Biriyani, a popular dish in several parts of India, is rice at its best – smothered in flavours, fragrant, with delightful chunks of meat – ah… ecstasy! There are several regions and several varieties of biriyani that use the long-grained basmati rice. But the best biriyani from Tamil Nadu uses aromatic seeraga samba rice. This makes the biriyani unique and the taste is just mind-blowingly awesome!
Samba (yes, it is the same word as the Brazilian dance form) is a variety of rice that’s grown extensively and almost exclusively in Tamil Nadu and some parts of Sri Lanka. Rice is grown in the Samba season (August to January), and hence it’s known as samba rice. This variety of rice is grown for a longer duration than other varieties of rice.
Seeraga samba is the most expensive sub-variety of samba rice, and makes heavenly biryani. Seeragam is Tamil for jeera (cumin seeds), and the size of the tiny oval rice grains is just the same as the size of seeragam, and hence the name seeraga samba. There are several qualities of seeraga samba that contribute to the irresistible biriyani. Here are five of them…
1. The Size: Small enough to blend, big enough to get noticed!
Compared to basmati rice, which is a popular choice for biriyanis in several parts of India, the grain of the seeraga samba rice is small. It’s barely one third the length of a basmati grain. As a result of this, the rice blends well into the biriyani and does not demand overt attention. At the same time, it cannot be ignored. It is clearly visible, smelled and felt – oh yes, there’s no missing this major grain in a well-cooked biriyani.
2. The Texture: No clumps, no mush!
Seeraga samba retains its texture after it’s cooked. It does not thicken into lumps and clumps, unlike some other rice varieties. It is firm to bite, but not soft and mushy. It cooks to a perfect ‘al dente’! It absorbs large quantities of water without becoming squishy. This results in larger volumes of rice cooked to perfection compared to other varieties.
3. The Subtle Sensation
The composition of the rice grain’s starch usually determines how fluffy it’ll become on heating. The advantage with seeraga samba is that it gets less fluffy than most other varieties used for biriyani. It absorbs the flavours of the spices and hence overpowers the dish with its own flavours. It’s there, but not in your face!
4. The Fragrance: Aroma that transports you to heaven!
Seeraga samba rice is aromatic. It has a fragrance that is heavenly. It clings to the meat and lends its unique aroma to the entire dish, making the entire culinary experience a blissful, euphoric event.
5. The Taste: Flavoursome, lingering ambrosia!
And finally, the taste. There is nothing that can match the taste of a biryani made with seeraga samba rice. The unique taste and flavour that lingers on the tongue, floods the senses, tingles the taste buds, forces your eyes to close… one can do nothing but succumb to the feeling, surrender to the elation, and just enjoy the experience! Lingering ambrosia indeed…
And there are your five reasons why seeraga samba rice makes for an irresistible biryani. I dare you to sit in front of a steaming portion of this one-pot delight, and not be tempted to spoon some into your salivating mouth! Don’t try – it’s impossible!