Basmati is a perfumed rice with a powerful fragrance similar to jasmine. Basmati is the rice of choice in Middle Eastern cuisine, where its aroma blends seamlessly with the floridity of saffron, curry blends and other aromatics. Basmati has an elongated grain and dry feel, so it separates easily after cooking. Although basmati doesn't thicken soups and sauces as readily as starchy rice varieties, it works well as a stand-alone dish, such as polo, the Persian rice preparation with the crisp crust known as "tah-deeg." You can cook basmati rice like pasta or by using the standard stovetop steaming method.
Rinse the basmati in a sieve until the water runs clear, about two or three minutes. Let the rice drain while you bring a few quarts of water to a simmer on the stove in a saucepan or pot.
Tip the rice into the boiling water and add a pinch or two of salt, if desired. Season the rice water the same as you would pasta water.
Simmer regular basmati rice for 10 or 11 minutes after the water returns to a boil; simmer whole-grain basmati for 25 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Chew a grain of rice; it should have a firm, "al dente" bite to it, or almost done but not quite.
Drain the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and let it steam for three minutes. Transfer the rice to the serving dish and fluff it with a fork.
Pour 1 part basmati rice and 2 parts cold water into a saucepan if you want a "tight" grain; use 1 part rice to 2 1/4 parts cold water of you want a starchy, fluffier grain. Don't exceed 2 1/4 parts water to part 1 part rice or it will have a gummy consistency.
Add a pinch or two of salt and bring the water to a boil on the stove. Cover the saucepan with a folded kitchen or tea towel and set a lid on it firmly. Turn the heat on the stove down to Low.
Steam regular basmati rice for 10 to 12 minutes and steam whole-grain basmati for 25 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.