Both jasmine and basmati rice are prized for one specific thing: their aroma. There's nothing quite like the two — they're far from any other average white or brown rice. And while they carry distinct characteristics in their own right, it's their fragrance that makes them stand out. But why are they more fragrant than any other long-grain varieties?
It's all thanks to a compound called 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline. This compound is found in a few foods, namely white bread, the Southeast Asian spice pandan, and both jasmine and basmati rice. While it's found in other rice varieties too, there's a whole lot more of it in these varieties.
The compound is extremely fragrant and has a slightly sweet, barely popcorn-like aroma. When either rice is cooked, these odors are released. This explains basmati's signature nuttiness and jasmine's almost buttery flavor and sweet, floral aroma.
In parts of Southeast Asia, pandan leaves are sometimes added to the rice while it cooks since it shares the same compound and therefore enhances the unique aroma. At home, if you can't get your hands on pandan leaves, look to toasting the grains. Toasting the dry rice in a bit of olive oil or butter before adding the water is a simple way to naturally coax more fragrance and aroma out.
How would you describe the scent of jasmine or basmatic rice?