Rice, the staple food of different parts of India, is nutritious and is instilled with immense health benefits. The moment we hear about it, we visualize the long white grains distinctly in our minds. But have you ever imagined tasting rice black in colour? Well yes, you may be completely startled, yet there is Black Rice, popularly known as the Forbidden Rice.
The people of Manipur in India are specialists in their preparation and consume as one of their principal dietary food. In colloquial language, they called black rice as Chak-hao. In various festive occasions and ceremonies, it is offered traditionally to the guests.
Black rice looks somewhat bright purple in colour. The reason for its texture is the presence of a pigment called anthocyanin. This pigment is responsible for the black or purple colours of brinjals and blackberries. Its anti-oxidant properties are widely popular and recommended by the doctors and nutritionists. In fact, black rice consists of very high levels of anthocyanin.
The rice essentially looks black in the raw form. The moment it is cooked to prepare desserts, porridge or even steamed, the colour transforms into a bright purple colour.
The black rice originated first in ancient China. Since it was rarely available and expensive, it was termed as forbidden rice. Only the royal families and the rich could afford to buy and consume. Slowly its cultivation spread across different Asian countries and also in India in the state of Manipur. Since then black rice has been included as one of the staple diets in the state.
The Manipur black rice has recently earned the GI Tag. GI is the geographical indication status conferred upon any item including foods as being especially prominent in a particular region. The cultivation methods used in Manipur is purely organic and hence extremely beneficial for health. The farmers do not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Health Benefits of Black Rice
The rice has a high amount of protein vital for enhancing the oxygen level of the body and maintaining the body energy level. Its key health benefit is its antioxidant properties. Anti-oxidants act as a protective layer against major heart ailments. It reduces the occurrence of any chronic illness and development of cancerous elements. The metabolism rate increases, preventing the accumulation of fat and toxic substances in the body.
Inclusion of black rice in your diet will help in controlling the cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of any heart diseases. It is also believed that the nutritional elements of the rice are beneficial for our eyes too. Its gluten free quality is quite attractive among people who are health conscious and love to remain toxic free.
The Cooking Process
If you want to consume the rice boiled, it is simple. The process is similar to normal white rice or brown rice. The only difference is the time needed is more, 5 to 6 minutes additional. In Manipur, the traditional method of cooking is to use an earthen pot and cook under a fire made of wood. You can find the lady folk stirring the rice inside the pot to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot or burning up. The aroma is far more delectable and refreshing that the ones cooked by the modern culinary methods. It is better to keep the rice soaked at the night before if you are cooking it the next morning for lunch.
In Manipur, the fragrance of the rice is savouring and perfect for preparing a sweet dish named as Chakhao kheer. The people serve the dish at different traditional feasts and ceremonies. It is considered to be of immense medicinal value and recommended by nutritionists and doctors as a cure for many diseases. You can even ground the rice into a powder and use it in non-vegetarian dishes too.
The Unique Essence of Black Rice in Manipur
Black rice has attained a great amount of significance traditionally and culturally in Manipur. The Indian government facilitates the export of black rice considerably. The demands are ever-increasing especially in the European countries, the US and Australia due to its food value and health benefits. The local cuisines in North Bengal and Kerala are preferring to include the black rice in their food menu list, leveraging it in their salads and some Italian and European dishes too.