The Find: Sona Masoori Rice at Apna Bazaar

Apna Bazaar (2245 148th Ave. N.E., Bellevue) is the best-smelling market in the Puget Sound. Walk down the aisles and the smell of cumin gives way to fennel seed gives way to jasmine-scented soap. It's easy to drive there for cheap pulses and fresh curry leaves and walk out with a quarter-pound bag of black cardamom pods you just couldn't stop sniffing.

After a half-hour fugue in the spice aisle a few months ago, I scooped up a few pounds of rice from the bulk bins next to the produce section. I was intrigued by the slim grains, which were less than half the length of basmati, but stuffed the bag into my cabinet of good intentions next to the black-eyed peas and the Northern Chinese sesame paste. Naturally, it suffered the same fate.

Last week, though, I rediscovered the bag and made a pot. My apartment filled with an earthy aroma that had notes of unvarnished wood, toasted nuts, and even a little warm animal (in a good way), and somehow, as I ate it, I kept thinking of dried cherries.

Yesterday I returned to Apna Bazaar to find out what it was. The label on the bin read "Masoori Rice: $1.59/lb." A little Internet research revealed that sona masoori rice is a variety grown in the south of India, primarily Andhra Pradesh, and it's well known among desi cooks here. The rice is low in starch, and the checkout person told me that it's considered healthier because of it.

I washed the rice a couple of times, then cooked it with a ratio of 1 part rice to 1 3/4 cups water. (Cook it uncovered over high heat, then let the water boil down until you can see holes in the surface of the rice; cover, turn the heat down as low as it will go, and steam the rice for 15 minutes.) The only problem is that the rice has such presence that you want to serve it with food it won't overwhelm. It wouldn't be great for fried rice or served with a mild fish, but with braised meats or dal and a little mango pickle? Great.

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