The 2 most popular varieties of white rice in South India are Ponni Rice and Sona Masuri Rice. Are there any major differences between the 2? I decided to cook them side by side in identical manner and examine the result.
My parents always preferred Ponni and my in-laws preferred Sona Masuri, and I could not, for the life of me, figure out what the big difference was. I picked up a few soft differences here and there based on their descriptions, but I wanted to have a clearer understanding by studying them side by side.
I figured there may be others in the same boat. Hence I am sharing what I observed with you all.
Here is what I did:
I used the same company – Laxmi brand for the 2 varieties of rice.
I measured out 1 cup of rice of each variety
I cooked them both in the rice setting (Instant Pot – 12 minutes) with 1:2 water ratio.
Ok, now don’t come at me with the ‘knuckle-method’ of cooking rice. That does not work for us at our home, and you will see soon below why. So, anyway, here I used a standard 1:2 rice:water ratio for both the varieties.
Here’s how it came out cooked:
From the bird’s eye view, I admit, they look quite similar.
But there are differences – subtle but discernible differences for sure….
Difference between Ponni and Sona Masuri
- Sona Masuri was a few shades whiter than Ponni. I am not even sure if you can see this difference in the photographs, but when I saw them side by side, I could tell that Ponni had a tad yellow tinge when compared to Sona Masuri
- Ponni had fatter grain size than Sona Masuri. I wish I got a digital caliper to actually measure the difference, that way I could have reported numbers. Oh, well, maybe next time….But even looking at the photos side by side should give you a general idea.
3. Sona Masuri was a much more fragrant rice than Ponni. Ponni did not have any fragrance, it was bland and smelled of cooked starch. I don’t consider this a plus or minus for either grain – it depends on the application and the user’s personal preference.
In fact, I think the smell of Sona Masuri is what makes it attractive to folks who love it and off-putting to those who are not used to it.
4. Final difference and for me the most important difference was that Ponni rice felt dry even with 1:2 water ratio. And while this may alarm Basmati rice users or Dan Souza fans (while I am one too, I am perfectly ok with disagreeing on his rice advice based on cultural differences and my personal experiences), here’s what I mean…
What do I mean by “Ponni felt dry”? You see, traditionally in Tamil Nadu, we want the rice to integrate with the sambar and rasam with which it is served. Which means, if your grain is separate-separate or feels hard to the tooth (called as ‘vara-vara’ in tamil), it does not merge well with the stew.
When I cook Ponni for the family, I can easily even use 1:3 rice: water ratio and that works out perfect for my mom. I am not saying everyone should use 1:3 water with Ponni.
But, when compared to Sona Masuri, which tasted perfectly fine with 1:2 water ratio, Ponni seemed to be a ‘thirstier’ grain that needed more water.
So, in conclusion, when compared to Sona Masuri, Ponni was:
- Less white
- Fatter grain
- Less Fragrant
- Needed more water to cook well
Now, this conclusion is not a scientific conclusion, merely an observation. Take it as you will. I hope this helps you better with some understanding of the differences in the rice varieties – Ponni and Sona Masuri.
What has your experiences and observations been with these 2 grain varieties? Is there any similar questions with other grain varieties that have always confused you? Let me know in the comments below!!
Interesting experiment! My parents daily rice is Sona Masuri and the rule always is to pre-soak the rice. I’ve found that on the few occasions I’ve used Ponni rice, this variety too yields a better cooked grain when pre-soaked.
In IP cooker I use 4 mins Program for both varieties.
Definitely soaking helps. Here I wanted to keep the experiment simple, so didn’t soak.
Thanks for posting your experience with the grains. Appreciate it!!
Thank you for these informative posts, am sure they’ve helped many like me make healthier choices. Also thank you for drawing attention to the importance of aroma /lack thereof between the two varieties. The smell of rice cooking is a very primal sense memory and you are right, perceptions of quality must include this. Fwiw cooking the rices without pressurized steam shows more texture differences, though you are again right it may not matter if a typical household is using pressure cookers anyway.
Yes Em, you are right – cooking rice without pressure gives a lot more texture to the rice.
But if one has to make rice, sambar and poriyal on a regular weekday for a meal, the use of pressure cooker is a great way to save time.
I thought in Tamilnadu we never used something called sona masuri until we heard that in USA. But as a guy grownup in Cauvery basin, i prefer and feel boiled rice is good for digestion and also fills tummy quicker than sonamasuri. Also Sonamasuri is a raw rice where as Ponni is full boiled rice. So the aroma in Ponni will be obvisously different because it have gotten the benefits of the rice bran when boiled and then removing the bran post boiling.
Ponni and Sona Masuri are 2 different strains of rice that both have raw and parboiled versions.
Sona Masuri is more fragrant than Ponni. Sona Masuri is used more by Andhra folks, while Ponni (as the name suggests) is used by Tamilians.
Interesting findings on 2 most famous varieties of rice. I preferred ponni over sona masoori because of availability near kongu region.
Thank you for posting your thoughts. Appreciate it!!
This is a lovey experiment.
I had a query. We cook rice in steel vessel with lot of water. We check the rice to see if it is cooked to our feel. We then strain the water. This way the starch is all out of rice( my assumption).
What are the pros and cons of this method?
It is absolutely a great way to reduce starch. The starch is not all lost, but certainly reduced. I am certain I have seen research that show this, I will dig it up later and see if I can attach it.
The con may be water soluble Vit like Vit b may be lost; but you can get that in plenty other food sources incl daals, so I think you should continue using that method.
Is raw rice better than boiled rice. Any advantage of raw rice over boiled rice?
No, (par) boiled rice has lower GI than raw rice due to resistant starch. See:
Also boiled rice has added vitamins from the bran that gets absorbed during the process of parboiling.
The only disadvantage, if at all, is that for some people – the boiled rice tastes watered down compared to raw rice.
What a great blog!! I am a Polish/German American from Wisconsin, living in Dallas Tx. I LOVE learning about and cooking Indian food. I have been wondering what the difference is among the 20-30+ varieties and brands of rice are at my local Indian market!! (Loved the post on GI rice) I’m sorry to have to ask this: are both these kinds of rice you speak of basmati or another kind? I’m hoping to learn a lot about Indian cooking and it’s typical ingredients
Hi Christine, happy that you found the blog useful.
Both varieties are not basmati. Basmati is long grain rice which is used predominantly in North Indian cuisine. Meanwhile Ponni and Sona Masuri are medium grain rice grown in the Southern part of India.
Feel free to post questions on Indian cuisine here or on Twitter and I would be happy to answer them, whatever I know.
Hi Swetha – Love your blog. Qq on the rice. What the nutritional difference b/w them ? Is one better than the other ? I cook basmati white / brown rice ; are these any better for digestion ?
Hi Deepa, I looked up the numbers on the back of the packet and there are only 2 number differences. Rest are same.
Re: your ques on digestion – white rice is one of the most digestible grains – given to old, sick people etc. Any differences based on varieties may be quite small is my guess, although I don’t have any numbers to back it up.
I like you experiments. Hope some day you get a proper lab. Do you have an academic background ?
Older rice takes more water. I am not sure if both the varieties are of same age. I don’t know if it is even possible to control for that in rice bought in retail.
Hi V, thanks for your comment. It would be nice to control for date of harvest, although as you pointed out I cannot get that kind of info in the typical stores.
I’ve been using Sona masuri rice for quite some time, say for the past 5 or 6 years. Previously I was using ponni raw rice. For cooking Sona masuri rice i soak it for about 20 minutes and then i pressure cook it in1:3 ratio of rice and water. I get a beautiful cooked rice which is uthir uthir and non sticky. Blends very well with sambar and rasam and soft on hands with good taste.
What else, I’ve become a regular user of Sona masuri rice.