Gobindobhog rice was the most recent food grain to achieve GI status in West Bengal. Known for its distinct nutty, buttery taste, it’s commonly used in the preparation of payesh or rice kheer and Muri ghonto, the Bengali fish head pulao using Rohu fish. It is a short grain rice which just happens to also be sticky when cooked. Cooking it like a risotto ensures that you have full control over the final texture of the rice as you cook it, and don’t turn it into a mushy khichdi, keeping each grain separate, much like in risotto. Recently, gobindobhog rice has become available to Mumbaikars via online websites like Big Basket. Once you’ve bought yourself a packet, you must wash the gobindobhog rice as you would any other rice until the water runs clear since it is not a traditional risotto rice.
Chef Manu Chandra is the man responsible for my obsession with gobindobhog rice. At his restaurant Toast and Tonic, he not only serves the rice in the form of a lovely lobster or mushroom and asparagus risotto but also as a tuna poke bowl. Gobindobhog is the base for chili tuna, seaweed, mustard greens, fried onion and a passion fruit vinaigrette; there’s texture, flavor, ample acidity and fragrant sticky gobindibhog rice to bring it all together. Taking a page from this Masterchef’s book, I too decided to step up my risotto game by using the buttery’s sweet gobindobhog rice, kokum and coconut milk.
Gobindobhog Kokum Risotto
Sweet coconut milk, sour wet kokum and heady spices come together to give this kokum risotto its distinct taste. Serve this gobindobhog risotto immediately when ready as it doesn’t sit well.
Vegetable oil 2 tbsp
Onion 1 small, finely chopped
Ginger 1 tbsp, freshly grated
Dry red chilies 3, tops taken off and torn roughly
Star anise 2 pieces
Curry leaves 12-15, plus more fried in oil to finish
Gobindobhog rice 180g, washed
Chicken or veg stock 500ml
Wet kokum 20g, soaked in 1 cup hot water for half hour
Coconut milk 3/4th cup
Salt 1 tsp, plus more
In a kadai, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, sauté the onion first, then add the ginger, torn dry red chillies, star anise and curry leaves. Cook till the onions are soft and the mixture smells quite aromatic.
Next up, add in the gobindobhog rice and continue to saute the rice over medium-high heat with the aromatics for a whole minute. Much like a risotto, add in the stock ladle by ladle into the pan letting the rice absorb one ladleful before adding the next. Be careful to stir with a spatula and not something that is too aggressive and might break the rice as you stir it. I find the steel spatulas to be particularly helpful here because it’s easy to wedge under the rice and flip it inwards onto itself. Continue adding the stock and cooking till the rice is al-dente. Once it reaches that stage, drain the pieces of kokum from it’s soaking liquid and chop it. Add both the kokum as well as the soaking liquid into the rice and let it cook till the rice begins to look slightly dry again, but is cooked now. Finish with coconut milk and salt. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary and serve immediately garnished with fried curry leaves.