South Indians have a passionate love affair with rice. Regardless of where they reside – small towns, metropolitan cities, or even abroad – mealtimes are never complete for them without rice. In addition to everyday meals, aromatic biryanis, and delicious pulav, South Indians have managed to squeeze this staple into their breakfast and snacks in the form of idli, rice bath, dosa, pongal, and what not! While rice is a generic term used to describe a type of grain, it comes in different varieties, each with its own unique flavour, aroma, taste, texture, and nutritional properties. Given below are four popular types of rice used in South Indian cooking.
For a hardcore rice lover, Ponni needs no introduction. Developed in 1986 by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, it is a medium-grain boiled rice variety named after River Kaveri which is also called Ponni in Tamil literature. Refined quality and supreme taste set it apart from other rice, not to mention its nutritional properties.
Nutrition: Ponni is low in glycemic index and starch content, making it a relatively safer option for diabetic patients. It is high in protein and fibre compared to white rice varieties and is easily digestible. If you want to double the health benefits, choose organic Ponni rice for your everyday cooking.
Uses: As it goes well with accompaniments like sambar, dal curry, rasam, and the like, this rice is best suited for everyday meals. Other popular Ponni rice recipes include biryani, pulav, tomato rice, tamarind rice, idli, idiyappam, dosa, and more.
Red Matta or Matta is an all-time favourite in Kerala and no wonder, it is popularly known as Kerala Matta. Since this parboiled rice is cultivated in Palakkad, a northern district in Kerala, it is also called Palakkadan Matta. One of the defining features of Red Matta is its robust and earthy flavour and true to the name, it is slightly red in colour. In addition to Kerala, it is also widely used in the coastal regions of Karnataka.
Nutrition: Red Matta comes packed with vitamins, minerals, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and more. It boasts a low glycemic index and high fibre content which helps keep you full for a longer time. The only downside is that like all other parboiled rice varieties, it takes a lot of time and water to cook.
Uses: Due to its flavour and texture, Red Matta rice is best consumed with meat curries and accompaniments. It is also an excellent choice for making rice porridge and the water drained after cooking the rice is known to have many health benefits.
Another medium-grain rice variety used across south Indian states, especially in Karnataka, is Sona Masoori. It is also known by the name Bangara Theegalu which means Golden Ivy. You can find parboiled, raw, and steamed varieties of it in the market. A unique blend of two distinct species of rice namely Sona and Masoori, this South Indian favourite boasts rich aroma, soft texture, and robust flavour.
Nutrition: Sona Masoori has a relatively higher glycemic index compared to many other types of rice used in South India. On the nutrition front, it is high in carbohydrates, low in fat and sodium, and is a rich source of magnesium. As this rice doesn’t score high on essential fatty acids and proteins, it is recommended that you complement it with greens and vegetables.
Uses: In addition to everyday cooking, it is best suited for making biryanis, sweet pongal, idli, fried rice, and other South Indian rice recipes. Unpolished and organic Sona Masoori rice can be used to maximise nutritional and health benefits.
Cultivated largely in Tamil Nadu and popular across all South Indian states, Jeeraga Samba or Seeraga Samba is best known for its rich aroma. This short-grain variety carries a unique corn-like or starchy flavour and unlike other rice, cooked Jeeraga Samba is less fluffy. This means you get a filling meal with high calories. As it is not a high-yielding paddy, the rice is pricier than others.
Nutrition: The high fibre and magnesium content in Jeeraga Samba helps increase digestion and bone density. In addition to a low glycemic index, it contains selenium and phytonutrients which are known to reduce the risk of different types of cancer.
Uses: Thanks to its aroma and texture, Jeeraga Samba is a great choice for making biryanis, ghee rice, pulav, and other flavoured rice dishes. In fact the iconic Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani is prepared using it.
Besides these, there are quite a few other popular varieties of rice in South India including Basmati, Mysore Mallige, Rajbhoga, Jeerakasala, and more. Cook with these southern delights and make your mealtimes flavourful and healthy!