Rice — scientifically known as Oryza sativa — is one of the world's most important cereal grains. It is consumed more in southern & eastern states of India, which are also predominant rice producers. Rice is cultivated in about 43,388,000 hectares of land across the country. Today, India is home to more than 6,000 varieties of rice.
From the rajma chawal of Punjab to sambar bhaat of Tamil Nadu to Jadoh of Meghalaya — Indians love rice in their unique ways! And though we may take the spoon on occasions, rice is a dish best relished with hands.
Rice plays a pivotal role in all kinds of celebrations in India. Think Pongal or Kheer! Even our festivals revolve around sowing seeds in the paddy field, transplanting the saplings in the areas, removing weeds, etc. From Makar Sankranti in Karnataka to Na-Khuwa Bhooj in rural Assam, rice is a critical part of our everyday food & life.
Surprisingly, India had more than 110,000 varieties until 1970. With the Green Revolution and emphasis on monoculture and hybrid crops, many local forms & types of rice were lost.
Today, the most staple & commonly consumed forms of rice are
The top 10 rice-producing states in India are:
This easter state is the largest rice producing state in India. About 50% of its arable land is under rice cultivation. In 2016, West Bengal produced about 15.75 million tonnes of rice.
The second-largest rice producer in India is Uttar Pradesh with 5.86 million hectare land under rice cultivation producing about 12.5 million tonnes of rice.
Though wheat-based chapatis/rotis remain their favourite, Punjab is the third-largest rice-producing state in the country. It has 11.82 million tonnes of rice during 2015-2016.
The other top states producing rice are:
Let's take a look at the different varieties of rice and how they are consumed across the country:
Mostly grown & eaten in Maharashtra and western India, Ambermohar is short-grain rice used in making Varan Bhat, Pulao, Masala Bhat, etc.
Basmati rice is known as the king of all types of rice in India. The long-grain rice is used to make Biryanis, Pulaos, and several other royal rice delicacies.
This rice holds a special place in the heart of any Bengali. Though not very long-grained, this low-starch rice is a staple in any household in West Bengal and is best served boiled with stews made from veggies, chicken and of course fish.
4. Bamboo rice
Though not very common, this rice is a favourite of the tribal communities of Kerala. It tastes similar to wheat grains and has a sticky texture. It is used to make native Kerala dishes.
This medium-grain rice is cultivated in the state of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The fragrant variety of rice and doesn't lose its shape and texture. It is often used as a substitute for basmati.
6. HMT Kolam
A short-grain rice, the Kolam has many varieties and is also called Lachkari Raw Rice. The rice is growing in western and southern parts of India. It can be used to make Pej (Kanji), Masale Bhat, Khichadi, Jeera Rice, Vangi Bhat, Fried Rice, and Pulao.
The Tamil Nadu University of Agriculture developed this hybrid rice in 1986. The cultivation of this rice takes place along the banks of Tamil Nadu's Kaveri River. The medium-grain rice variety is used to make Khichdi, Pulao, and other spicy rice preparations.
Molakolukulu is a medium-grain rice grown in Andhra Pradesh. It is also referred to as Nellore rice due to its origin in the state's Nellore region.
9. Mogra rice
Known for its flowery fragrance, the Mogra is long-grain rice. Mogra rice contains a high amount of starch. It comes in a mini Mogra variety too, which is shorter than the original. Both forms are an excellent substitute for traditional Basmati rice.
10. Palakkadan Matta rice
Commonly known as Matta Rice, this rice form comes from the Palakkad district of Kerala and is very popular with Karnataka and Kerala's locals. This rice is used to make Appams, Idlis, and Dosas and also consumed in its plain form.
11. Surti Kolam
Surti Kolam is a form of white rice grown in Gujarat. The medium-grain rice is used in every day cooking. In the native state, it is consumed with daal, vegetables and even aam ras!
Sharbati is a low-cost Basmati rice grown in the region of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. The non-sticky rice doubles in size after cooking. It has great aroma and taste and is used in everyday cooking in these regions.
13. Jeera Samba Rice or Seeraga Samba Rice
This popular variety of rice from Tamil Nadu looks like cumin seeds. It is used in traditional biryanis like Ambur Biryani/Dindigul Biryani. The rice is medium-grain but has an amazing aroma. It holds its shape without losing its shape and texture after cooking.
Another sub-variety of the above is the Samba rice which has a typical dark red colour. It is also called Bridegroom Rice in the local language.
14. Sona Masuri Rice
Sona Masuri Rice is commonly grown in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka. The medium-grain rice is used in many South Indian preparations including, Curd Rice, Lemon Rice, Idly, Dosa, etc.
Though Basmati and Kolam hold the top position in the most popular forms of rice consumed across the country. However, the other local varieties have a distinct taste and texture too. You can find umpteen varieties of rice across the length & breadth of the country. Rice continues to be a staple, healthy part of the India diet.