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Not so forbidden anymore: Here’s everything you ought to know about black rice

This not-so popular ancient grain, which is also known as forbidden rice or the emperor’s rice, is slowly finding favours amongst gourmands for its numerous health benefits.

fitness Updated: Jul 01, 2018 14:33 IST
Abhinav Verma
Abhinav Verma
Hindustan Times
Black Rice,History of Black Rice,Forbidden Rice
Organic aromatic Himalayan black rice tossed with vegetables and cottage cheese in Chinese style.

If there is one thing that Asians can’t do without, it’s rice. And by rice, we mean white rice or brown rice. Black rice, on the other hand, has never been popular. However, owing to its interesting history and various health benefits, black rice now is in demand and is the flavour of the month for food connoisseurs. So, we did a little bit of research about the sudden rise of black rice.


Black rice has been grown and eaten all over Asia for centuries. In India, it’s grown in the north-eastern state Manipur, where it’s known as chak-hao. It has two varieties—Indonesian black rice and Thai jasmine black rice.

Why it’s known as forbidden or the emperor’s rice

According to historians, the ancient Chinese believed that black rice was a healthy food, which was, during that time, tricky to grow. Therefore, only the rich people of the society could enjoy this delicacy and commoners were forbidden from eating this rice. Hence, black rice is known as the forbidden or the emperor’s rice.

How black rice gets its colour and how it’s cooked

Black rice has a deep, dark colour, which can also turn deep purple when cooked or soaked in water. The dark colour of the rice comes from anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant, found in abundance in the rice. “Black rice is simple to cook. Soak the rice for 25 to 35 minutes. After that, it can be cooked in water in the same way you cook any other varieties of rice. But it’s important to remember the proportion of water to rice while cooking. It should be 2:1 and it takes about to 20 to 30 minutes in boiling water to cook black rice,” says Manav Windlass, co-owner of Kiara Soul Kitchen.

The scene in India

In India, restaurants have now begun to serve black rice. “While the variety is indigenous to Manipur, this superfood is steadily finding its way into cities’ restaurants and becoming a part of the gourmet culture. It makes for a great ingredient for desserts and salads. One can include it in risottos, puddings, and ice-creams,” says chef Sujeet Singh, Radisson Noida. Black rice has a tantalising aroma and it can replace basmati rice in various dishes, such as biryani, as a healthier substitute. And one can also experiment with it. “Black rice kheer and Asian style fried rice are good delicacies to begin with for home cooks before they venture out into something more experimental. The water used for cooking can be retained and turned into amazing rice-based drinks and desserts. They are great additions to burritos and are wonderful for rice porridges and cold salads. They can be used for thickening and colouring soups,” says Madhav Windlass, co-owner of Kiara Soul Kitchen.

Crisp Apple Crumbe Black Rice: Inspired from mille feuille and apple pie, this dish comes with cinnamon glazed apples layered in-between crispy phyllo sheets served with a miso-flavoured apple ganache and house made pickled fennel and black rice.

Health Benefits of Black Rice by Kavita Devgan, nutritionist

It’s bran (the outermost layer) contains one of the highest levels of anthocyanins (a powerful antioxidant) found in food. Anthocyanins protect against cardiovascular disease, and cancer. It also contains phytonutrients, which has anti-inflammatory properties. C3G (Cyanidin-3-glucoside) — a particular anthocyanin found in black rice makes it an extremely high satiating food. One doesn’t feel hungry for a long time. The fibre amount in it is also high. Black rice has a low Glycemic Index (GI) of 42.3 as compared to 50 of brown rice. It’s rich in proteins, iron and is gluten free.

First Published: Jul 01, 2018 14:31 IST