasmine rice is eaten fresh as a new crop, rather than stale like basmati. It is known for its amazing aroma and slight stickiness and goes well with a variety of dishes and cuisines.
Being Burmese often means that you are a mixture of over 130 ethnic groups and part of my heritage is from Myanmar’s Shan State. It is probably the most famous Shan rice dish htamin chen, Warm rice is kneaded with potatoes or white fish or both and mixed with various spices before being rolled into balls and sprinkled with all sorts of crunchy toppings. The rice for this dish should be soft and fluffy enough to bind the balls, but without being too sticky, so when I turn to Tilda’s Jasmine-scented rice, which is sourced from only the best grains including Thai They had Which ticks all of those boxes, and has a lovely fragrance as a bonus.
I also like to use Tilda Jasmine when I’m making egg fried rice from scratch, but that’s only when I have cold rice and leftovers, because freshly cooked rice will clump or get mushy. Leftover rice isn’t always an option (especially in my house), so it’s perfectly fine to cheat by grabbing a box of Tilda’s microwavable jasmine rice to put in a skillet: I promise it will turn out too, thanks to Tilda’s high standards, though. Come out of the bag!
My ancestors (even, in fact, my present family) would probably be horrified to hear me give you this advice, since rice is so revered by the Burmese that the first portion of freshly cooked rice will always be served to the “elders” of the dinner at the table, in terms of age or prestige. Even when the elders were not present at the meal, a spoonful of rice would still be extracted from the pot before we entered it and set aside for the end as an act of respect, a custom known as in cha (first serve). Even religious people in Myanmar will leave rice as offerings to Buddha or other deities or spirits known as Nats. There is no better food than rice, after all.
MiMi Aye is the author of Mandalay: Recipes and Tales from a Burmese Kitchen, and host of the MSG Podcast.
Tilda has been the preferred choice of rice aficionados, from grandmothers to great chefs, sitting at the heart of dinner tables for over 50 years. The rice you choose can really elevate your plate, so Tilda ensures that their products are the best quality grains and ingredients. For more information about the full Tilda line and delicious recipe inspiration, visit tilda.com