Word of the Week (111): BASMATI (probability 17157), by David Sutton

BASMATI is a variety of long grain rice grown in northern India and Pakistan.

Given that rice is such a key staple and there are around 40000 varieties of it grown worldwide, it is surprising how few single words there are in the Scrabble lexicon for types of rice. To BASMATI I can add only ARBORIO, a round-grained rice used for making risotto (note that since CSW12 this has taken -S), and CARNAROLI, a shor-grained rice also used for making risotto.

There are, of course, many more words for dishes containing or based on rice. From India we have the spicy BIRIYANI or BIRIANI, and BHELPURI, a dish of puffed rice with onions. Malay gives us LAKSA, rice noodles served in curry or hot soup. From Indonesia comes REISTAFEL, RIJSTAFEL or RIJSTTAFEL. Tamil gives us CONGEE or CONJEE, a kind of rice gruel, or simply the water in which rice has been boiled; these can also be verbs, meaning to starch with rice water. Japanese MAKI is a small segment cut from a long roll of cold rice and various other ingredients wrapped in a sheet of seaweed, while NIGIRI is a small oval block of cold rice, wasabi (horseradish) and fish. Persian gives us PILAF with its variants PILAFF, PILAO, PILAU, PILAW, PILLAU, PILOW and PULAO. And of course, as mentioned, there is the Italian RISOTTO which is rice cooked in broth with grated cheese and seasonings.

I would go on to discuss PAELLA, JAMBALAYA and FEIJOADA but I am starting to drool over the keyboard...


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