Jasmine and basmati rice -- both aromatic types of rice -- differ in specific fragrance, grain length, texture and the way the grains separate.
Long-grain basmati, when cooked, maintains somewhat greater separation between grains, and makes a fine choice for Indian dishes including biryanis, where you want long, distinct grains to pick up the flavor and color of spices. Medium-grain jasmine rice is slightly stickier and integral to Thai cuisine.
Both jasmine and basmati are longer grained and less sticky than sushi rice, a short-grained variety.
Origins of Each
Authentic basmati rice, with its nutty aroma, comes from the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India and Pakistan. Jasmine rice, which gives off a more flowery scent, hails from Thailand, where it is called Thai hom mali. You can find domestically grown versions of both in the U.S., but the imported rice tends to be more fragrant.
The harvested rice is aged for a year so that it dries thoroughly and behaves predictably when cooked.
Western grocers tend to sell either type in small boxes or plastic bags, while Asian purveyors sell large quantities in burlap sacks. Worldwide, export volume of the two types of rice is about equal. Both varieties are available in brown and white versions.
Both rices benefit from rinsing before cooking, although home cooks often dispense with this step.
Basmati rice should ideally be soaked for 30 minutes, with the soaking water saved and reused during cooking.
White versions of jasmine rice cook in about 15 to 20 minutes, and basmati in as little as 8 to 10 minutes -- monitor it closely. Either type may take 45 to 50 minutes for brown rice. Let the cooked rice stand for 10 minutes, lid off the saucepan and replaced by a dish towel, to allow the grains to absorb steam.
Beginner cooks tend to cook either rice in a measured amount of water in a lidded pan. Asian and experienced cooks are more likely to cook any quantity of jasmine or basmati topped by an inch of water, also called the one-knuckle method, so that the water-to-rice ratio declines as the amount of rice in the cooking pot increases. Basmati rice becomes twice as long when cooked and displays a slightly curved shape.
For the most authentic basmati rice, prepared Indian style, add the soaked rice and its water to a pot of boiling water. Taste the rice periodically for doneness after 8 minutes, and drain it when ready in a colander.