For peated Scotch, the malted barley grain is exposed to the pungent peat smoke during drying. Rauchbier (“smoke beer” in German) is made with malt dried over fires made from beechwood logs. While in Europe smoked grain is mostly used in traditional drinks, there are traditional Middle Eastern dishes with smoked wheat and rice.
My first discovery many years ago was freekeh (frikeh, farik (Arabic: فريكة / ALA-LC: farīkah), made of immature durum wheat (Triticum turgidum var. durum) that is sun-dried and roasted with fire to create its smokey flavor. (More about Freekeh – Farik – Green Wheat.) Than I tried cooking with delicately smoked basmati rice and became curious about its roots.
“A practice peculiar to the Caspian provinces is to complete the drying process by smoking (dūd dādan) the rice; this, it is said, facilitates storage, gives the rice an unmistakable aroma, and keeps the grains from sticking together during cooking. There are two methods of rice smoking: 1. Sheaves may be hung in a place heated by the slow-combustion of a mixture of wood and rice chaff, as drying them too fast would increase the risks of their breaking during husking. 2. The grains of paddy (jo), once separated from the stalks, are spread out on racks covered with loam or placed in vessels (kālevī) made from cow manure and then smoked (Bromberger, p. 170).” — Source: IRANICA
These two examples illustrate how smoke flavor is naturally added through the process of preparing harvested grains before cooking. Another obvious way is to smoke grain during the cooking on wood fire and coals. Today, we want to enjoy the convenience of our modern kitchen and to keep all those amazing flavors, and home cooks get creative to imitate them with what is available. For example, many online recipes for mandi suggest placing a small fireproof dish with hot charcoal and some fat inside the pot with cooked dish, covered with a lid to keep the smoke. The smoke is created by burning fat, which is not the most delicious smokey compound.
Is there a way to use a stovetop smoker for adding wood fire flavors?
Smoking grains with Camerons stovetop smoker is a no-brainer. Cook them to 80-90% of doneness, season, add some fat, and finish by smoking with wood chips of your choice. But if the introduction to smoked grains made you curious, you might want to try this recipe with Middle Eastern flavors. You can start without the Mandi spice mix or replace it with another regional mix you like and have handy.
Real Basmati rice grains are remarkably long and become twice longer when properly prepared for cooking and cooked. Do not skip any steps to enjoy unique Basmati properties in full.