Black Rice: The Forbidden Food (A Guest Post by Sharmin Pasha)

Black Rice is an exotic, healthful alternative to ordinary white rice. It is high in fiber, and has a beautifully nutty aftertaste. You might have noticed the Black Rice Pudding I had at Thiptara in my Instagram feed, it gave the traditional Thai Sticky Rice & Mango Pudding a delicious upgrade!

I discussed this with my sister in-law, Sharmin Pasha (you met her earlier here). Sharmin is the creator of the very popular Facebook page Assamese Cuisine and Recipes. This is a page dedicated to the indigenous cooking styles of Assam, the North Eastern state of India from where my family and I originate.


I was under the impression Black Rice is only used in Thai cooking. Sharmin tells me it is just as popular in the North Eastern regions of India, even beyond Assam. Today’s article is a guest post by Sharmin Pasha. Read on about the fascinating attributes of Black Rice, the ‘forbidden food’, and try out Sharmin’s Black Rice recipes (two are traditional Assamese recipes that would be perfect for the upcoming Assamese Bihu festival. The other is an innovative take on the traditional Thai Mango & Sticky Rice Pudding, and the fourth is a traditional Manipuri Black Rice Bread to enjoy with a piping hot cup of tea!).

Forbidden Food

Black rice is indigenous to North-East India and is grown in the states of Assam, West Bengal and Manipur. It is available in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and China.

The dark colour is primarily due to its anthocyanin content, which is higher than that of other variety of rice.

Black rice comes in a few different forms, some of which are glutinous rice but there are black jasmine rice varieties as well. Generally speaking it refers to unpolished rice, meaning the bran has not been removed.

Thousands of years ago in ancient China, black rice was known as Forbidden Rice and reserved only for the nobles, due to its potential health benefits. The common people were not allowed to grow or consume this black rice, which led to its unique name that it still carries with it today.



Health Benefits of Black Rice

Black Rice contains a class of flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins which is also found in blueberries and other purple foods.

A study presented by the American Chemical Society, in Boston, shows that a spoonful of black rice bran or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice contains the same amount of antioxidants as a spoonful of fresh blueberries.

It is also a rich source of zinc, copper, and iron, and is a significant source of dietary fibre.


Black Rice Recipes

The texture of black rice is a bit stodgier as compared to other varieties of rice, but it has a wonderful nutty flavour and best enjoyed sweetened with cream or in sweetened desserts, particularly rice puddings.


Kola Bora Sawool’or Payoh – Sticky Rice Pudding, a favorite from the North East of India


  • 1 cup glutinous Black Rice (known as Kola Bora Sawool in Assam)
  • ¾ cup sugar, or according to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp raisins
  • 3 tbsp chopped nuts
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cardamom
  • 1 tsp clarified butter(ghee)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Extra chopped nuts, for decorating


  1. Wash the rice and soak for an hour in cold water.
  2. Place the water, salt, ghee, bay leaf and cardamoms in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil
  3. Drain the rice and add to the pot. Lower heat and cook on medium heat, until almost done and most of the water is absorbed
  4. Pour in the milk and cook, stirring periodically, until milk is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
  5. Add sugar, according to taste, nuts and raisins and cook, stirring continuously, until creamy.
  6. Remove from heat. Transfer to serving bowls. Allow the pudding to cool.
  7. Serve garnished with chopped nuts.




Kola Bora Sawool’or Jolpan – Black Rice Mini Meal, an Assamese recipe


  • 1 cup glutinous Black Rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp clarified butter(ghee)
  • A pinch of salt


  1. Wash the rice and soak for an hour in cold water
  2. Drain and place in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid
  3. Add water, clarified butter and salt and bring to a vigorous boil over high heat.
  4. Cover and cook, over medium heat, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Add some hot water if the rice is still uncooked and cook until done.
  5. Remove from heat and allow it to stand covered for ten minutes
  6. Gently stir and transfer to serving dishes
  7. Serve warm, with fresh cream or yogurt and jaggery ,topped with a coconut ball(optional). Look up the recipe for Coconut Balls by clicking here.




Black Rice with Mango Mousse – an innovative recipe by Sharmin Pasha


  • 350 ml mango puree
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 500 ml whipping cream, chilled
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2 tbsp gelatin
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • 6 strawberries
  • 2 cups of cooked glutinous black rice


  1. Mix four tablespoon of the granulated sugar into the warm cooked rice and allow it to cool completely
  2. Meanwhile, place cold water in a small pan and sprinkle with gelatin.
  3. Set aside for five minutes or until spongy.
  4. Heat gently, stirring until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and cool.
  5. Mix the remaining sugar with the mango puree and set aside
  6. Whip the cream, until it’s thick and fluffy.
  7. Place the bowl of whipped cream over a larger bowl of ice, and stir in the mango puree and the condensed milk
  8. Strain the cooled gelatin to the mango mixture, and whisk until it until well blended.
  9. Add extra sugar if required and mix well
  10. Line a dessert bowl or mould with the cold rice.
  11. Pour the mango mousse over it and refrigerate overnight or until the mousse sets.
  12. Cut mangoes and strawberries into slices.
  13. Arrange on a serving plate and serve alongside with the black rice and mousse pudding.



Manipuri Black Rice Bread


  • ½ cup black glutinous rice.
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar
  • ¾ cup flour.
  • Vegetable oil ,for frying


  1. Wash the rice and soak overnight in cold water
  2. Drain ,retaining half a cup of the drained water and blend the rice along with sugar to a thick paste
  3. Transfer the paste to a bowl and add half a cup of flour and mix well.
  4. Add a tablespoon of flour until you can knead it into a pliable dough.
  5. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and then knead gently until smooth.
  6. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel and keep it aside.
  7. Meanwhile, heat theoil in a deep pan or wok
  8. Divide the prepared dough into small portions and shape into balls.
  9. Grease your palm and press each ball into a disc
  10. Fry over medium heat, turning once, until done
  11. Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot with tea

sharmin from assam manipuri black rice puri recipe.jpg